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On Whether To Prefer Pain to Pass

Ethics 121 (3):521-537 (2011)

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  1. Reasons Without Persons. Rationality, Identity, and Time, Brian Hedden. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Viii + 224 Pages. [REVIEW]Christophe Salvat - 2016 - Economics and Philosophy 32 (3):548-553.
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  • Constraint-Free Meaning, Fearing Death, and Temporal Bias.Travis Timmerman - 2022 - The Journal of Ethics 26 (3):377-393.
    This paper focuses on three distinct issues in Fischer’s Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life, viz. meaning in life, fearing death, and asymmetrical attitudes between our prenatal and postmortem non-existence. I first raise the possibility that life’s total meaning can be negative and argue that immoral or harmful acts are plausibly meaning-detracting acts, which could make the lives of historically impactful evil dictators anti-meaningful. After that, I review Fischer’s two necessary conditions for meaning in life and argue against each. In (...)
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  • Thank Goodness That’s Newcomb: The Practical Relevance of the Temporal Value Asymmetry.Christian Tarsney - 2017 - Analysis 77 (4):750-759.
    I describe a thought experiment in which an agent must choose between suffering a greater pain in the past or a lesser pain in the future. This case demonstrates that the ‘temporal value asymmetry’ – our disposition to attribute greater significance to future pleasures and pains than to past – can have consequences for the rationality of actions as well as attitudes. This fact, I argue, blocks attempts to vindicate the temporal value asymmetry as a useful heuristic tied to the (...)
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  • Bias Towards the Future.Kristie Miller, Preston Greene, Andrew J. Latham, James Norton, Christian Tarsney & Hannah Tierney - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (8).
    All else being equal, most of us typically prefer to have positive experiences in the future rather than the past and negative experiences in the past rather than the future. Recent empirical evidence tends not only to support the idea that people have these preferences, but further, that people tend to prefer more painful experiences in their past rather than fewer in their future (and mutatis mutandis for pleasant experiences). Are such preferences rationally permissible, or are they, as time-neutralists contend, (...)
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  • Death, Creation, and Future Bias.Michael Rabenberg - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (2):465-477.
    A much discussed question in the philosophy of death is whether both of the following claims are true: (1) it is at least typically appropriate to prefer dying further in the future to dying less far in the future; and (2) it is at least typically appropriate not to prefer having been created further in the past to having been created less far in the past. Some philosophers have tried to defend (1) and (2) by appeal to the alleged appropriateness (...)
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  • Why Future-Bias Isn't Rationally Evaluable.Callie K. Phillips - 2021 - Res Philosophica 98 (4):573-596.
    Future-bias is preferring some lesser future good to a greater past good because it is in the future, or preferring some greater past pain to some lesser future pain because it is in the past. Most of us think that this bias is rational. I argue that no agents have future-biased preferences that are rationally evaluable—that is, evaluable as rational or irrational. Given certain plausible assumptions about rational evaluability, either we must find a new conception of future-bias that avoids the (...)
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  • What Time-Travel Teaches Us About Future-Bias.Kristie Miller - 2021 - Philosophies 6 (38):38.
    Future-biased individuals systematically prefer positively valenced events to be in the future (positive future-bias) and negatively valenced events to be in the past (negative future-bias). The most extreme form of future-bias is absolute future-bias, whereby we completely discount the value of past events when forming our preferences. Various authors have thought that we are absolutely future-biased (Sullivan (2018:58); Parfit (1984:173) and that future-bias (absolute or otherwise) is at least rationally permissible (Prior (1959), Hare (2007; 2008), Kauppinen (2018), Heathwood (2008)). The (...)
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  • Past-Future Preferences for Hedonic Goods and the Utility of Experiential Memories.Ruth Lee, Jack Shardlow, Patrick A. O'Connor, Lesley Hotson, Rebecca Hotson, Christoph Hoerl & Teresa McCormack - 2022 - Philosophical Psychology 35 (8):1181-1211.
    Recent studies have suggested that while both adults and children hold past-future hedonic preferences – preferring painful experiences to be in the past and pleasurable experiences to lie in the future – these preferences are abandoned when the quantity of pain or pleasure under consideration is greater in the past than in the future. We examined whether such preferences might be affected by the utility people assign to experiential memories, since the recollection of events can itself be pleasurable or aversive, (...)
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  • Robust Passage Phenomenology Probably Does Not Explain Future-Bias.Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller, Christian Tarsney & Hannah Tierney - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-23.
    People are ‘biased toward the future’: all else being equal, we typically prefer to have positive experiences in the future, and negative experiences in the past. Several explanations have been suggested for this pattern of preferences. Adjudicating among these explanations can, among other things, shed light on the rationality of future-bias: For instance, if our preferences are explained by unjustified beliefs or an illusory phenomenology, we might conclude that they are irrational. This paper investigates one hypothesis, according to which future-bias (...)
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  • Future bias in action: does the past matter more when you can affect it?Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller, James Norton & Christian Tarsney - 2020 - Synthese 198 (12):11327-11349.
    Philosophers have long noted, and empirical psychology has lately confirmed, that most people are “biased toward the future”: we prefer to have positive experiences in the future, and negative experiences in the past. At least two explanations have been offered for this bias: belief in temporal passage and the practical irrelevance of the past resulting from our inability to influence past events. We set out to test the latter explanation. In a large survey, we find that participants exhibit significantly less (...)
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  • Belief in robust temporal passage (probably) does not explain future-bias.Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller, Christian Tarsney & Hannah Tierney - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (6):2053-2075.
    Empirical work has lately confirmed what many philosophers have taken to be true: people are ‘biased toward the future’. All else being equal, we usually prefer to have positive experiences in the future, and negative experiences in the past. According to one hypothesis, the temporal metaphysics hypothesis, future-bias is explained either by our beliefs about temporal metaphysics—the temporal belief hypothesis—or alternatively by our temporal phenomenology—the temporal phenomenology hypothesis. We empirically investigate a particular version of the temporal belief hypothesis according to (...)
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  • Agency, Experience, and Future Bias.Antti Kauppinen - 2018 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 7 (4):237-245.
    Most of us are hedonically future-biased: other things being equal, we prefer pains to be in the past and pleasures to be in the future. Recently, various authors have argued that future bias is irrational, and that we should be temporally neutral instead. I argue that instead of temporal neutrality, the putative counterexamples and the rationales offered for them only motivate a more narrow principle I call Only Action Fixes Utility: it is only when you act on the basis of (...)
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  • What Justifies Our Bias Toward the Future?Todd Karhu - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-14.
    A person is biased toward the future when she prefers, other things being equal, bad events to be in her past rather than her future or good ones to be in her future rather than her past. In this paper, I explain why both critics and defenders of future bias have failed to consider the best version of the view. I distinguish external time from personal time, and show that future bias is best construed in terms of the latter. This (...)
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  • Options and Diachronic Tragedy.Brian Hedden - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (2):423-451.
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  • Utility Cascades.Max Khan Hayward - 2020 - Analysis 80 (3):433-442.
    Utility cascades occur when a utilitarian’s reduction of support for an intervention reduces the effectiveness of that intervention, leading the utilitarian to further reduce support, thereby further undermining effectiveness, and so on, in a negative spiral. This paper illustrates the mechanisms by which utility cascades occur, and then draws out the theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, utility cascades provide an argument that the utilitarian agent should sometimes either ignore evidence about effectiveness or fail to apportion support to effectiveness. Practically, utility (...)
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  • On Preferring That Overall, Things Are Worse: Future‐Bias and Unequal Payoffs.Preston Greene, Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller & James Norton - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 105 (1):181-194.
    Philosophers working on time-biases assume that people are hedonically biased toward the future. A hedonically future-biased agent prefers pleasurable experiences to be future instead of past, and painful experiences to be past instead of future. Philosophers further predict that this bias is strong enough to apply to unequal payoffs: people often prefer less pleasurable future experiences to more pleasurable past ones, and more painful past experiences to less painful future ones. In addition, philosophers have predicted that future-bias is restricted to (...)
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  • How Much Do We Discount Past Pleasures?Preston Greene, Andrew J. Latham, Kristie Miller & James Norton - 2022 - American Philosophical Quarterly 59 (4):367-376.
    Future-biased individuals systematically prefer pleasures to be in the future and pains to be in the past. Empirical research shows that negative future-bias is robust: people prefer more past pain to less future pain. Is positive future-bias robust or fragile? Do people only prefer pleasures to be located in the future, compared to the past, when those pleasures are of equal value, or do they continue to prefer that pleasures be located in the future even when past pleasures outweigh future (...)
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  • Against Time Bias.Preston Greene & Meghan Sullivan - 2015 - Ethics 125 (4):947-970.
    Most of us display a bias toward the near: we prefer pleasurable experiences to be in our near future and painful experiences to be in our distant future. We also display a bias toward the future: we prefer pleasurable experiences to be in our future and painful experiences to be in our past. While philosophers have tended to think that near bias is a rational defect, almost no one finds future bias objectionable. In this essay, we argue that this hybrid (...)
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  • Time Biases.Alan H. Goldman - 2020 - Analysis 80 (2):388-397.
    Despite judging the central controversial thesis of this book false and arguments for it ultimately unconvincing, I highly recommend the book for its many philosophical virtues, prominent among them being breadth and clarity.1 1 Sullivan addresses all the major issues surrounding various time biases that decision-makers exhibit. Writing on topics that can often become overly technical, she spells her arguments out in the clearest prose, making the book ideal as an introduction to this interesting subdivision of practical reason, but also, (...)
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  • Yet Another “Epicurean” Argument.Peter Finocchiaro & Meghan Sullivan - 2016 - Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1):135-159.
    In this paper, we develop a novel version of the so-called Lucretian symmetry argument against the badness of death. Our argument has two features that make it particularly effective. First, it focuses on the preferences of rational agents. We believe the focus on preferences eliminates needless complications and emphasizes the urgency to respond to the argument. Second, our argument utilizes a principle that states that a rational agent's preferences should not vary in arbitrary ways. We argue that this principle underlies (...)
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  • Does the Temporal Asymmetry of Value Support a Tensed Metaphysics?Alison Fernandes - 2021 - Synthese 198 (5):3999-4016.
    There are temporal asymmetries in our attitudes towards the past and future. For example, we judge that a given amount of work is worth twice as much if it is described as taking place in the future, compared to the past :796–801, 2008). Does this temporal value asymmetry support a tensed metaphysics? By getting clear on the asymmetry’s features, I’ll argue that it doesn’t. To support a tensed metaphysics, the value asymmetry would need to not vary with temporal distance, apply (...)
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  • Two Models of Agent-Centered Value.Jamie Dreier - 2020 - Res Philosophica 97 (3):345-362.
    The consequentializing project relies on agentcentered value, but many philosophers find the idea incomprehensible or incoherent. Discussions of agent-centered value often model it with a theory that assigns distinct better-than rankings of states of affairs to each agent, rather than assigning a single ranking common to all. A less popular kind of model uses a single ranking, but takes the value-bearing objects to be properties rather than states of affairs. There are rhetorical, presentational differences between these kinds of models, but (...)
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  • Prudence and Responsibility to Self in an Identity Crisis.Adam Cureton - 2016 - Res Philosophica 93 (4):815-841.
    A comprehensive theory of rational prudence would explain how a person should adjudicate among the conflicting interests of her past, present, future and counterfactual selves. For example, when a person is having an identity crisis, perhaps because she has suddenly become disabled, she may be left with no sense of purpose to keep her going. In her despondent state, she may think it prudent to give up on life now even if she would soon adopt a different set of values (...)
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  • Existential Terror.Ben Bradley - 2015 - The Journal of Ethics 19 (3-4):409-418.
    Many of us feel existential terror when contemplating our future nonexistence. I examine several attempts to rationally justify existential terror. The most promising of these appeals to the effects of future nonexistence on the meaningfulness of our lives. I argue that even this justification fails, and therefore existential terror is irrational.
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  • Dynamic Choice.Chrisoula Andreou - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Sometimes a series of choices do not serve one's concerns well even though each choice in the series seems perfectly well suited to serving one's concerns. In such cases, one has a dynamic choice problem. Otherwise put, one has a problem related to the fact that one's choices are spread out over time. This survey reviews some of the challenging choice situations and problematic preference structures that can prompt dynamic choice problems. It also reviews some proposed solutions, and explains how (...)
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  • The Normative Standard for Future Discounting.Craig Callender - manuscript
    Exponential discounted utility theory provides the normative standard for future discounting as it is employed throughout the social sciences. Tracing the justification for this standard through economics, philosophy and psychology, I’ll make what I believe is the best case one can for it, showing how a non-arbitrariness assumption and a dominance argument together imply that discounting ought to be exponential. Ultimately, however, I don’t find the case compelling, as I believe it is deeply flawed. Non-exponential temporal discounting is often rational–indeed, (...)
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  • Lucretian Puzzles.Michael Rabenberg - 2021 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 8:110-140.
    It seems that people typically prefer dying later to dying earlier. It also seems that people typically do not prefer having been created earlier to having been created later. Lucretius’ Puzzle is the question whether anything typically rationally recommends having a preference for dying later to dying earlier over having a preference for having been created earlier to having been created later. In this paper, I distinguish among three ways in which Lucretius’ Puzzle can be understood and say how I (...)
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  • Rationality and Success.Preston Greene - 2013 - Dissertation, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
    Standard theories of rational decision making and rational preference embrace the idea that there is something special about the present. Standard decision theory, for example, demands that agents privilege the perspective of the present (i.e., the time of decision) in evaluating what to do. When forming preferences, most philosophers believe that a similar focus on the present is justified, at least in the sense that rationality requires or permits future experiences to be given more weight than past ones. In this (...)
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  • Tensed Facts and the Fittingness of Our Attitudes.Kristie Miller - forthcoming - Philosophical Perspectives.
    We direct different attitudes towards states of affairs depending on where in time those states of affairs are located. Call this the type asymmetry. The type asymmetry appears fitting. For instance, it seems fitting to feel guilt or regret only about states of affairs that are past, and anticipation only of states of affairs that are future. It has been argued that the type asymmetry could only be fitting if there are tensed facts, and hence that since it is fitting, (...)
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  • Future-Bias and Practical Reason.Tom Dougherty - 2015 - Philosophers' Imprint 15.
    Nearly everyone prefers pain to be in the past rather than the future. This seems like a rationally permissible preference. But I argue that appearances are misleading, and that future-biased preferences are in fact irrational. My argument appeals to trade-offs between hedonic experiences and other goods. I argue that we are rationally required to adopt an exchange rate between a hedonic experience and another type of good that stays fixed, regardless of whether the hedonic experience is in the past or (...)
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  • Time-Biases and Rationality: The Philosophical Perspectives on Empirical Research About Time Preferences.Tomasz Żuradzki - 2016 - In Jerzy Stelmach, Bartosz Brożek & Łukasz Kurek (eds.), The Emergence of Normative Orders. Copernicus Press. pp. 149-187.
    The empirically documented fact is that people’s preferences are time -biased. The main aim of this paper is to analyse in which sense do time -biases violate the requirements of rationality, as many authors assume. I will demonstrate that contrary to many influential views in psychology, economy and philosophy it is very difficult to find why the bias toward the near violates the requirements rationality. I will also show why the bias toward the future violates the requirements of rationality in (...)
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