What good is a diachronic will?

Philosophical Studies 144 (3):403-430 (2009)
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Abstract
There are two standard conceptions of the functioning of and rationale for the diachronic will, i.e., for an agent's capacity to settle on her future conduct in advance. According to the pragmatic-instrumentalist view, the diachronic will benefits us by increasing the long-term satisfaction of our rational preferences. According to the cognitive view, it benefits us by satisfying our standing desire for self-knowledge and self-understanding. Contrary to these views, I argue for a constitutive view of the diachronic will: the rationale for it is that it makes possible to engage in activities with a radically novel temporal structure, activities that are not merely continuous over time, but temporally integrated and unified. These activities are essential to our form of life and to our existence as temporally unified agents. The instrumental and cognitive benefits, if any, are merely secondary to the ontological ones
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Thinking How to Live.Gibbard, Allan

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2009-01-28

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