Belief in robust temporal passage (probably) does not explain future-bias

Philosophical Studies 179 (6):2053-2075 (2022)
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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 which future-bias is explained by the belief that time robustly passes. Our results do not match the apparent predictions of this hypothesis, and so provide evidence against it. But we also find that people give more future-biased responses when asked to simulate a belief in robust passage. We take this to suggest that the phenomenology that attends simulation of that belief may be partially responsible for future-bias, and we examine the implications of these results for debates about the rationality of future-bias.

Author Profiles

Kristie Miller
University of Sydney
Hannah Tierney
University of California, Davis
Christian Tarsney
University of Texas at Austin
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