Intransitive Preferences, Vagueness, and the Structure of Procrastination

In Chrisoula Andreou & Mark D. White (eds.), The Thief of Time. Oxford University Press (2010)
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Abstract
Chrisoula Andreou says procrastination qua imprudent delay is modeled by Warren Quinn’s self-torturer, who supposedly has intransitive preferences that rank each indulgence in something that delays his global goals over working toward those goals and who finds it vague where best to stop indulging. His pair-wise choices to indulge result in his failing the goals, which he then regrets. This chapter argues, contra the money-pump argument, that it is not irrational to have or choose from intransitive preferences; so the agent’s delays are not imprudent, not instances of procrastination. Moreover, the self-torturer case is intelligible only if there is no vagueness and if the agent’s preferences are transitive. But then he would delay only from ordinary weakness of will. And when it is vague where best to stop indulging, rational agents would use symmetry-breaking techniques; so, again, any procrastination would be explained by standard weakness of will, not vagueness.
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