What Time-travel Teaches Us About Future-Bias

Philosophies 6 (38):38 (2021)
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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 permissibility of future-bias is often held to be grounded in the structure of the temporal dimension. In this paper I consider several proposals for grounding the permissibility of such preferences and evaluate these in the light of the preferences we would have, and judge that we should have, in various time-travel scenarios. I argue that what we learn by considering these scenarios is that these preferences really have nothing to do with temporal structure. So if something grounds their permissibility, it is not temporal structure.

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Kristie Miller
University of Sydney


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