Authenticity, Meaning and Alienation: Reasons to Care Less About Far Future People

In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract

The standard argument for longtermism assumes that we should care as much about far future people as about our contemporaries. I challenge this assumption. I first consider existing interpretations of ‘temporal discounting’, and argue that such discounting seems either unwarranted or insufficient to block the argument. I then offer two alternative reasons to care less about far future people: caring as much about them as about our contemporaries would make our lives less authentic and less meaningful. If I’m right, this undermines at least the strongest versions of longtermism. Plausibly, we should do much more for the far future than we’re currently doing. Still, we often ought to act for contemporaries’ sakes, even if longtermist actions would expectably do more good.

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Stefan Riedener
University of Bergen

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