An intrapersonal, intertemporal solution to an interpersonal dilemma

Philosophical Studies (forthcoming)
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Abstract
It is commonly accepted that what we ought to do collectively does not imply anything about what each of us ought to do individually. According to this line of reasoning, if cooperating will make no difference to an outcome, then you are not morally required to do it. And if cooperating will be personally costly to you as well, this is an even stronger reason to not do it. However, this reasoning results in a self-defeating, yet entirely predictable outcome. If everyone is rational, they will not cooperate, resulting in an aggregate outcome that is devastating for everyone. This dismal analysis explains why climate change and other collective action problems are so difficult to ameliorate. The goal of this paper is to provide a different, exploratory framework for thinking about individual reasons for action in collective action problems. I argue that the concept of commitment gives us a new perspective on collective action problems. Once we take the structure of commitment into account, this activates requirements of diachronic rationality that give individuals instrumental reasons to cooperate in collective action problems.
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Archival date: 2021-01-09
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