Abstract for Sullivan’s talk

Most of us display a bias toward the near: we prefer pleasurable experiences to be in our near future and painful experiences to be in our distant future. We also display a bias toward the future: we prefer pleasurable experiences to be in our present or future and painful experiences to be in our past. Among philosophers who discuss the issue, there is a tendency to view near bias is a rational defect (assuming there are any non-structural rational requirements on preferences). But almost no one finds future bias objectionable. On the contrary, some philosophers take a theory to be refuted if it conflicts with the rationality of future bias. In this paper, we show that there is an argument against future bias parallel to the usual argument against near bias. First, as with near bias, future bias can lead to significant and avoidable problems with rational planning. Second, as with near bias, once considerations from the metaphysics of time are taken into account, future bias seems either absurd or unmotivated.  Finally, as with near bias, there is a plausible error theory for why we are unreflectively tempted to be future biased. We conclude that those who reject near bias should go a step further and endorse complete temporal neutrality.

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