Are future-biased preferences rationally permissible?
Dr Tom Dougherty (University of Sydney)

March 27, 2014, 10:15am - 12:15pm
Department of Philosophy, Monash University

Room E561, 5th Floor, Building 11 (Menzies)
55 Wellington Road
Clayton 3800
Australia

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Abstract: Is it rationally permissible to prefer a pleasurable experience to be in the future rather than the past? Intuitively it is permissible, but I argue that intuition misleads, by pointing to an overlooked feature of "future-biased preferences": these preferences would affect how we exchange hedonic experiences, e.g. pleasure, for other non-hedonic goods, e.g. money. For example, future-biased preferences would make us willing to exchange a larger amount of money for a particular pleasurable experience when it is in the future than we would be willing to exchange for the experience when it is in the past. However, rationality requires us to set a fixed exchange rate that does not vary according to whether the experience is past or future. The upshot is that rationality requires us to transcend our temporal perspectives and form preferences about hedonic experiences simply on the basis of how these experiences affect how well our lives go.

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