Philosophical Studies

, Volume 175, Issue 8, pp 1901–1925 | Cite as

Prudence and past selves

  • Dale DorseyEmail author


An important platitude about prudential rationality is that I should not refuse to sacrifice a smaller amount of present welfare for the sake of larger future benefits. I ought, in other words, to treat my present and future as of equal prudential significance. The demands of prudence are less clear, however, when it comes to one’s past selves. In this paper, I argue that past benefits are possible in (at least) two ways, and that this fact cannot be easily accommodated by traditional approaches to prudential rationality. Against univocal accounts of prudential rationality, I hold that the possibility of past benefits suggests that a bias toward the present and future is defensible when it comes to some welfare goods, but that prudential reasons are temporally neutral between when it comes to the success or failure of one’s long-term projects.


Prudence Projects Well-being Rationality 



I would like to thank David Brink, Justin D’arms, Ben Eggleston, Dan Jacobsen, Seth Lazar, Geraldine Ng, Jason Raibley, Daniel Star, audiences at the New Orleans Invitational Seminar in Ethics, Australian National University, Boston University, and the Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, and an anonymous reviewer for Philosophical Studies for very helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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