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Does the temporal asymmetry of value support a tensed metaphysics?

  • Alison FernandesEmail author
Article

Abstract

There are temporal asymmetries in our attitudes towards the past and future. For example, we judge that a given amount of work is worth twice as much if it is described as taking place in the future, compared to the past (Caruso et al. in Psychol Sci 19(8):796–801, 2008). Does this temporal value asymmetry support a tensed metaphysics? By getting clear on the asymmetry’s features, I’ll argue that it doesn’t. To support a tensed metaphysics, the value asymmetry would need to (a) not vary with temporal distance, (b) apply equally to events concerning oneself and others, and (c) be rational and judged to be so. But evidence suggests the value asymmetry lacks these features. There are, moreover, independent arguments against its rationality. The asymmetry’s features suggest instead that it arises as an emotion-driven generalisation from a temporal bias concerning our future actions. This explanation points towards mechanisms that can play a role in explaining other instances where we generalise about the past and future, and why we’re tempted towards metaphysical pictures of time.

Keywords

Temporal value asymmetry Time Metaphysics A-theory Psychology Normative Rationality Preference asymmetry Attitude asymmetry Time bias 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Christoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack, Ruth Lee and Patrick Burns for many helpful discussions, and for including me so enthusiastically in their work. I would also like to thank the following people for comments and suggestions: Meghan Sullivan, Alistair Wilson, Natlja Deng, Nick Jones, Tom Dougherty, Scott Sturgeon, Craig Callender, and Tobias Wilsch, as well as audiences at the University of Warwick, and the University of Birmingham. This work was supported by a Research Fellowship at the University of Warwick on the AHRC project ‘Time: Between Metaphysics and Psychology’ (AH/P00217X/1), Principal Investigator Christoph Hoerl and Co-Investigator Teresa McCormack.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland

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