Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Thoroughgoing Future Bias
by Koehler, Arden LePell, Ph.D., New York University, 2020, 188; 27742917
Abstract (Summary)

People tend to care more in some sense about what will happen to them in the future than they do about what has happened to them in the past. This is reflected most starkly in differences between how we feel toward pain that we know we will have in the future—we dread it—and our more equanimous attitudes toward pain we’ve had in the past. Derek Parfit called this asymmetry in our attitudes the bias toward the future.

This dissertation is motivated by the idea that the bias toward the future pervades how we think about, feel about, and cope with the passage of time in ways that haven’t yet been adequately explored. I argue that if we are biased toward the future, we have reasons to have a range of other attitudes, as well as to pursue various strategies for managing our relationships with different sorts of goods with different temporal features. Some of the attitudes and strategies I discuss are familiar. For example, I argue that the bias toward the future can give us reason to regard death as a ‘special’ evil (i.e., different in kind from other misfortunes) and can give us reasons to delay gratification and get bad things over with as soon as possible.

I explore a number of puzzles that arise when we consider these different attitudes and strategies. For example, does the fact that a good thing would soon be over with weaken our reason to pursue it? In the process, I illuminate a few unexpected and sometimes subtle ways in which our asymmetric attitudes toward future and past influence us, which go beyond (and build upon) leading us to feel dread toward future but not past pain.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Street, Sharon
Commitee: Richardson, John, Scheffler, Samuel
School: New York University
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 82/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Delaying gratification, Future bias, Mortality, Rationality, Time bias
Publication Number: 27742917
ISBN: 9798662483101
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