The apology paradox and the non-identity problem

Philosophical Quarterly 52 (208):358-368 (2002)
Janna Thompson has outlined ‘the apology paradox’, which arises whenever people apologize for an action or event upon which their existence is causally dependent. She argues that a sincere apology seems to entail a wish that the action or event had not occurred, but that we cannot sincerely wish that events upon which our existence depends had not occurred. I argue that Thompson’s paradox is a backward-looking version of Parfit’s (forward-looking) ‘non-identity problem’, where backward- and forward-looking refer to the perspective of an agent apologizing for or contemplating an action. The temporal perspective of the agent gives us the tools with which to dissolve the air of paradox which surrounds these problems. Each is best grasped from one temporal perspective, but the para- doxes arise when we attempt to examine it simultaneously from another. The evaluations appropriate to the apology paradox and the non-identity problem are therefore time-indexed.
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9213.00273
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References found in this work BETA
Derek Parfit (1986). Comments. Ethics 96 (4):832-872.
Janna Thompson (2000). The Apology Paradox. Philosophical Quarterly 50 (201):470-475.

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Saul Smilansky (2013). Morally, Should We Prefer Never to Have Existed? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):655-666.
Stephen Winter (2006). Uncertain Justice: History and Reparations. Journal of Social Philosophy 37 (3):342–359.

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