What really matters

Synthese 162 (3):325 - 340 (2008)
What really matters fundamentally in survival? That question—the one on which I focus—is not about what should matter or about metaphysics. Rather, it is a factual question the answer to which can be determined, if at all, only empirically. I argue that the answer to it is that in the case of many people it is not one’s own persistence, but continuing in ways that may involve one’s own cessation that really matters fundamentally in survival. Call this the surprising result. What are we to make of it? According to several philosophers, not much. I argue that these philosophers are wrong. What best explains the surprising result is that in the case of many people one’s special concern for oneself in the future is not fundamental, but derived. I explain what this means. Finally I explain why the task of explaining empirically what matters fundamentally in survival is in some ways more like a meditative quest than a traditional inquiry in western philosophy or social science and, as such, is best answered not by psychologists, but by philosophers.
Keywords Personal identity  What matters in survival  Empirical values
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DOI 10.2307/40271001
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References found in this work BETA
David Lewis (1976). Survival and Identity. In Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (ed.), The Identities of Persons. University of California Press 17-40.

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