Time and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection

(ed.)
Kluwer Academic Publishers (2003)
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Abstract

Ethics seeks answers to questions about the moral status of human actions and human lives. What should I do, and what should I not do? What sort of life should I lead? Actions and lives are temporal things. Actions are performed at certain times, are informed by past events and have consequences for the future. Lives have temporal extension, and are experienced from a sequence of temporal perspectives. Thus, one would think that answers to ethical questions should take account some of their temporal features. Yet there has never been a systematic study of the relations between time and ethics. In 2001 a conference was held at the University of Otago in New Zealand on the theme of Time and Ethics to explore issues that emerge at the intersection between these two fields of study. This volume contains revised versions of some of the papers presented at that conference. The essays are collected into three parts, each with its own unifying theme. Part I focuses on parallels between reasoning about time and reasoning about ethics, and shows various ways in which thinking about each of these fields can inform what we should say about the other. Part II looks at the ethical significance of temporal location. Actions, reasons, preferences, consequences, events, pains, persons and (arguably) the possession of a truth-value by a truth bearer, all have temporal location, and this fact turns out to have considerable ethical significance - or so the essays in this section argue. The essays in part III examine issues that arise out of the consideration that persons are both temporal and ethical beings. For instance, given that we typically continue to hold people responsible for their actions at times other than the times at which those actions are performed, we need an account of personal identity over time that can support this moral practice.

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Heather Dyke
University of Otago

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