Does the temporal asymmetry of value support a tensed metaphysics?

Synthese 198 (5):3999-4016 (2021)

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 :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 not vary with temporal distance, apply equally to events concerning oneself and others, and 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.

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Alison Sutton Fernandes
Trinity College, Dublin

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On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Being Realistic About Reasons.T. M. Scanlon - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
The Metaphysics Within Physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Oxford University Press.

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