Future Desires, the Agony Argument, and Subjectivism about Reasons

Philosophical Review 129 (1):95-130 (2020)
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Abstract

Extant discussions of subjectivism about reasons for action have concentrated on presentist versions of the theory, on which reasons for present actions are grounded in present desires. In this article, I motivate and investigate the prospects of futurist subjectivism, on which reasons for present actions are grounded in present or future desires. Futurist subjectivism promises to answer Parfit's Agony Argument, and it is motivated by natural extensions of some of the considerations that support subjectivism in general. However, it faces a problem: because which desires one will have in the future can depend on what one does now, it must tell us which of one's possible future desires give one reasons to promote their satisfaction. I argue that the most natural solutions to this problem are unsatisfactory: they either fail to answer the Agony Argument or have unacceptable implications elsewhere. Then, I propose a more promising solution. Moreover, I argue that a closely analogous problem arises for an important class of idealizing subjectivist views and that this problem admits of a similar solution.

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Eden Lin
Ohio State University

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References found in this work

Slaves of the Passions.Mark Schroeder - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Internal and External Reasons.Bernard Williams - 1979 - In Ross Harrison (ed.), Rational Action. Cambridge University Press. pp. 101-113.
Moral Reason.Julia Markovits - 2014 - Oxford University Press.

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