An intrapersonal, intertemporal solution to an interpersonal dilemma

Philosophical Studies 178 (10):3353-3370 (2021)
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It is commonly accepted that what we ought to do collectively does not imply anything about what each of us ought to do individually. According to this line of reasoning, if cooperating will make no difference to an outcome, then you are not morally required to do it. And if cooperating will be personally costly to you as well, this is an even stronger reason to not do it. However, this reasoning results in a self-defeating, yet entirely predictable outcome. If everyone is rational, no one will cooperate, resulting in an aggregate outcome that is devastating for everyone. This dismal analysis explains why climate change and other collective action problems are so difficult to ameliorate. The goal of this paper is to provide a different, exploratory framework for thinking about individual reasons for action in collective action problems. I argue that the concept of commitment gives us a new perspective on collective action problems. Once we take the structure of commitment into account, this activates requirements of diachronic rationality that give individuals instrumental reasons to cooperate in collective action problems.

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Valerie Soon
Stanford University

Citations of this work

Embracing Self-Defeat in Normative Theory.Samuel Fullhart - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Cooperation – Kantian-style.Jan Willem Wieland - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Slaves of the passions.Mark Andrew Schroeder - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.

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