There’s No Time Like the Present: Present-Bias, Temporal Attitudes and Temporal Ontology

In Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (eds.), The Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy. Oxford University Press (2020)
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This paper investigates the connection between temporal attitudes (attitudes characterised by a concern (or lack thereof) about future and past events), beliefs about temporal ontology (beliefs about the existence of future and past events) and temporal preferences (preferences regarding where in time events are located). Our aim is to probe the connection between these preferences, attitudes, and beliefs, in order to better evaluate the normative status of these preferences. We investigate the hypothesis that there is a three-way association between (a) being present-biased (that is, preferring that positive events are located in the present, and negative events are located in the non-present), (b) believing that past and future events do not exist and (c) tending to have present-focused rather than non-present-focused temporal attitudes. We find no such association. This suggests that insofar as temporal preferences and temporal attitudes are connected to the ways we represent time, they are not connected to the ways we represent temporal ontology; rather, they are more likely connected to the ways we represent relative movement in, or of, time. This has important consequences for, first, explaining why we exhibit these preferences and, second, for their normative evaluation.



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Author Profiles

Natalja Deng
Yonsei University
Andrew James Latham
Aarhus University
Kristie Miller
University of Sydney
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