Hedonic and Non-Hedonic Bias toward the Future

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (1):148-163 (2021)
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Abstract

It has widely been assumed, by philosophers, that our first-person preferences regarding pleasurable and painful experiences exhibit a bias toward the future (positive and negative hedonic future-bias), and that our preferences regarding non-hedonic events (both positive and negative) exhibit no such bias (non-hedonic time-neutrality). Further, it has been assumed that our third-person preferences are always time-neutral. Some have attempted to use these (presumed) differential patterns of future-bias—different across kinds of events and perspectives—to argue for the irrationality of hedonic future-bias. This paper experimentally tests these descriptive hypotheses. While as predicted we found first-person hedonic future-bias, we did not find that participants were time-neutral in all other conditions. Hence, the presumed asymmetry of hedonic/non-hedonic and first/third-person preferences cannot be used to argue for the irrationality of future-bias, since no such asymmetries exist. Instead, we develop a more fine-grained approach, according to which three factors—positive/negative valence, first/third-person, and hedonic/non-hedonic—each independently influence, but do not determine, whether an event is treated in a future-biased or time-neutral way. We discuss the upshots of these results for the debate over the rationality of future-bias.

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Author Profiles

Kristie Miller
University of Sydney
Andrew James Latham
Aarhus University
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References found in this work

Reasons Without Persons: Rationality, Identity, and Time.Brian Hedden - 2015 - Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press UK.
Thank Goodness That's over.A. N. Prior - 1959 - Philosophy 34 (128):12 - 17.
Asymmetries in Time.Paul Horwich - 1990 - Noûs 24 (5):804-806.
Against Time Bias.Preston Greene & Meghan Sullivan - 2015 - Ethics 125 (4):947-970.

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