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October 28, 2010

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Absolutely right, Jonathan - great way of putting it. Christine Tappolet makes a similar point in her chapter in The Thief of Time, writing that procrastination reveals a lack of concern for your future self.

The suggestion that I need to show consideration for the rights of my future selves raises the question of whether I can give consent on their behalf or contract away their rights.

Good point - another reason I'm not comfortable taking the concept of future selves too literally, as if they were distinct agents. (Jonathan's post got me thinking more about this, to be sure.) But given that we can only imperfect constrain our future decisions now, and must (prudently) take the uncertainty of "their" future actions into account when we make decisions now, I think it is useful (even if just a heuristic). But I don't know if I would extend rights talk to it, hmm...

(By the way, on a related topic, Larry Alexander has a new piece on voluntary slavery here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1694662.)

Both Dale and Mark make great points! I had mainly thought of this way of thinking as a heuristic to aid the development of self control.

Whether future selves should be accorded "rights" is beyond my pay scale. Isn't this similar to the inter-generational equity issue?
Best, Jonathan

It definitely is useful to help think about self-control, though in my chapter in The Thief of Time I cast the issue as respect for your own plans, which doesn't rely on past, present, or future selves.

I think the difference with the intergenerational equity issue is that that deals with truly distinct persons; whereas a case can be made for equity between generations of (distinct) persons, it would be harder to argue that one has an obligation to equalize "moments" of well-being between your time-slice selves (aside from all the measurement issues, yada yada).

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