Privileging our future hedonic states
Weijers, D. M. (2016). Privileging our future hedonic states. Presented at the AXΦI: The 1st annual Australasian Experimental Philosophy workshop, Victoria University of Wellington, September 9, 2016.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10725
As Parfit famously claims in Reasons and Persons, we would prefer to hear that our painful surgery is 5 hours long and finished than that it is 1 hour long and about to start. If true, this claim means that our judgments about the value of future suffering are very different to our judgements about past suffering. But, surely past and future suffering have (at least roughly) equal disvalue. Is this privileging of future suffering an irrational bias? I attempt to shed light on this question by reporting on severalexperiments on Parfit’s surgery case and a host of cases that assess the comparative value of past and future goods in various contexts. I will argue that the experimental data show that people (at least 2,000+ WEIRD undergraduate students from California and Waikato) exhibit judgments that routinely privilege future hedonic states for themselves, but not other people or for non-hedonic goods. I attempt to make sense of the results, but we are left with more questions than answers.