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Does a temporal asymmetry of value support a tensed metaphysics?

ERI 149
Wednesday 28 February 2018 (15:15-17:00)

Philosophy Society Seminar Series 2017/18

  • Title: Does a temporal asymmetry of value support a tensed metaphysics?
  • Speaker: Dr Alison Fernandes (University of Warwick)

Wednesday 28 February 2018, 15:15-17:00 in ERI 149. All welcome!

For more information please contact the convenor, Scott Sturgeon.


There are temporal asymmetries in our attitudes towards the past and future. Empirical studies have shown, for example, that we judge a given amount of work to be worth twice as much compensation if the work is described as taking place in the future, compared to the past (Caruso et al 2008). Does this temporal asymmetry of value support a tensed metaphysics of time? By getting clear on the asymmetry’s features, I’ll argue that it doesn’t. To support a tensed metaphysics, the value asymmetry would need to i) be absolute (rather than graded), ii) apply equally to events concerning oneself and others, and iii) be both rational and judged to be so. But the value asymmetry is not absolute, is partially perspectival, and is judged irrational even by subjects whose behaviour exhibits the asymmetry. There are, moreover, independent arguments against its rationality. The asymmetry’s features suggest instead that it arises as an emotion-driven overgeneralization from a temporal bias concerning our future actions. This explanation points towards unconscious mechanisms that can play a role in explaining other instances where we overgeneralize about the past and future, and, ultimately, why we’re tempted towards metaphysical pictures of time in the first place.

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