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Time and Rationality

The passage of time plays a crucial role in how we organize our beliefs, how we model the exchange of information, and how we form and evaluate preferences. I’m interested in connections between the nature of time and different standards of rationality. With respect to modeling beliefs and communication, I propose a solution to a longstanding puzzle for explaining how we update the contents of beliefs and assertions in response to A-theoretic passage of time.  With respect to practical reason, I’m interested in arguments about the rational status of common time biases. For instance, most of us display a bias toward the near: we prefer pleasure to be in our near future and pain to be in our distant future. We also display a bias toward the future: we prefer pleasure to be in our present or future and pain to be in our past. Among philosophers who discuss the issue, there is a tendency to view near bias as a rational defect, while few find future bias objectionable. I think that this split verdict is unjustified, and that considerations from decision-theory, philosophy, and psychology give us reason to find future bias just as rationally suspect as near bias.   I have co-authored work on this topic with Preston Greene (NTU) and Peter Finocchiaro (Wuhan).  And I have just finished a book on the connection between temporal properties, personal identity, and rational preferences. New work focuses on ways in which empirical work in social psychology can provide evidence for theories of diachronic rationality and ways in which the questions raised by philosophers ought to structure empirical research.

Relevant Papers and Books:

  1. Time Biases: A Theory of Rational Planning and Personal Persistence (Oxford 2018)
  2. Change We Can Believe In (and Assert) (Nous 2014)
  3. Against Time Bias (Ethics 2015)
  4. Yet Another Epicurean Argument (Philosophical Perspectives 2017)
  5. Personal Volatility  (Phil Issues 2017)
  6. A Philosophy for the End (Whenever It Comes)  (Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy 2017)
  7. Temporal Discounting in Philosophy and Psychology: Four Topics of Mutual Research Aid (Submitted Draft)
  8. Scheduling Deliberation (Draft)
  9. Review of Midlife: A Philosophical Guide for Commonweal (March 2018)
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