Thu Oct 23, 2008
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
Sharon Street (New York University)
In Defense of Future Tuesday Indifference
What is the relationship between value, our attitudes, and the world? Is value ultimately best understood as conferred upon things by our contingent desires and values? Or are some things desirable or valuable quite independently of what our evaluative attitudes toward them happen to be? In this debate, a set of characters I call ideally coherent eccentrics is routinely called upon to do heavy lifting on behalf of the latter view. These characters—of which Derek Parfit’s famous man with “Future Tuesday Indifference” is one—embrace some bizarre or repugnant value, and are stipulated to be perfectly consistent in their normative convictions and in error about none of the non-normative facts. The intuition is then called upon that these characters are, in spite of their ideal coherence, nevertheless desiring something that is not in fact desirable, or valuing something that is not in fact valuable. These intuitions, in turn, are viewed as providing major support to an attitude-independent conception of value. In this paper, I argue that ideally coherent eccentrics do not do the work that they are standardly called upon to do. As I will try to show, ideally coherent eccentrics deserve a great deal more careful philosophical attention than they have so far received, and once we give them this attention, we will see that the attitude-dependent theorist’s position regarding them is much more plausible than is commonly assumed. Those who favor an attitude-independent conception of value need to look elsewhere if they hope to find major support for their position.