Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Value of future esteem.

What is the value of future esteem? I tend to deny that esteem has any intrinsic value for the esteemed. Thus I've got to explain why we can be rational and care about our future esteem. But I also think that it is impossible to have "posthumos harm" as it is sometimes called. There is a theory that produces an explanation of why we care about posthumous esteem that does not involve the idea of posthumous harm (or benefit).

Premises:
1. pleasure is always unconditionally good for the subject
2. pleasure is not the only (prudential) good. There is at least another good that is having true beliefs
3. we have reasons to want to have pleasure
4. we have reasons to want to have true beliefs
5. We take pleasure in contemplating a state of affairs in which we are esteemed, whether it is now or after our death.
6. having the belief that (at a certain time t) we are esteemed is more pleasurable than simply contemplating the mere possibility.
7. having the belief that (at a certain time t) we are not esteemed reduces or destroies the pleasure of fancying that we are esteemed

From these premises, it is possible to show that it is reasonable to care about one's future esteem.

When I think that after my death I will be esteemed, I am pleased by this thought. This pleasure increases when I believe that after my death I will indeed be esteemed.

Given 2, I have reasons to want myself to believe that I will be esteemed. For this reason, I also have a reason to make it probable that this will be indeed be the case. Its being reasonable to believe now that I will be esteemed after my death will normally cause me to believe that I will be esteemed after my death. I have no other way to make myself believe that I will be esteem except that. (Note 1)
(note 1: of course, I could find other ways to produce the belief that I will be esteemed in the future. For example, I could take a drug, hire a scientist to play with my brain, hire some skillful actors, etc... But all these ways will be inconsistent with the value I attach to true, so they are not open to me in a welfare maximizing strategy.)

This shows that it is rational in normal condition to provide for one's posthumous esteem. The reason for this is not that the posthumous state of affairs can affect my well-being, but that my present pleasure and my present having true beliefs can.

3 comments:

M. Swaim said...

Thank you for syllogising and therefore validating my lifelong desire to have a bridge or public park named in my honor.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.