Prospects for Temporal Neutrality

David O. Brink

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199298204
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728372 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Prospects for Temporal Neutrality

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  • Metaphysics
  • Moral Philosophy


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The temporal locations of benefits and harms matter to us. People prefer past pain to future pain, even when this choice includes more total pain. But should the location of benefits and harms matter to us, all else being equal? This question is an ethical one. This chapter deals with defending temporal neutrality, the thesis that agents should attach no normative significance to the temporal location of benefits and harms, all else being equal. A powerful argument for temporal neutrality comes from prudence. However, prudence also assigns normative significance only to benefits and harms that occur to oneself, not other agents. It also suggests that the fact that one is later compensated for present sacrifice is crucial to assigning equal importance to all parts of an agent's life, but not equally to all agents.

Keywords: temporal neutrality; temporal location; prudence; benefits; harms

Article.  15061 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy

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