Thursday, May 23, 2013

Future Desires Do Not Count

Future desires do not count.

This is not to say that future desires do not matter. They matter to some people. In fact, they happen to matter to many of us.

When I say that future desires do not count, this is to be taken as reporting the real-world fact that a future desire is not a reason for action that exists. It is a reason for action that will exist - or not, depending on the choices we make. However, it is not a reason for action that exists at the time that an action is decided upon.

You, the reader, may want future desires to count. You may think that future people are people - or will be people - and their interests are as important as ours. You may want your fellow humans to act in ways that fulfill, rather than thwart, their future desires.

That "want" you have, if this is true, is a present desire. That "want" is a reason for action that exists. However, in the absence of such a want, future desires are impotent and irrelevant with respect to current action.

If you want people today to behave differently, in a way that fulfills rather than thwarts future desires, you must either find a current reason for action that exists, or create a current reason for action (desire) that will fulfill future desires.

To create a current reason for action that exists itself requires a current reason to act. It requires a current desire that give a person today reason to use social tools such as reward (which includes praise) and punishment (including condemnation) to mold the desires of others in ways that fulfill rather than thwart future desires. Whether the topic is climate change, overpopulation, or government deficits, one must find the reason to change in current reasons for action that exist.

As it turns out, people tend to have - and they have many and strong reasons to promote in others - a consideration of future desires.

We have the fulfillment of our own future desires to consider. However, even though we tend to have an interest in the fulfillment of our own future desires, it is one current desire among many. It often gets outweighed by other current desires. Thus, people eat what they should not, drink what they should not, enage in sexual behaviors that thwart future desires, choise entertainment over education, and generally sacrifice even their own future interests for the sake of current satisfaction.

Even here, our own future desires do not count in the absence of present desires that tend to fulfill future desires. The future desires alone will do no good.

In terms of an interest in fulfilling future desires, there are also those with children, who care about the fulfillment of their children's desires, who know that their children will be concerned with the interests of ther own children, and so on. Those who do not have children are friends with those who do. People generally have reason to promote an overall interest in the world those children will live in.

In all of these cases, we are talking about present desires that future desires be fulfilled. There is simply no sense to the claim that a future desire has any pull over present action by itself - in the absence of advocacy or mediation by a present desire that the future desire be fulfilled.

This post can mostly be taken as an instruction to those who do wish to see future desires fulfilled. Do you want people today to behave differently with respect to the fulfillment r thwarting of future desires? Then find or create (using reward and punshment) the reasons for action in the present. When somebody asks, "Why should I act differently?", if you do not give an answer in terms of a reason for action that exists (or create such a reason), it is a mistake to expect the answer given to have much of a real-world effect.

That's reality.

To tie this into the possible worlds questions we have been examining, one could say about a current action, "It will bring a person into the world whose desires will be largely fulfilled."

The respose is, "So? What current reason for action do I have for bringing a future person into existence whose desires will be largely fulfilled? You must relate that future state to a current reason for action that exists."

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