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‘Thank Goodness That’s Over’: The Evolutionary Story

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Abstract:

If, as the new tenseless theory of time maintains, there are no tensed facts, then why do our emotional lives seem to suggest that there are? This question originates with Prior’s ‘Thank Goodness That’s Over’ problem, and still presents a significant challenge to the new B–theory of time. We argue that this challenge has more dimensions to it than has been appreciated by those involved in the debate so far. We present an analysis of the challenge, showing the different questions that a B–theorist must answer in order to meet it. The debate has focused on the question of what is the object of my relief when an unpleasant experience is past. We outline the prevailing response to this question. The additional, and neglected, questions are, firstly –‘Why does the same event elicit different emotional responses from us depending on whether it is in the past, present, or future?’ And secondly –‘Why do we care more about proximate future pain than about distant future pain?’ We give B–theory answers to these questions, which appeal to evolutionary considerations.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9329.00191

Publication date: September 1, 2002

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