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Decision and time from a Humean point of view

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Until recently, little attention has been paid to the consequences of Hume’s theory of action for intertemporal decision. Yet in view of the recurring discussion concerning situations of conflicting choice between a close and a remote objective, which runs from Book 2 of the Treatise, to the second Enquiry, to the Dissertation, intertemporal decision appears, at least in part, to be an outcome of the role of the natural relation of contiguity in the formation of the structure of desires, and thus different from the structure of pleasure. This paper shows, and expresses formally, that Hume’s approach provides alternative conditions which explain time-consistency on the one hand, and dynamic time-inconsistency on the other, when the link between contiguity and the ’violence’ of the passions is taken into account. The possibility of time-inconsistency is acknowledged by Hume as giving rise to general aversion, therefore constitutes a key argument in explaining the origin of government.
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Keywords: B11; B31; D10; Hume; belief; decision in time; government; passion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 4, 2019

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