Ethical Perspectives

September 2016

Self-Concern without Anticipation

  • Radim Bělohrad


The article focuses on one of the identity-related practical concerns discussed in contemporary debate on personal identity, namely self-concern. The dominant view seems to be that peopleís concern for their future selves is preconditioned by their ability to anticipate the experiences of their future selves and that, as a result, a psychological theory of personal identity is required to justify self-concern. I argue that self-concern in its most general form is not preconditioned by the possibility of anticipation. I provide examples showing that people may legitimately be concerned for their future selves even if those selves are unconscious or dead, that is, in states that the people cannot anticipate. I contend that self-concern is not rooted in our desire to have positive experiences, but in our desire to live meaningful lives. Since the value of our lives can be influenced by events that only take place after we cease to exist, I further argue that certain posthumous states of affairs relevant to our lives can also be the legitimate target of an indirect sort of self-concern. Inspired by Marya Schechtmanís theories, I develop a form of the narrative theory of personal identity in the sense of characterization and show that narrative continuity can be both a source of meaning in a personís life and a ground for the personís self-concern. It turns out that the sort of identity that justifies non-anticipatory self-concern cannot be numerical identity, because it does not provide the persistence conditions of people.

 Page : 445 - 472

To  Ethical Perspectives 3/2016