Samir Okasha on "Inter-temporal Choice and the Metaphysics of Time"

We are very pleased to announce that Samir Okasha, Professor at University of Bristol, will deliver a talk for Filosofisk seminar this semester. The seminar is open for everyone, and will be followed by an informal reception.

Portrait of Professor Samir Okasha (Photo: University of Bristol).

Professor Samir Okasha (Photo: University of Bristol).


This talk tries to forge a link between a classic debate in the metaphysics of time – between 'tensed' and 'tenseless' theories – and a classic debate in the theory of rational choice – over whether 'exponential discounting' is the uniquely rational pattern of inter-temporal choice. The traditional metaphysical debate is about whether the tensed or tenseless theory is true. I set aside this matter, and focus instead on a different question: suppose someone believes that the tenseless theory (for example) is true, then how should this affect their behaviour? I suggest that whether an agent believes (perhaps implicitly) in the tensed or tenseless theory may have implications for the pattern of inter-temporal choice that they consider rational. In particular, I argue that the traditional answer to the question of what rational inter-temporal choice amounts to – exponential discounting – is very compelling if one accepts the tenseless theory, but much less compelling if one accepts the tensed theory. Patterns of inter-temporal choice that conflict with traditional rational choice norms, such as hyperbolic discounting, are rationally defensible for an agent who accepts a tensed view of time.

About Samir Okasha

Samir Okasha has broad philosophical interests, though most of his research is related to philosophy of biology and evolutionary theory, and epistemology  and philosophy of science. Within philosophy of biology he has written about foundational issues in social evolution theory, particularly those surrounding the 'levels of selection' issue, and the related issue of individual-group conflicts of interest. This culminated in the book Evolution and the Levels of Selection (OUP 2006), which was awarded the 2009 Lakatos Prize for an outstanding contribution to philosophy of science. From 2008 to 2011 Okasha was Principal Investigator on a major AHRC-funded research project, 'Evolution, Cooperation and Rationality', in collaboration with Professor Ken Binmore, which led to a series of publications and an edited volume Evolution and Rationality (CUP 2012). From 2011 to 2016 he was Principal Investigator on a research project entitled 'Darwinism and the Theory of Rational Choice', funded by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award. The aim of the project is to study connections, formal and conceptual, between Darwinian evolutionary theory and the theory of rationality. Okasha has a forthcoming book on this topic, Agents and Goals in Evolution, to be published by OUP in 2018.

About the seminar series

Philosophical Seminar is a philosophy colloquium series, hosted by the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas at UiO. The departmental colloquium has previously hosted renowned philosophers such as Charles Taylor, Peter Railton, Galen Strawson, Julia Annas, Martin Kusch, Stephen Darwall, John Sallis and Samuel Wheeler III.

The colloquia are open to everyone and followed by an open and informal reception on the third floor in the same building. Students are especially encouraged to attend, and all participants are invited to the reception afterwards.

Published Mar. 1, 2018 12:53 PM - Last modified May 6, 2018 11:50 PM