Four-dimensionalism and well-being
Taylor, Adam P.
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This dissertation presents a novel ethical argument against four-dimensionalism, the view according to which physical objects, including human persons, are 'smeared out' in a four-dimensional spacetime `manifold' and persist by having temporal parts located at different times. My arguments are intended to show that four-dimensionalism, if true, undermines the moral landscape as we commonly perceive it. And adopting a four-dimensionalist ontology compels us to alter many of our commonsense normative beliefs. Among other implications, it tells us that, where we previously thought that for each person there was a single subject of moral status, each person in fact consists in continuum many temporal parts, a great many of which are themselves capable of thought, sensation, and desire. Arguably, these thinking temporal parts ought to be subjects of moral concern. We ought to care about their well-being. But, if their well-being matters, then we would be forced to revise our understanding of the morality of many of our actions. Each of the leading theories of well-being is examined, the desire theory, the hedonist theory, and the objective list theories. Arguments are provided to demonstrate on each theory the four-dimensionalist ontology will require revision of our ethical beliefs. Having shown four-dimensionalism to have these difficult consequences, in the concluding chapter, I argue that if we desire to conserve our commonsense beliefs about well-being then we do better to adopt a dualist ontology according to which persons are immaterial souls.