Our natural attitude is to care about the fate of a future person in a special manner once we know that this person is none other than ourselves. In the present paper, we defend the rationality of that attitude against Parfit’s famous contrary claim that ‘identity does not matter’. We argue that it is intrinsically bad for a conscious subject to have negative experiences, and that one therefore has reasons of a special kind (de se subject-relative reasons) to avoid having such experiences in the future. Our argument makes crucial use of the distinction between values simpliciter and values for someone. Values for someone are often grounded in the way it is like for someone to instantiate a given experiential property. We submit that this claim sheds some light on the deep interconnections between issues about value and issues about the nature of phenomenal consciousness. The disagreement about whether ‘identity matters’, it turns out, stems from a more fundamental disagreement about the nature of consciousness.
Derek Parfit famously defended a radical attitude towards the title question. One might think that there is an obvious reply to why one should care about one’s own future, namely, simply because it is one’s own. If I know that I will suffer an unbearable pain tomorrow unless I act now to prevent it, then I have a reason to act because it is bad for me to suffer pain and because I want to avoid what is bad for me. The fact that I am the one who will suffer gives me a reason to prevent the occurrence of an event involving my own suffering—a reason quite different from the reason I have to prevent similar events involving the suffering of other people.
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