Daniel Kuehn Sides with Socrates and Plato; Unfortunately, Aristotle Was Right

Nobody who genuinely understands the time inconsistency problem is ever going to be in a position where in the short-run they want something that is inconsistent in the long-run, because anybody who genuinely understands the time inconsistency problem (or really any number of other “unintended consequences” type problems like it) is going to knowingly cut off their nose to spite their face like that.
This was the position adopted Socrates and Plato: "No one goes willingly toward the bad." But it is wrong. It fails to account for akrasia: weakness of the will. I can testify with certainty that, for an entire month, while perfectly aware that I was engaging in hyperbolic discounting, I still night after night failed to unfold the sofa bed upon which I was to sleep because it seemed like to much trouble that night.


  1. Anonymous8:32 PM

    Did you brush your teeth?

    1. Yeah, things didn't get that bad.

    2. Anonymous5:03 PM

      Forgive me for assuming, but what you described is typically behavior that I have observed in myself during a bender, so I was reading into it from my own perspective of such. However, in such a case, I could sleep on a pile of rocks and wouldn't care a bit.

    3. Joe, I'm capable of hyperbolic discounting even when not on a bender.

  2. I think "understand" was the wrong word.

    Read the rest of the discussion, I'm really not saying that. If people are demanding that we deal with the time inconsistency problem, say, by demanding that we follow a rule - it's clearly what they "want" or "like" to do because they are working off of a very different utility function than the one that results in dynamic inconsistency.

    If you tell yourself "I really need to open this bed" and you begin the process of opening the bed you are genuinely inculcating the time inconsistency problem and you are doing it BECAUSE it is something that benefits you.

    Can someone offer an instance where you would open the bed because you know it's something that would be bad for you?


    Then I stand by what I said.

    Of course you may not actually do it in any given night, but that's why I'm on the "rules" side of the "rules vs. discretion" discussion.


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