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Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine (IBME)

Intrapersonal conflicts of values: scientific and philosophical understanding of the present self’s concern for the future self


Moral intertemporal choices or intrapersonal conflicts of values are a subset of intertemporal choices (ICs) in which the individual’s decision affects the temporal distribution and the magnitude of goods and harms in her life. In such choices, that which the present self considers the right thing to do often opposes that which the future self may consider the right thing to do. In the project, firstly, neurobehavioral studies showing that individuals perceive their future selves as strangers will support the hypothesis that one of the main causes of people’s suboptimal ICs is their failure in other-perspective taking applied to their future self. Secondly, on the basis of these studies, the Interpersonal-Intergenerational framework of moral ICs will be delineated. This framework (i) conceives moral ICs as interpersonal, i.e. as conflicts between two distinct persons: the present self and the future self; (ii) it treats moral ICs as a special case of intergenerational ethics, i.e. similar to the moral relation in which present-day people stand with future generations. Thirdly, the set of moral demands arising from the present self-future self relationship will be elaborated: the Normative Theory of Moral ICs. This normative theory will then be applied to advance directives, which are a controversial case of moral ICs, and emerge as a promising approach comprising both the present self’s and the future self’s systems of values.


Intertemporal choices, advance directives, intrapersonal conflicts of value, future self



Cogito Foundation


Cogito Foundation

Project duration

2018 - 2021


The aim of the project is to reduce the distance between the neuroscientific understanding of human behavior in intertemporal choices, on the one hand, and the philosophical understanding of the moral requirements arising from moral intertemporal choices, on the other.

Expected outcomes

1) Elaboration of the Normative Theory of Moral Intertemporal Choices, i.e. the set of moral demands arising from the relationship between the present self and the future self;

2) Development of a strategy helping the individual that draws up her own advance directives to take care of her future self.