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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: July 2009

6 - Future Opinion and Current Opinion

Summary

EPISTEMIC ULYSSES PROBLEMS

How should future opinion when known affect current opinion? If I discover that in one year I will believe P, how should this affect my current belief about P?

Ulysses cases offer a compelling way of addressing these questions. Recall the story of Ulysses and the Sirens. The Sirens had the power of so charming sailors by their songs that the sailors were irresistibly drawn to throw themselves overboard, where they drowned in the strong currents surrounding the island where the Sirens lived. Although Ulysses was warned by the sorceress Circe about the Sirens, he nonetheless wanted to hear their songs. Following instructions from Circe, he took steps to protect himself. He had his men stop their ears with wax, so that they would not be able to hear the Sirens, and had himself tied to the mast, so that upon hearing the Sirens sing, he would not be able to throw himself overboard.

The problem that confronted Ulysses, most generally expressed, was that of how to take his future wants and values into account in his current deliberations about what to do. Problems of this sort are especially pressing when the future wants and values are at odds with one's current wants and values. Ulysses, for example, knew that the Sirens' songs would alter his wants in ways he currently did not approve. Epistemic Ulysses problems are the counterparts of these problems within epistemology.

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Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others
  • Online ISBN: 9780511498923
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511498923
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