The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 119, Issue 9, September 2022

David Mark KovacsOrcid-ID
Pages 461-488

Self-Making and Subpeople

On many currently popular ontologies of material objects, we share our place with numerous shorter-lived things ("subpeople," to borrow a term from Eric Olson) that came into existence after we did or will go out of existence before we will. Subpeople are intrinsically indistinguishable from possible people, and as several authors (Eric Olson, Mark Johnston, A. P. Taylor) pointed out, this raises grave ethical concerns: it threatens to make any sacrifice for long-term goals impermissible, as well as to undermine our standard practices of punishment, reward, grief, and utility calculation. The aim in this paper is to offer a unified set of solutions to these problems. The paper’s starting point is the "self-making view," according to which our de se beliefs help determine our own spatiotemporal boundaries. This paper argues that the self-making view also plays a key role in the best treatment of the moral problems of subpeople.