There are many situations in life where you preemptively decide on some course of action, but when you have to actually take that action you don't.

A particular such situation is euthanasia - you might decide that if X happens you want to be killed, but if X actually happens you might not be able to or want to.

Let's say there was a magic pill which could ensure that if X happens you die painlessly, and it's irreversible. Would it be moral to take it? By taking it you, in some sense, murder your future self, which might not want to die even though X happened. However, it's still yourself - I don't see how that's very different from smoking, which would also hurt your future self against their will.

What are your opinions? How do you think you should treat your future self from an ethics perspective?

  • Why on earth consider your "future self" as someone who actually exist, and what is more someone different from your present self? I never could wrap my head around this one.
    – armand
    Apr 15, 2022 at 22:47
  • 2
    What has your future self ever done for you?
    – tkruse
    Apr 15, 2022 at 22:55
  • In lecture 24 "The rationality of suicide" of his course "Death" from Yale University, Shelly Kagan discusses this topic: 1. When if ever would it be true that you’d better off dead? 2. Could it ever be rational to trust your judgment that this is one of those cases in which you’re better off dead? 3. Could it ever be rational for you to kill yourself considering the answer to (3) might be no. 4. "When life gets bad enough, you cannot think clearly." A question similar to yours comes up in minute 40.
    – superiggy
    Apr 18, 2022 at 2:41
  • There is not future self in such case. It is just you in the present and if someone does eat the pill, there will be no him in future in that reality so its of no use to think about future. However I don't recommend such thing. If life is hard on you, come lets be friends. Lets live together. After all, no men are foreign. 😊 Apr 25, 2022 at 15:57

2 Answers 2


All actions you undertake are for their effect on your future self. To refrain from drinking to avoid cirrhosis of the liver is to do so to help your future self, and likewise to drink in order that your future self may enjoy drunkenness.

In ethics theories that have duties toward yourself, these need to be weighed out like any other prudential duty. The main considerations would be whether you have superior judgment than your future self -- as when a man arranges for a designated driver, and gives him the car keys, before he starts drinking -- and the virtual certainty that your future self will have more information about your future state to judge on -- as when a melodramatic teen declares, "I will just die if I don't get into my best school," only to fail, get steered into different lines, and find it's great.


Ethics is a social contract, a kind of peace agreement, mutually not acting against each other's interests. This is much more significant maybe for societies, like national debt, or destroying the environment, exploring all resources in one generation.

Since the future cannot impact the present, the future has a weak stance in negotiations. So purely rational ethics does not have that much to say in the topic. That topic is called intergenerational ethics https://www.britannica.com/topic/intergenerational-ethics

However common sense says that at least for ourselves, it makes sense but to put ourselves in a situation where we will suffer in the future. But that's not ethics. Though death is not necessarily a position of suffering.

Somewhat interestingly, the best thing you can do economically to contribute to the fight against global warming is to die and thus stop consuming resources. That removes your carbon footprint, and is difficult to beat even with an all organic lifestyle.

  • 1
    -1. While I appreciate your effort, Tkruse, you often make many philosophically loaded statements that neither reflect the state of contemporary philosophical academia, nor do they delineate anything along the lines of "this is where I've landed on this issue". Instead, they express your own conclusions as undisputed fact.
    – SamIAm123
    Apr 15, 2022 at 23:52
  • 1
    That's why I cite more objective sources
    – tkruse
    Apr 16, 2022 at 1:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .