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I have a bag of candies. Someone else asks if they can have one. If the bag is still full, I have no issues, and tell them they are welcome to take one. If there is only one left in the bag, I am much less willing to oblige, and might say something along the lines of "I am saving the last one for myself".

This reluctance doesn't make much sense to me. It doesn't matter when in my progress of emptying the bag I give out a candy to my friend. The bag still empties at exactly the same time time, and I still get to enjoy the exact same number of candies for myself. Could there be a rational or logical reason for this reluctance, or is it a fallacy?

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  • No. Because the last candy in the bag has a rarity value. If you want/need a candy, and if the only candy you can have is the last candy in the bag, then it has more value than it would in a situation inwhich more than one candy remained. Oct 6, 2022 at 15:11
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    I always find it aggravating that the last scoring point in a game seems so much more important than all the others. Either all points are equally important, or none of them are. The first run in the World Series might as well be the determining one as the last.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 6, 2022 at 17:50
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    It is called supply and demand, and it is not a fallacy. Even purely economic value goes up when the supply is short. There is also a distance between "the bag is still full" and "only one left in the bag", so it is not like the value just shoots up at the last item. The fewer items people have left, the more reluctant they are to part with them.
    – Conifold
    Oct 6, 2022 at 17:57
  • Maybe we could be more careful with things so that we don't run out?
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 6, 2022 at 18:09
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    Besides the usual law of diminishing marginal utility and store of value of private products studied in micro econ, on a deeper philosophical level, this could be said to relate to self-consciousness aka being-for-itself per Sartre since as you rightly described as a genuinely reified object the last candy is no different as a being-in-itself than any other candies. Thus the only (significant) difference is brought by our self-consciousness to the world as a judgement and further attachment about this last being (not) and mistakenly reify such self-attachment as another being upon being... Oct 7, 2022 at 18:31

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Interesting question. I think it's wrong to think of it as a fallacy.

In economics they use scarcity value, as a way to think about how relative available affects our sense of what things are worth. It can also be looked at in social psychology.

You can think of the candies or biscuits as having value in terms of certain pleasurable sensations over time, and that really to maximise the pleasure we should eat them one at a time, slowly. But while we have plenty we may prefer a short term strategy, immediate over long term pleasure.

There is also a social transaction value. Being able to offer other people candies or biscuits, can maintain your reputation as a good host, can leave others in your debt. To add to the last candy with new ones requires some effort, attention, and cost. In our time of plenty we tend to ignore the risk there won't be more, but it's real. Imagine how a British person likely felt about how they valued their food just before WW2, vs in the rationing era that lasted until 1955. Many treats and luxuries were unwittingly eaten for the last time in a long time. We could have a supervolcano, or nuclear war. Or a food crisis when the worlds largest grain exporter can't get grain out (used to make glucose), and energy prices spike - currently we may be insulated from this, but price rises are coming. Risk and hazard are involved in assessing value, anyway.

I find it interesting that we don't really have the category of 'miser' any more, and we could unpick why. 'Hoarders' seem to have a problematic relationship towards not keeping access to resources. Being able to choose delayed gratification, often measured with candies, is seen as a key child-development marker.

Conversely there is Zen parable, about being chased off a cliff by a tiger and hanging on by a vine that is fraying - if you see a wild strawberry then, appreciate it's sweetness. Because we are always beset by troubles, but even so we can appreciate simple momentary pleasures. Unless someone else already ate the last one..

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  • "Savor every bite" they say... A dozen people were hit by buses today.
    – Scott Rowe
    Oct 7, 2022 at 1:44

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