The Apology Paradox and the Non-identity Problem

Neil Levy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Janna Thompson has outlined 'the apology paradox', which arises whenever people apologize for an action or event upon which their existence is causally dependent. She argues that a sincere apology seems to entail a wish that the action or event had not occurred, but that we cannot sincerely wish that events upon which our existence depends had not occurred. I argue that Thompson's paradox is a backward-looking version of Parfit's (forward-looking) 'non-identity problem', where backward- and forward-looking refer to the perspective of an agent apologizing for or contemplating an action. The temporal perspective of the agent gives us the tools with which to dissolve the air of paradox which surrounds these problems. Each is best grasped from one temporal perspective, but the paradoxes arise when we attempt to examine it simultaneously from another. The evaluations appropriate to the apology paradox and the non-identity problem are therefore time-indexed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)358-368
    Number of pages11
    JournalPhilosophical Quarterly
    Issue number208
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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