All time value is a hypothetical concept posited by Iain King partly in response to criticisms of utilitarianism by Bernard Williams. It develops from his contention that the morality of actions should not depend on when those actions take place. This means hypothetical consequences before an action occurs need to be given equal weight to future consequences.

King uses the example of a promise: If X promises on a Monday to do action A on a Wednesday, then someone may react to this on the Tuesday in between, meaning that the action A has consequences a day before it happens. King asserts that these consequences are no less important than consequences which occur after the action. [1]

The concept of all-time value is important because it enables a consequentialist justification of punishment based on reciprocity: someone can be punished for actions which occurred in the past as if those actions were to occur in the future. Without it, a utilitarian judge could not punish criminals for their crimes because the punishment would only reduce pleasure, not increase it (the judge could only punish someone for crimes they might commit in the future or to deter others).[1]. Through the concept of all-time value, King has reconciled utilitarian notions of punishment with retributive justice. For more on this, read chapter three (Punishment and Revenge) of Leo Zaibert's 2006 book, Punishment And Retribution (Ashgate Publishing 2006).[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 King, Cambridge 2004, Stockholm 2007
  2. Leo Zaibert, Punishment And Retribution (Ashgate Publishing 2006)

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