A while back my attention was caught by an excellent story while watching an episode of "The Discovery of India", the Indian TV serial based on the book of the same name by India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. A King has an irresponsible brother who is all the time engaged in sensory pleasures. Repeated attempts to change his behavior were a complete failure. Frustrated, the kindg decides to teach him a serious lesson. The King gets his brother trapped under false charges of sedition and awards him the death penalty. But the death penalty is scheduled after a month and the brother is given a freedom to enjoy whatever he wants and as much he can for that month. But knowing that he faces a certain death, he cannot enjoy anything! Alcohol doesn't taste as good as it used to; even dancers, garden and food, all loose their lure! Suddently, he gets religion, literally speaking! He repents and apologizes repeatedly to the King, who forgives him finally just before the scheduled day of carrying out the death penalty!
Is this behavior plausible? It seems to me that some people will definitely behave like the brother of the king in the story! How can one explain this? Faced with the certain death, the king's brother lost both his time preference for enjoyment and also reduced his marginal utility of pleasures to zero ! Why? With time remaining so short, shouldn't one want to enjoy as much as one can? There is nothing to be gained by postponing pleasures, let alone abondoning them altogether! So, what's was going on?