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Future generations, obligations to

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L029-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

There are at least three different views concerning obligations to future generations. One is that morality does not apply here, future generations not being in any reciprocal relationship with us. Another is that, though we are not obliged to do anything for future generations, it would be praiseworthy to do so. A third view is that justice demands that we respect the interests of future generations.

Philosophers and others have discussed obligations in three main areas: the environment, and the damage inflicted upon it in pursuit of profit; savings and the accumulations of capital; and population policy.

Different theoretical approaches have been taken. According to utilitarianism, the interests of people count equally with those of present people, and all interests are to be satisfied maximally. This may have very demanding implications. Contractarianism rests morality on the agreement of all affected parties. But whose views will be considered in the case of future generations? Perhaps the most plausible approach is communitarianism, according to which obligations can rest on a sense of community which stretches into the future.

Citing this article:
De-Shalit, Avner. Future generations, obligations to, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L029-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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