Introduction: Responsibility and Reflexive Uncertainty
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When entering on a discussion of obligations, three questions tend to be asked: to whom are we obliged, what do we owe them, and how do we discharge these obligations? When it comes to future generations, moral and political philosophy has often found itself in a quandary, and indeed has encountered problems in answering all three of these questions. Do we have any obligations to future people at all, to all generations, or to some subset (such as those nearest to us, the next three generations, or thereof)? If we do owe them something, is it merely to avoid harming them? Or do we have an obligation to pass something on to them (a stock of natural and/or technological resources, a ‘better world’)? Finally, do we need to constrain ourselves (through legal or constitutional measures) to ‘put something aside’ for the future, appoint ‘guardians’ who will speak up for future people, or simply trust that posterity will, thanks to technological innovation and economic growth, simply be better off than we are, just as we generally consider ourselves to be better off than our ancestors? If we can settle these questions, there is still another which follows close behind: why should we care anyway about the answers, as whatever future generations enjoy or suffer, they will enjoy or suffer it after we are dead’
KeywordsFuture Generation Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Technological Artefact Ethical Life Future People
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