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Can We Harm Furture People?

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Abstract:

It appears to have been established that it is not possible for us to harm distant future generations by failing to adopt long-range welfare policies which would conserve resources or limit pollution. By exploring a number of possible worlds, the present article shows, first, that the argument appears to be at least as telling against Aristotelian, rights-based and Rawlsian approaches as it seems to be against utilitarianism, but second, and most importantly, that it only holds if we fail to view moral agents as individuals. The article also concludes that the argument has profoundly counter-intuitive implications.

Keywords: Parfit; Schwartz; future generations; non-identity problem; person-affecting principle

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3197/096327101129340903

Publication date: November 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2013) of 1.739.
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