Parenting and Intergenerational Justice: Why Collective Obligations Towards Future Generations Take Second Place to Individual Responsibility [Book Review]

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 24 (6):557-573 (2011)
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Abstract

Theories of intergenerational obligations usually take the shape of theories of distributive (social) justice. The complexities involved in intergenerational obligations force theorists to simplify. In this article I unpack two popular simplifications: the inevitability of future generations, and the Hardinesque assumption that future individuals are a burden on society but a benefit to parents. The first assumption obscures the fact that future generations consist of individuals whose existence can be a matter of voluntary choice, implying that there are individuals who are responsible and accountable for that choice and for its consequences. The second assumption ignores the fact that the benefits and burdens of future individuals are complex, and different for different “beneficiaries” or “victims.” Introducing individual responsibility for procreation as a (crucially) relevant variable, and allowing a more sophisticated understanding of the impact of new individuals, generates grounds to prioritize the individual’s interest in responsibility for (creating and equipping) future individuals over any collective intergenerational obligation. I illustrate this by introducing a series of moral duties that take precedence over, and perhaps even void, possible collective redistributive duties

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Citations of this work

The Anthropocene and the republic.Marcel Wissenburg - 2021 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 24 (5):779-796.
The Anthropocene and the republic.Marcel Wissenburg - 2021 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 24 (5):779-796.

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References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The Tragedy of the Commons.Garrett Hardin - 1968 - Science 162 (3859):1243-1248.
National Responsibility and Global Justice.David Miller - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
An essay on rights.Hillel Steiner - 1994 - Oxford, UK ;: Blackwell.

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