Can people alive now have duties to future generations, the unborn millions? If so, what do we owe them? What does "justice" mean in an intergenerational context, both between people who will coexist at some point, and between generations that will never overlap?
In this book, Axel Gosseries provides a forensic examination of these issues, comparing and analyzing various views about what we owe our successors. He discusses links between justice and sustainability, and looks at the implications of the fact that our successors' preferences are heavily influenced by what we will actually leave them and by the education they receive. He also points to how these theoretical considerations apply to real-life issues, ranging from pension reform and Brexit to biodiversity and the climate crisis. He ends by outlining how intergenerational considerations may translate into institutional design.
Anyone grappling with the dilemmas of our obligations to the future, from students and scholars to policymakers and active citizens, will find this an invaluable theoretical and practical guide to this moral and political minefield.
Chapter One: Can we act unjustly towards the future?
Chapter Two: How much do we owe the future?
Chapter Three: What do we owe the future?
Chapter Four: What are our climate duties to the future?
Chapter Five: Can policies be legitimate towards the future?
Axel Gosseries heads the Hoover Chair in Economic and Social Ethics, University of Louvain.
"There are few more important issues than intergenerational justice. Axel Gosseries's wonderfully clear book provides an invaluable map of this complex terrain, which ranges from the duties we have toward our successors to mitigate climate change, to the puzzles raised by appeals to intergenerational fairness when dealing with a pandemic, and to the fact that we make decisions for the sake of people who do not yet exist and thus do not have a say over what we do on their behalf. A must read."
– Cecile Fabre, All Souls College, University of Oxford
"A much-needed book written with care and lucidity. Gosseries demystifies philosophical thinking about intergenerational justice, showing its importance for next steps in the fight against injustice. A compelling read for anyone who cares about what we owe to future people."
– Catriona McKinnon, University of Exeter