People alive today can and do affect the kind of world that future generations will inherit. Issues like climate change, population size, resource depletion, and even the accrual of public debt will affect who will exist, how many people will exist, and what kind of world they will live in. Given this, it is important to consider what members of one generation owe to future generations.
How, if at all, should we include future people in our deliberations about what to do? How should we weigh their interests against our own? What obligations, if any, do those alive owe to those who will come after them? Does thinking about the future require a new kind of moral and political theorising? Or can we employ, and revise, existing normative theories? Is there an optimal population size, and related, can restrictions on people’s right to procreate ever be justified? Can democracies provide adequate protection to the interests of future people? Does the existence of historical wrongdoing affect our obligations to the future, in particular with respect to the burdens of climate change mitigation?
In this module you will address these questions from a normative perspective, studying what political philosophers have argued about these issues.