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INTERGENERATIONAL JUSTICE: CAN FUTURE PEOPLE HAVE RIGHTS NOW?

Open Panel

Abstract

The debate on attributing rights to future generations and intergenerational justice has continuously developed since the beginning of 1970s. The proposed paper argues that a theory of intergenerational justice is plausible and attributing rights to future people does not compromise the present generation’s interests, to the contrary, it suits the interests of the present generation. To this end, this paper will first present the arguments against attributing rights to future generations. The arguments of non-existence, non-identity and lack of reciprocity along with the idea that technological advances will substitute the need for natural resources will be examined. According to these most common arguments against attributing rights to future generations now, since the posterity does not yet exist, we cannot be sure if they will indeed exist. Additionally, if they do exist, our actions will also affect the identity of these peoples. Hence, the people born in the future will not be the future generations we initially aspire to help. The lack of reciprocity in a rights-duties equation is presented as another problem in attributing rights to the posterity. In addition, since we cannot know how the technology will evolve, the present generation cannot know if the future generations will indeed need the foregone privileges of the current generation. Subsequently, the paper will analyze these arguments, and forward counter arguments in the second section. Finally, the idea that different generations cannot be easily categorized into homogenous blocks will be introduced. The paper also elaborates on the interests of the next generation and proposes that continuity among generations assures the care and concern for future generations, which are intrinsic to human nature.