Community and the Rights of Future Generations: a reply to Robert Elliot


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ABSTRACT It is widely recognised that we hold certain moral obligations to future generations. Robert Elliot argues that we can base these obligations on the rights of future people. I accept his argument that future people are moral agents who possess rights. However, I argue that the main question for political and moral philosophers is whether it is possible to find the balance between the obligations to, and the rights of, contemporaries, and the obligations to, and the rights of, future people. By analysing the notions of ‘human rights’and ‘welfare rights’of future people, I argue that this question can be tackled only in terms of welfare rights. But the latter make sense only in the context of community of provision. This implies that we must first examine the ‘trans‐generational’community that includes contemporaries and future generations. Thus a theory of justice between generations cannot be purely ‘rights‐based’. However, by describing the ‘trans‐generational community’I argue that it can serve as the moral grounds for our obligations to future generations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)105-115
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1992


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