David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Philosophical Research 24:473-486 (1999)
In this century technology, production, and their consequent environmental impact have advanced to the point where unrectifiable and uncontroIlable global imbalances may emerge. Hence, decisions made by existing human beings are capable of dramaticaIly affecting the welfare of future generations. Current controversy about environmental protection involves the question of whether our present obligations to future generations can be grounded in their present rights. Many philosophers would question the very intelligibility of the idea that future individuals might have present rights. They do not see how a non-existing object could be said to have anything, let alone rights. Others see no obstacle to attributing properties to such objects. Thus, the controversy about the rights of future individuals shifted to a different, that is, ontological level. What is the proper method for resolving conflicts on this “deeper” level? This essay has two inter-dependent goals: (1) to suggest and assess a testing procedure for ontological claims, through the use of an example of conflicting ontological theses; and (2) to illuminate the concept of a right, through a discussion of the most general features of the requirements for the possible possession of rights
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