Future generations and the metaphysics of the self: Western and indian philosophical perspectives

Asian Philosophy 13 (1):29 – 37 (2003)
Our present actions can have effects on future generations - affecting not only the environment they will inherit, but even perhaps their very existence. This raises a number of important moral issues, many of which have only recently received serious philosophical attention. I begin by discussing some contemporary Western philosophical perspectives on the problem of our obligations to future generations, and then go on to consider how these approaches might relate to the classical Indian philosophical tradition. Although the Indian commitment to pre-existence and rebirth precludes the arising of the Non-Identity Problem, this does not mean that there is not still a problem about justifying our obligations to future generations. The Indian Non-Reductionists about personal identity have difficulties with this that are comparable to the difficulties of their Western counterparts, but the Indian Buddhist Reductionists offer some provocative arguments for impartiality and the rationality of altruism.
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