Intergenerational Justice: The Rights of Future People or the Duty of Fair Play

Makoto Usami
Kyoto University
Among various views on intergenerational justice, the most widely accepted theory invokes the rights of future generations. However, the rights theory seems to suffer from the non-identity problem addressed by Derek Parfit. Some rights theorists attempt to circumvent the problem by examining causal links between actions taken by preceding generations and their effects on succeeding ones. Others try to do so by replacing future individual rights with such collective rights. This paper argues that both individualist and collectivist versions of the rights theory fail to supply grounds for intergenerational concern. The paper then offers an alternative theory that refines the idea of duty of fair play developed by John Rawls and applies it to the context of intergenerational relationships. To begin with, I identify several characteristics of posterity and explicate the adverse implications these characteristics have for other major theories of intertemporal concern than the rights theory. Next, different versions of the rights theory are closely examined from the perspective of the non-identity problem. Then, I offer an alternative argument for caring about future people, which is founded on the idea of intergenerational fair play. This paper concludes by noting that the fairness theory, unlike its rivals, does not face the non-identity problem or any other problems stemming from the features of posterity previously identified.
Keywords fairness  non-identity problem  resourcism  sufficientarianism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 45,629
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Non-Identity Problem, Collective Rights, and the Threshold Conception of Harm.Makoto Usami - 2011 - Tokyo Institute of Technology Department of Social Engineering Discussion Paper (2011-04):1-17.
Intergenerational Rights: A Philosophical Examination.Makoto Usami - 2011 - In Patricia Hanna (ed.), An Anthology of Philosophical Studies, Vol. 5. Athens Institute of Education and Research.
The Identity and (Legal) Rights of Future Generations.Ori J. Herstein - 2009 - The George Washington Law Review 77:1173.
Intergenerational Justice.Axel Gosseries & Lukas H. Meyer (eds.) - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Intergenerational Justice.Lukas Meyer - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Intergenerational Justice.Axel Gosseries - 2003 - In LaFollette H. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics. Oxford University Press.
Discounting the Future, yet Again.Geoffrey Brennan - 2007 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 6 (3):259-284.


Added to PP index

Total views
76 ( #113,610 of 2,280,717 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #571,050 of 2,280,717 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature