Workshop: Contractualism and future generations, 2–3 December 2021

Updated: 20 April 2021

Organised by the Institute for futures studies (IFFS)

How to account for duties to future persons sets perhaps impossible tests not only for theories of justice (as Rawls noted) but perhaps to any moral theory.  This workshop investigates how contractualist accounts of morality or justice can survive such a test.  Contractualist accounts have arguably undergone something of a renaissance, with Scanlonian approaches now being developed in addition to the several strands of Rawlsianism.  In terms of applied ethics, there is growing concern about intergenerational ethics and justice raised by climate change and other environmental issues.  Additionally, there are reports that many younger people in wealthier countries will be poorer than their parents or grandparents.

In this workshop we aim to further explore contractualism as an approach to intergenerational ethics, by considering both foundational and applied issues such as:

  • Whether, and how, contractualism can handle such fundamental problems as the non-identity problem and the repugnant conclusion.
  • If, and if so how, contractualism can handle the question of human extinction.
  • Whether our duties towards future generations are primarily duties of justice, or moral duties of some other kind.
  • How to determine the proper balance between global justice and intergenerational justice.
  • The implications of contractualism regarding problems such as climate change, resource rights, and the proper account of intergenerational distributive justice.

If you have any questions about the workshop or would like to propose an abstract for inclusion, please email the organisers: 

Emil Andersson ()

Elizabeth Finneron-Burns ()

Clare Heyward ()