History, Posterity, and the Non-Identity Problem
U.C. Berkeley and Rutgers-Camden
Wednesday, March 26th
324 Papazian Hall
On certain plausible assumptions about personal identity, many of our choices will affect not just the quality of future people's lives, but also who those people turn out to be. With the addition of certain views about the necessary conditions for moral obligation, an appalling but apparently sound argument can be developed that minimizes our moral obligations to future generations. This talk attempts to vindicate the intuition that our obligations to future generations are much more robust than the above-mentioned argument would admit. The general strategy is to resist consequentialist accounts while still grounding our obligations in some valuable feature that future individuals will have, whoever they turn out to be. Drawing from R.G. Collingwood's account of historical knowledge, I argue that moral obligations to future persons can be grounded in those persons' futurity and in their temporal, historical relationship to us.
Brought to you by the Philosophy Department at Swarthmore College