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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 30, Issue 2, Fall 2016

Janna Thompson
Pages 289-300

Obligations of Justice and the Interests of the Dead

Intergenerational justice gives present citizens obligations to past as well as future generations. Present members of a political society have an obligation to respect the contributions of their predecessors. But respect for past generations also means taking their intergenerational objectives into account in political decision-making—giving them weight in determining intergenerational policies—and thus treating past generations as participants in intergenerational policymaking. Neither the inability of the dead to have experiences, nor epistemological difficulties in determining their interests, nor the entitlement of present citizens to make political decisions are reasons for ignoring or discounting the intergenerational concerns of past generations.