Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Edward A. Page
John Rawls famously declared that the concept of intergenerational justice “subjects any ethical theory to severe if not impossible tests” (Rawls, 1999, p. 251). Taking justice to be concerned with the fair distribution of benefits and burdens across some domain, the first problem encountered is what exactly is a generation? Is it the group of all people existing at the same time, or all people whose life spans overlap at some point, or all people enjoying a particular stage of life? Focusing on moral claims of particular people who do not yet exist, rather than the various generational entities to which they belong, much of the recent literature on intergenerational justice addresses theoretical and practical barriers that block, or at the very least complicate, any temporal extension of familiar notions of justice, rights, and obligations. The most important of these are: nonexistence, uncertainty, nonreciprocity, and nonidentity. At first glance, considerations ...