Evaluating Our Responsibility to Future Generations

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Evaluating Our Responsibility to Future Generations "I suspect that if there is cause to fear for man's survival it is because the calculus of logic and reason will be applied to problems where they have as little validity, even as little bearing, as the calculus of feeling or sentiment applied to the solution of Euclidian geometry." -- R. Heilbroner The above quote from Robert Heilbroner speaks well to my feeling after reading some of the theoretical approaches to the ethics of our "obligation to future generations" from this weeks readings. For example, I found Derek Parfit's essay to be particularly unfulfilling. He set out to find a formula "X" which was derived from logic and yet could provide us an answer to all difficult questions about what we owe to the distant future. Unfortunately, he got stuck on the way with several not-quite-right formulas (A, B, and PAP) which he didn't feel worked because of the alarming fact that in different scenarios there might be either different individuals effected in the future or a different number of individuals. He seemed to think individual identity was a big deal. I didn't think he was going anywhere. I also got lost as Garrett Hardin tried to explain how in order to help future generations, we must secure a specially-priveledged elite in developing countries. To help sort through this intellectual mumbo-jumbo, I decided to address how real people think about future generations and our obligation to them. Personally, I think that we do have an obligation to the future, but this is something that I have never really had to defend. So I decided to talk to someone who thinks about the duty to future generations on a regular basis: my Mom. Besides her obv... ... middle of paper ... ...d effect them (278). This could be applied to one of my previous questions as to who should pay for safe storage of nuclear wastes. My mother believes that responsibility should be put on those who produce the waste, therefore causing them to have to answer to the ethical considerations, and to moderate production based on this and the high cost of safe storage. And finally, regarding the question "What did posterity ever do for me?," I think the question is misdirected. We should think of all that the past has done which effects our lives. We live in a country based on a fairly strong Constitution, which we can thank past generations for, and for important inventions, and for creating National Parks. We should also think of how their bad decisions have effected us (there are of course, many examples) and thus try to do the best for future generations.

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