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Why Worry about Future Generations?

About the speaker:
SAMUEL SCHEFFLER (B.A., Harvard; Ph.D., Princeton) is Professor of Philosophy at New York University and works mainly in the areas of moral and political philosophy. His publications include five books: The Rejection of Consequentialism (1982, rev. ed. 1994), Human Morality (1992), Boundaries and Allegiances (2001), Equality and Tradition (2010), and Death and the Afterlife (Ed. Niko Kolodny, 2013), all published by Oxford University Press.

He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been a recipient of Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships. He serves as an Advisory Editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs, and has been a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

The things we do today may make life worse for future generations. But why should we care what happens to people who won’t be born until after all of us are gone?  Why should we care whether there are any people who are born after all of us are gone? If we find these questions difficult to answer, that is because we lack a highly developed set of ideas about the value of human continuity or about the importance to us of our place in the chain of generations. This lecture will try to show that we are, nevertheless, more invested in the fate of our descendants than we may realize, and that we have more reasons to care about what happens to them than we commonly acknowledge.

About the lecture series:
The Raymond F. West Memorial Lecture Series was established in 1910 by Mr. and Mrs. Frederic West of Seattle in memory of their son, a student at Stanford University. The lectures are to promote the subject of "immortality, human conduct, and human destiny." West Lectures are presented every other year. Recent lecturers have included authors Amitav Ghosh and Tim O'Brien, medievalist Caroline Walker Bynum, and historian, composer, and civil rights activist Bernice Johnson Reagon.



Thursday, May 21, 2015. 06:00 PM


Levinthal Hall, Stanford Humanities Center


Stanford Humanities Center, McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society


Free and open to the public. No registration required.