Why Worry about Future Generations?

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Stanford Humanities Center 2015 Raymond F. West Memorial Lecturer, Samuel Scheffler

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.

Samuel Scheffler (B.A., Harvard; Ph.D., Princeton) 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.