The theoria and praxis of obligations to future generations

Peebles, Rex Charles
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Public policy decisions made by the present generation may have a profound impact on future generations. That possibility calls into question the nature and extent to which the present generation has obligations to future generations. The dissertation starts with the notion of whether there is an obligation to have future generations. It then discusses the various theories and principles that have been put forward regarding obligations to future generations. Theories and principles are divided into major types, identifying the features of each type. Each type is then critiqued, identifying the major problems with each. Arguments against obligations to future generations are also examined. A partial solution to the problem of obligations is then proposed in the form of a Theory Y. Theory Y is discussed in the context of whether it can meet the objections raised against previous theories of obligations to future generations. The nature of Theory Y and its implications for public policy are discussed. The dissertation ends with a discussion of how obligations to future generations might be accomplished within the context of a democratic society.