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Episode 11: Future people / November 06, 2020

With Dr Joe Slater

Hosted by Ross Patrizio Kate Moody

Edited by Signe Emilie Eriksen

Posted in Main feed Moral Philosophy

Do we have obligations to future people? Would it be better to just nuke the world? In this episode Katie Moody and Ross Patrizio talk to Dr Joe Slater, a lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of St Andrews, about our moral obligations to people living in the future.

In our discussions of politics and climate change, we often talk about our obligations to future generations. It seems right that we should protect the planet, maintain institutions, and promote policy for the benefit of people living in the future. But how can we justify this intuition? We discuss the non-identity problem – the idea that if our actions now affect who exists in the future, it doesn’t seem like it can be said that we’ve harmed them – and some ways we might get around it.


01:15 – Defining future people

02:00 – Obligations to people now

02:45 – The non-identity problem

04:52 – The person affecting principle

06:10 – Rejecting the person affecting principle

07:05 – The repugnant conclusion

07:47 – The averagist view

09:16 – Rehabilitating the person affecting principle

12:46 – Generalising the person


Further reading:

Kumar, R., 2019: “Rights, Wronging, and the Snares of Non-Identity”, Law, Ethics and Philosophy 7: 48-62.

Parfit, D., 2017. Future People, the Non-Identity Problem, and Person-Affecting Principles. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 45:2, 118-157.

Mulgan, T., 2006: Future People, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Parfit, D., 1986. Future Generations. In: Reason and Persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.