Justice Unconceived: How Posterity Has Rights

24 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2007


This paper advances a rights-based approach to our relations with future generations. It first explains why an account of intergenerational relations is necessary and why a rights-centered approach represents the correct approach. While not denying that there can be more to our shared moral and political life than rights, I argue that this situation is one in which rights are the appropriate idiom. The paper then addresses the central question of how it is possible for future people to hold rights against us. How can we violate the rights of someone who does not yet exist and whose existence may indeed depend on which choices we make? The discussion includes an attempt to deal with the non-identity problem posed in the work of Derek Parfit. Although the main focus is broader themes of intergenerational justice, there are implications for wrongful life torts and the reparations debate. Last, the paper tentatively sketches the content of the rights held by future people.

Keywords: intergenerational, Parfit, identity, non-identity, future people, Hohfeld, rights, wrongful life, reparations

Suggested Citation

Bruhl, Aaron-Andrew P., Justice Unconceived: How Posterity Has Rights. Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2002, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1015610

Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

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