Accepting Collective Responsibility for the Future
Journal of Practical Ethics Volume 5 Number 1
31 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2017
Date Written: June 1, 2017
Existing institutions do not seem well-designed to address paradigmatically global, intergenerational and ecological problems, such as climate change. In particular, they tend to crowd out intergenerational concern, and thereby facilitate a “tyranny of the contemporary” in which successive generations exploit the future to their own advantage in morally indefensible ways (albeit perhaps unintentionally). Overcoming such a tyranny will require both accepting responsibility for the future and meeting the institutional gap. I propose that we approach the first in terms of a traditional “delegated responsibility” model of the transmission of individual responsibility to collectives, and the second with a call for a global constitutional convention focused on future generations. In this paper, I develop the delegated responsibility model by suggesting how it leads us to understand both past failures and prospective responsibility. I then briefly defend the call for a global constitutional convention.
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