, People should behave ethically for the sake of future generations, in R. Espejo (ed.), Opposing Viewpoints: Ethics, 20–32 (Gale ).  PDF


As I discuss the ethics that apply over enormous spans of time, I will not seek to find a universal rational principle to dictate our obligations to distant future generations. I will take my starting point from David Hume, who noted that ethics requires a combination of empirical and theoretical work. The ends we seek are to be found in empirical observation of our moral sentiments and a rational account of the circumstances in which these sentiments blossom and produce fruit.To someone who has no moral feeling for the distant future, my account will not change his or her mind, but I hope that my ruminations can clarify what we argue about when we dispute the existence or the nature of such obligations. Thus, I take as my starting point my personal sense that distant generations matter, ask whether this sentiment is widely shared, and then, having seated it in a broader tradition, study different perspectives on the nature of this affinity, asking which are more or less useful to understanding it clearly.

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