The Significance of Future Generations

In Michael Cholbi & Travis Timmerman (eds.), Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 191-199 (2021)
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We find meaning and value in our lives by engaging in everyday projects. But, according to a recent argument by Samuel Scheffler, this value doesn’t depend merely on what the projects are about. In many cases, it depends also on the future generations that will replace us. By imagining the imminent extinction of humanity soon after our own deaths, we can recognize both that much of our current valuing depends on a background confidence in the ongoing survival of humanity and that the survival and flourishing of those future generations matters to us. After presenting Scheffler’s argument, I will explore two twentieth century precursors—Hans Morgenthau and Simone de Beauvoir—before returning to Scheffler to see that his argument can not only show us why future generations matter, but it can also give us hope for immortality and a blueprint for embracing a changing future.

Author's Profile

Roman Altshuler
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania


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