The Non-Identity Objection to Intergenerational Harm: A Critical Re-Examination

International Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (2):165-185 (2019)
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In this article I analyse those that I consider the most powerful counterarguments that have been advanced against the non-identity objection to the idea of intergenerational harm, according to which an action cannot cause harm to a given agent if her biological identity does actually depend—in a partial but still determinant way—on the performance of this action. In doing this, I firstly go through the deontological criticisms to the person-affecting view of harm, before moving on to sufficientarian and communitarian accounts of intergenerational harm. My argument is that neither of these theories manage to defuse the non-identity objection. Yet, I conclude by observing that a possible way out of the non-identity paradox might consist in developing an ethical account of intergenerational negative justice that focuses on the functional value of the natural and social structures in which humans develop their lives, rather than on their instrumental or intrinsic value.

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Fausto Corvino
University of Gothenburg


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