Protecting Future Generations by Enhancing Current Generations

In Fabrice Jotterand & Marcello Ienca (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Human Enhancement. New York: Routledge (forthcoming)
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It is plausible that current generations owe something to future generations. One possibility is that we have a duty to not harm them. Another possibility is that we have a duty to protect them. In either case, however, to satisfy the duties to future generations from environmental or political degradation, we need to engage in widespread collective action. But, as we are, we have a limited ability to do so, in part because we lack the self-discipline necessary for successful collective action. Given that having an obligation hinges on being able to satisfy it, the apparent duty to future generations is at odds with our apparent inability to satisfy it. Thus, we either need to rethink our duties to future generations or rethink the nature of our abilities. I argue in this chapter that we should rethink the nature of our abilities. Specifically, we should enhance our self-discipline, which is distinct from enhancements of motivation, judgment, or emotion. Even the most intelligent, motivated, and empathetic actor is likely to slip up, which encourages others to withdraw their cooperation. Without the necessary self-discipline to sustain our public cooperative behavior, collective action is likely to fail, leaving us with one alternative: to abandon our duties to future generations.

Author's Profile

Parker Crutchfield
Western Michigan University School Of Medicine


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