Longtermism and the Complaints of Future People

In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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A number of philosophers have argued that if you care about how much goodness your actions generate, or how good the state-of-affairs you actions bring about are, then your attention should be directed towards the very far future. But many don’t care about how much goodness their actions generate, nor do they care about things like “states-of-affairs”. Amongst a multitude of things, many people care about how their actions impact individuals. And they also care about the sorts of justifications they are able to offer for those actions. One moral theory which captures this moral viewpoint is contractualism. In this chapter, I argue that contractualism is, in large part, incompatible with longtermism – the view that, in many contexts, we ought to do that which will most improve the prospects of future people. I then discuss what advice, if any at all, contractualism can offer to the longtermist.

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Emma J. Curran
Rutgers - New Brunswick


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