Class Note for PHIL 160 at UMass(10)
Class Note for PHIL 160 at UMass(10)
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Date Created: 02/06/15
Philosophy 1600 Fall 2008 jayme johnson Unit 2 Handout 3 DesJardin s Environmental Ethics Chapter 4 Responsibilitiesto Future Generations Population Consumption and Environmental Ethics I I PAT 0 this formula states that environmental impact I is determined by population affluenceconsumption A and technology A cluster of ethical questions that are raised by lPAT 0 Do we have ethical obligations to regulate our population size If so how should we attain the goal of reaching our target population 0 Do we have ethical obligations concerning the amount or rate at which we consume resources Does it make a difference if those resources are nonrenewable 0 Do we have long term ethical obligations concerning our rate ofwaste production etc 0 Do we have ethical obligations to avoid developing cermin kinds of technologies A central ethical question underlying all of these others Do we have a moral responsibility for future generations of people lfwe do then we have a responsibility to place limits on our development so that it may be sustainable 0 The Brundtland Commission proposed the following definition 0 sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs 3 Arguments that we do NOT have a moral responsibility to future generations The Argument from Ignorance 1 We have absolutely no idea what the needs and desires of future people will be 2 If so then it is impossible to specify what our responsibilities to these future people are 3 And ififs impossible to specify what those responsibilities are we do not have a moral responsibility to them 4 Therefore we do not have a moral responsibility to future people The Argument from Disappearing Bene ciaries version 1 aka the easy version 1 We have no obligation to bring future people into existence 2 lfwe have no obligation to bring future people into existence then we have no moral responsibility to future people 3 Therefore we have no moral responsibility to future people The Ar ment from Disa earin Beneficiaries version 2 aka the hard version 1 lfwe have a moral responsibility to a set of future people A then we must alter our behavior so that we live sustainably 2 But ifwe alter our behavior then there will be a different set of future people B than there would have been if had not altered our behavior 3 Since our initial responsibility was to A and not B the supposed beneficiaries of our altered behavior disappear 4 Thus we could never fulfill a moral responsibility to a future generation ofpeople since everything we do changes the group 5 lfwe could never fulfill a moral responsibility to a future people then we have no moral responsibility to future people 6 Therefore we have no moral responsibility to future people Annette Baier s response to the Disappearing Beneficiaries Argument We can make sense of the claim that a person could be worse offby our actions even if the alternative is to never exist at all Mary Anne Warren s Response to the Disappearing Beneficiaries Argument The DBA confuses the notion of future people with the notion of possible people While it is true that we have no moral responsibility to the set ofpossible people for one thing there are infinitely many such possible people we can still recognize that we have Mimi minimal mom requirements to future people We have a minimal moral obligation thinks Warren not to bring into being person s who will almost certainly be unhappy The Temporal Location Argument 1 We only have moral responsibilities to those people with which we are temporally coilocated 2 Future people will not exist for many years ie they are distantly temporally located 3 Therefore we have no moral responsibility to future people Sylvan and Plumwood s response to the Temporal Location Argument They focus on the exaInple ofwhether we have an obligation to future people not to use nuclear power now The thought experiment the toxic package on the train The upshot our use of nuclear power now due to the highly dangerous and only tentatively safely stored waste that results creates a high risk of disaster for a future generation Discussion What are the arguments in favor of the claim that we have a responsibility to future generations Who in this debate has the burden ofproofr Why What Do We Owe Future Generations Or in the words of Warren what 239 our minimal moral aalz39gatz39an to tbepeaple aftbefatare A utilitarian response 0 minimally we should seek to minimize unnecessary suffering for future people and maximally we should seek to maximize future happiness A problem But another utilitarian response seems to imply that we may owe the future a bit less than this There is a tradition among utilitarian thinkers to discount the Value of future happinessunhappiness when it is being weighed next to present happinessunhappiness 0 Then again Williams has argued on utilitarian grounds agaimt the act of discounting the value of future happiness Mag William s Utilitarian Argument against discounting future interests Discounting the future value of resources can be consistent with utilitarian goals so long as those resources remain to produce value in the future In that case maximizing present value also maximizes the total overall value because in the future these resources will continue to produce value However when resources with future value can be removed from production like when we run out of nonrenewable resource the total overall good is not maximized This provides an argument in ver afxmtaz39naale development as described by the Brundtland Commission Williams s positive utilitarian claim we should seek to maximize the present return on our investments eg environmental or agricultural resources without jeopardizing the investments themselves A more convincing problem for the Utilitarian account of our responsibilities to the future Does our responsibility to maximize happiness to future generations mean that we should aim to increase total bappz39rzem or average happinem 0 This makes a difference when we realize that what decisions we make now will affect the number ofpeople in the future 0 It also puts the Utilitarian in a real dilemma since neither alternative is very good 0 To say ifs the total happiness that matters commits us to increasing population size something we already know is bad 0 To say that its average happiness that matters implies that we should do things like kill unhappy people or the poor and destitute etc and provide incentives for those in affluent nations to reproduce Discussion this problem ofmaximizing future happiness is really just a version of the normative irrelevance ofjustice argument against utilimrianism Can you see how A deontological or rights based account 0 The people of the future aspeople have a fundamenml right to both life and to health Both of these rights trump any desire anyone might have in the present 0 Kantians here point out that the utilitarian account of how best to meet our responsibilities violates not only the rights of future people to life and health but also violates their rights to equal treatment and equal opportunity All four of these rights are preserved in the rights based approach A problem Can future people even have rights 0 rights are given to actual people who actually eXist 0 but the function ofa right is to limit the behavior of other people it functions to prevent other people from behaving toward the righteholder in a way that violates that right 0 Put this way we seem to be able to speak meaningfully about the function ofrights for future people even though they don t eXist Brian Barry s solution to the rights problem look toward a theory ofjustice to help sort it all out 0 We need to provide equal opportunity for resources to the future even if they are not the same kinds of resources ie ifwe use up all of the oil we had better leave an opportunity for a comparable fuel source for the future 0 As far as natural resources are concerned depletion should be compensated for in the sense that later generations should be left no worse off in terms ofproductive capacity that they would have been without the depletion 3 Further Conclusions about Our Responsibilities to the Future 0 We have a responsibility to make a sincere and serious effort to develop alternative energy sources 0 We have a duty to conserve resources 0 We owe the future a reasonable chance for happiness Consumption and Sustainable Development Back to l PAT 0 Do present population consumption patterns and technologies create such an environmental impact that they violate the responsibilities we have to future generations 0 Many think that because P is going to continue to grow like it or not we need to focus on A and T 0 If economic growth continues to occur and consumption rates continue to rise the ecosphere will not be able to continue to support life An alternative to the classical economic model Sustainable Economics 0 the basic idea behind SE is that contra the classical model which is concerned with growth SE is concerned with development 0 to grow is to make bigger to develop is to make different expand or realize the potentialities of something The earth as an ecosystem develops but does not grow Thus the economy cannot continue to grow but may develop inde nitely Discussion ls Sustainability a good thing Why might we be critical of this idea
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