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Intergenerational Justice$
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Axel Gosseries and Lukas H. Meyer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199282951

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282951.001.0001

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A Contract on Future Generations?

A Contract on Future Generations?

(p.77) 3 A Contract on Future Generations?
Intergenerational Justice

Stephen M. Gardiner (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Contract theories — such as contractarianism and contractualism — seek to justify (and sometimes to explain) moral and political ideals and principles through the notion of ‘mutually agreeable reciprocity or cooperation between equals’ (Darwall 2002). This chapter argues that such theories face fundamental difficulties in the intergenerational setting. Most prominently, the standard understanding of cooperation appears not to apply, and the intergenerational setting brings on a more severe collective action problem than the traditional prisoner's dilemma. Mainstream contract theorists (such as Gauthier and Rawls) have tried to overcome such difficulties by postulating some kind of chain of connection between generations. However, as this chapter maintains, thus far such attempts have proven inadequate. Given this, it seems either that mainstream contract theory needs to be rethought, or that a new, specifically intergenerational, contract theory is needed.

Keywords:   chain connection, collective action problem, contractarianism, contractualism, contract theory, future generations, Gauthier, prisoner's dilemma, Rawls

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