Research Seminar

Serena Olsaretti: Intergenerational justice and the rights and duties of procreators

Date: 14 June 2017
Time: 10:00-12:00

Serena Olsaretti, ICREA Research Professor, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.


Questions about the rights and duties of procreators on the one hand, and about justice between (overlapping and non-overlapping) generations on the other, are almost invariably treated in isolation from each other. Yet new generations are brought into existence as a result of some people´s having children. This paper asks what normative implications this fact has for our theories of intergenerational justice.

In particular, the paper does three main things. First, it shows how the fact that future generations result from procreative choices may undermine various claims that are often made about intergenerational justice, such as the claim that all persons who will ever live have a right to an equal share of natural resources, and claim that the duty to leave enough and as good for future persons is a duty that falls on all members of earlier generations equally, whether or not they are procreators.

Second, the paper examines other claims that are relevant for our obligations of intergenerational justice, which could seem to flow from acknowledging the normative significance of people´s choice to have children. These include the claim that procreation and overconsumption are morally on a par, and the related claim that by choosing to have children when there is population pressure, procreators are harming or wronging some third parties. The paper argues that the latter sets of claims are unjustified.

Finally, drawing on the discussion of the first two points, the paper identifies some desiderata for a plausible account of the normative significance of procreation for our theories of intergenerational justice.


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