Among the conceptual problems raised by climate change is that of how to think about the future. Theories of intergenerational justice and other accounts of obligations to the future in Anglo-American philosophy tend to argue that the remote future matters morally. Where did these arguments come from? This essay explores the roots of contemporary ideas about the remote future in debates that took place among Anglophone philosophers in the 1970s.
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For comments I thank Gustaf Arrhenius, Malcolm Bull, Christopher Brooke, Duncan Kelly, Jamie Martin, David Runciman, Sophie Smith, Richard Tuck, Albert Weale, three reviewers and the editors of this issue. Thanks also to Albert Weale, Matt Matravers and John Gray for permission to quote from the Brian Barry Archive, participants of the Cambridge Political Thought Workshop and Princeton Historicizing Climate Change Conference in 2014, and particularly to Jonathan Levy for discussion about uncertainty and the future and Melissa Lane for feedback and encouragement.
This article is part of a Special Issue on “Historicizing Climate Change” edited by Melissa Lane, John R. McNeill, Robert H. Socolow, Sverker Sörlin.
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Forrester, K. The problem of the future in postwar Anglo-American political philosophy. Climatic Change 151, 55–66 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1783-1