Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1151–1163 | Cite as

Contractualism and the Non-Identity Problem

  • Elizabeth Finneron-BurnsEmail author


This paper argues that T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism can provide a solution to the non-identity problem. It first argues that there is no reason not to include future people in the realm of those to whom we owe justification, but that merely possible people are not included. It then goes on to argue that a person could reasonably reject a principle that left them with a barely worth living life even though that principle caused them to exist, and that current people could not justify creating people with barely worth living lives on the grounds that it caused those people to exist.


Non-identity problem Contractualism T.M. Scanlon Future generations Intergenerational justice 



Versions of this paper were presented at the Universities of Oxford, Pavia, and Manchester; I am grateful to these audiences. I am also very grateful to Simon Caney and David Miller, Tim Campbell and the anonymous reviewers for Ethical Theory and Moral Practice for extremely helpful written comments on earlier drafts. This work was undertaken with the financial support of the Swedish Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Futures StudiesStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Stockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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