22 Pages

New Ethics for Old? Or, How (Not) to Think About Future Generations

WithTerence Ball

Radical environmentalists often decry and dismiss as outmoded and dangerous the ‘western’ ethic of individualism, of freedom and autonomy, of individual rights. They hope to replace this ethic with one that is post-individualist and non-Western, and either radically new or old and native-indigenous. Only then, they say, will the wellbeing of the planet and its present and future inhabitants be protected from the predation of the present generation. I argue that this view is unrealistic as well as unnecessary, in as much as western liberal-individualist discourse contains at least some of the moral and conceptual resources out of which a responsible environmental ethic can be constructed.