Document Type


Publication Date



This essay serves as the introduction to the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review's symposium on intergenerational justice. The importance of this topic cannot be overstated. Intergenerational ethics bears on questions of environmental policy, health policy, intellectual property law, international development policy, social security policy, telecommunications policy, and a variety of other issues.

Part II, Clarifying the Problems of Intergenerational Ethics, is a first sketch of the scope and nature of intergenerational justice, introducing a variety of cases and contexts in which issues of intergenerational ethics arise and distinguishing between the political and moral dimensions of these issues. Part III, Theories of Distributive Justice, examines three approaches to intergenerational distributive justice: an egalitarian approach, a libertarian approach, and a utilitarian approach. Part IV, Methods of Justification, examines three strategies for justifying a theory of intergenerational justice: a social contract, the original position, and reflective equilibrium. Part V, A Word About the Relationship of Ethical and Moral Theory to Political Morality and Distributive Justice, marks a transition from questions of political philosophy to the more general realm of ethical and moral theory, examining utilitarianism as a comprehensive moral doctrine as well as deontological moral theory and contrasting these moral theories with a virtue-centered approach. Part VI, Some Conundrums of Intergenerational Ethics, examines three very general problems that a theory of intergenerational ethics must face: the problem of uncertainty, the problem of discount rates, and the problem of possible persons. Part VII, The Symposium, introduces the three contributions to the symposium, briefly situating each in relation to the general framework introduced in the previous parts. Finally, part VIII, Toward a New Discourse of Intergenerational Ethics, draws some lessons for further work on the difficult problems of justice and morality across generations.

Publication Citation

35 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 163-233 (2001)