Responsibility for future generations as interpreted by Dieter Birnbacher and Robert Spaemann

Józef Kożuchowski


Responsibility for Future Generations as Interpreted by Dieter Birnbacher and Robert Spaemann

The problem of responsibility for future generations is considered by the two distinguished philosophers, Birnbacher and Spaemann, basically on the basis of two issues, namely ecological and bioethical threats. Both authors demonstrate very similar views on the first issue in question, for example in terms of nuclear energy use and exploitation of natural resources – the foundation of our existence. Birnbacher attaches great significance to the use of natural resources in the context of responsibility for future generations, devoting to it much attention in his accurate analyses. A radical difference in their investigations is apparent in their treatment of the other, bioethical issue. Spaemann demonstrates how dangerous the possibility of genetic manipulations is to the identity of human nature of future generations, whereas Birnbacher seems to accept them, however not openly. In his opinion, a “qualitative improvement” of man is necessary in the name of the future, which justifies the use of negative eugenics and selection of conceived human lives. There exists a common, based on empirical data, yet different and dependent on the philosophical orientation, basis for theoretical solutions proposed by both philosophers. For Spaemann, whose originality prevents him from being assigned to any specific trend, this would be natural law in the classic version proposed by Aristotle, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Kant, whereas Birnbacher, who represents utilitarianism of the sum of benefits, this basis is delineated by moral, practical norms that are extracted from ideal norms.

Keywords: responsibility, future generations, philosophy, ecology, bioethics, Robert Spaemann, Dieter Birnbacher.

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