Ethics Beyond Finitude : Responsibility towards Future Generations and Nuclear Waste Management

Abstract: This dissertation has three aims: 1. To evaluate several ethical theories about responsibility towards future generations. 2. To construct a theory about responsibility towards future generations. 3. To carry out an ethical evaluation of different nuclear waste management methods.Five theories are evaluated with the help of evaluative criteria, primarily: A theory must provide future generations with some independent moral status. A theory should acknowledge moral pluralism. A theory should provide some normative claims about real-world problems.Derek Parfit’s theory provides future generations with full moral status. But it is incompatible with moral pluralism, and does not provide reasonable normative claims about real-world problems. Brian Barry’s theory provides such claims and a useful idea about risk management, but it does not provide an argument why future generations ought to exist. Avner de-Shalit’s theory explains why they ought to exist; however, his theory can not easily explain why we ought to care for other people than those in our own community. Emmanuel Agius’ theory gives an ontological explanation for mankind’s unity, but reduces conflicts of interests to a common good. Finally, Hans Jonas’ theory shifts the focus from the situation of future generations to the preconditions of human life generally. However, his theory presupposes a specific ontology, which might be unable to motivate people to act.The concluding chapters describe a narrative theory of responsibility. It claims that we should comprehend ourselves as parts of the common story of mankind and that we ought to provide future generations with equal opportunities. This implies that we should avoid transferring risks and focus on reducing the long-term risks associated with the nuclear waste.