Faculty of Arts

PHIL 727

Ethics 2


A prominent topic in recent moral theory is what present people owe to future people – those who will (or might) exist in the future. Debate centres on a set of theoretical puzzles posed in Part Four of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons.

Can you wrong someone if your actions are also responsible for their existence? What is the ideal population size? Can we imagine a contract with distant future people? How should we balance the interests of present and future people? Does it matter whether there are any future people at all? What moral weight should we attach to risks of imminent human extinction?

For an introduction to the issues covered in the course, see

  1. Parfit, D., Reasons and Persons, Oxford University Press, 1984, chapters 16 to 19.
  2. Mulgan, T., "How should utilitarians think about the future?", Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47, 2017, pp. 290-312. Online early: DOI: 10.1080/00455091.2017.1279517.
  3. Mulgan, T., Ethics for a Broken World, Acumen, 2011.

View the course syllabus

Availability 2020

Not offered in 2020; planned for 2021


Lecturer(s) Professor Timothy Mulgan


PHIL 727: 15.0 points

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