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Rights, Culture and the LawThemes from the Legal and Political Philosophy of Joseph Raz$
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Lukas H. Meyer, Stanley L. Paulson, and Thomas W. Pogge

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199248254

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199248254.001.0001

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Past and Future: The Case for a Threshold Notion of Harm

Past and Future: The Case for a Threshold Notion of Harm

(p.143) 9 Past and Future: The Case for a Threshold Notion of Harm
Rights, Culture and the Law


Oxford University Press

Liberal cosmopolitans often take the view that currently living people, wherever they may live, and future people, whenever their lives take place, have, qua human beings, the same moral status. Cosmopolitans are inclined to deny the relevance of the special features of our relations to future people. Liberal cosmopolitans also commonly take the view that currently living people cannot be said to have claims to compensation because their predecessors were badly wronged in the past. Instead, they claim that the significance of history lies in the consequences of past events for the well-being of currently living and future people. This view is termed the forward-looking understanding of the significance of past wrongs. This chapter defends the cosmopolitan view on the status of future people by turning on the adoption of a subjunctive-threshold notion of harm. It discusses the rights of future persons, currently living people's claims to compensation due to injustices committed against their predecessors, problems for a threshold conception of harm, and Derek Parfit's no-difference view.

Keywords:   harm, future people, rights, moral status, cosmopolitan view, subjunctive-threshold notion, past wrongs, claims, compensation, Derek Parfit

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