top of page

The generational ethic


“You say you love your children above all else,
and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. “

Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland 2018

The Swedish climate activist fights for the well-being of future generations. Their central message: The course for tomorrow must be set today. The regular studies carried out by the Institute for Generational Research repeatedly confirm that it is very important to young people to deal with future issues such as sustainability, national debt or the pension system today. The Institute for Generational Research examines these situations through the lens of “generations”: How can the demands of current generations be justified for the future? Which generation owes who and when? What does it mean to create justice between generations?

The topic of intergenerational justice is primarily concerned with the question of how a fair distribution of material resources, life opportunities and qualities among the generations is possible or even necessary. The justice discussed here will beintertemporal generational justice and believes that each generation should live responsibly so that it does not impose unreasonable burdens on subsequent generations, such as debts or environmental damage. The people living today and those living in the future are confronted with each other.

In the discussions about intergenerational justice, it is not only discussed whether the current generation owes the future generation anything at all, but also how much they owe them. If one starts from the theory that those living today owe so much to those of the future that minimal conditions are in place to lead a good life, the question arises as to what a good life is and what the needs of future generations are will be. What do future generations need in order to be able to lead a good life? Which and, above all, how many of the natural resources will future generations need in order to be able to live a good life? How much debt and burden can we impose on future people? And how many future people do we actually have to think about in the context of intergenerational justice?

From these questions it becomes clear that although intergenerational justice aims to give future generations the right to a good life, the exact idea of what this justice should look like in detail is not only unclear but also highly controversial.

An additional very important point that must be taken into account in the debate about intergenerational justice is that we, those living today, are not only the result of the past and the basis of the future, but are also part of a global community and an ecosystem . In the context of intergenerational justice, global justice must also be emphasized, because without global justice, a demand for justice for future generations appears implausible.

The researchers at the Institute for Generational Research are currently dealing with generational ethics and intergenerational justice in an interdisciplinary research project from different scientific disciplines. Philosophical time-theoretical questions play just as important a role as economic-theoretical considerations for the future implementation of a generation-fair distribution of material resources.

Learn more:

Research collaborations of the

Institute for Generation Research

uniklinikum tübingen.jpg
University of Tuebingen.png
bottom of page