CFP: Moral Theory and the Challenge of Future People

Submission deadline: August 25, 2023

Conference date(s):
October 27, 2023 - October 28, 2023

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Department of Philosophy, McGill University
Montréal, Canada

Topic areas


As John Rawls once remarked, the question of justice between generations “subjects any ethical theory to severe if not impossible tests”. One of the difficulties is, of course, to correctly determine what our duties of justice towards future people are. But for social contract theory, where justice is understood as the fair terms of cooperation among the participants of a joint practice, the more fundamental challenge is to make sense of the very idea of intergenerational cooperation. If justice requires some form or reciprocal cooperation, can our duties to future people really be duties of justice at all? Rather than a mere problem of extension, the case of future people puts the social contract approach as such into question.

However, though modern moral philosophy has confirmed the severity of the challenge, it has also shown that it goes well beyond the topic of intergenerational justice. In particular, the fact that our actions affect who will be born, and how many people there will be, raises deep questions for moral theory as such. It has proven to be extremely difficult to find a normative theory that not only successfully deals with the non-identity problem, but at the same time also avoids implausible results such as the repugnant conclusion. Thus, the challenge of future people not only raises difficult theoretical problems for the main approaches to moral theory – deontological as well as teleological ones – but also puts many of our most deeply held intuitions into question. An appreciation of the moral significance of future people may also lead to radical conclusions regarding what our most pressing political problems are, and what we ought to do.

The research team in Value Theory and the Philosophy of Public Policy at McGill University will host a two-day workshop, October 27-28, 2023, on the moral challenge of future people, broadly construed. We invite submissions of abstracts on any topic that deals with this challenge.

Invited speaker:

  • Anja Karnein (Binghamton University, SUNY)

Guidelines for submissions:

  • Submission deadline: August 25, 2023.
  • Notification of acceptance: September 8, 2023.
  • Abstracts should be maximum 800 words, in pdf or word format, prepared for blind review, and suitable for a 35-minute presentation. Submit to [email protected].
  • For speakers of accepted papers, we cover accommodation (up to three nights) in downtown Montreal, and lunch and dinner for the two workshop days.
  • Co-authored papers are permitted, but only one speaker per paper.
  • We welcome and encourage submissions from members of underrepresented groups such as (but not limited to) women and Indigenous persons. A limited number of travel subsidies (airfare up to C$1,000) may be available for speakers of accepted abstracts. If you consider yourself a member of an underrepresented group, please indicate the intention of applying to a travel subsidy in the email when you submit an abstract. Any information you may provide will be treated as strictly confidential.
  • Send any questions to [email protected].

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)