The Practice-Independence of Intergenerational Justice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


The question whether distributive justice is at bottom practice-dependent or practice-independent has received much attention in recent years. I argue that the problem of intergenerational justice resolves this dispute in favour of practice-independence. Many believe that we owe more to our descendants than leaving them a world in which they can merely lead minimally decent lives. This thought is particularly convincing given the fact that it is us who determine to a significant extent what this future world will look like. However, no practices that would trigger distributive obligations exist between distant generations. Thus, if we have to leave more than a minimum for future generations, we cannot conceive of distributive justice in terms of the justification of ongoing social interactions. Rather we have to think of the entire concept as an idea based on persons’ legitimate interests and capacity for well-being, and which abstracts from participation in particular practices.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-440
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Early online date15 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Practice-Independence, Well-being, Intergenerational Justice, Distributive Justice