Department of Philosophy, University of Washington
-Modern political philosophy often begins with the search for respectful conditions of political discourse. We care not simply about justice in the distribution of things, but justice in the conditions through which we negotiate politics. Intergenerational justice, however, has focused largely upon the distribution of goods – and of bads. Is there any place within intergenerational justice for an account of respectful discourse? I argue that there are at least two places in which we might find a use for such an account. The first is in the provision of those particular goods – both material and cultural – that might make it possible for future people to do politics together. Those of us now alive have an obligation to make justified political discourse possible into the indefinite future. To the extent that we make political justice difficult or impossible – by, for instance, making our descendants show greater altruism and intelligence than we have demonstrated ourselves – we might be said to have wronged those descendants. The second reflects the complex, but plausible, thought that many of us have discursive interests we take to potentially survive after our own deaths. If this thought is defensible, then we might imagine that even the dead have the right to speak in defense of what they cared about. The force of their speech, however, derives from a particular world in which that speech emerges; and as that world changes, the force of their words can be rightly taken to fade. These two sites of justice, I conclude, work together: if we force our descendants to abandon the political ideas and norms that we have used to govern our political world, we cannot be affronted when they must also choose to abandon those values we might otherwise have hoped to persist after our deaths.