Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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Classical Guitar:
"The Other Profession





Ernest Partridge


This is a brief version of the essential arguments of my doctoral dissertation, "Rawls and the Duty to Posterity."  It was originally presented to Thomas Nagel's NEH Summer Seminar (1977). A familiarity with the first third of John Rawls's "A Theory of Justice" is essential to an understanding of this paper.


In A Theory of Justice John Rawls presents an account of the principles of "justice between generations" that would be devised by his hypothetical contractors in "the original position." While Rawls's account is instructive and astute, I contend that it falls short of success. Rawls's primary difficulty rests with his "motivation assumption" that the parties are "heads of families." Because this step violates his conditions of universality and generality, it must be discarded. However, this alteration leaves the parties with no apparent motive to adopt principles of just savings for the future. Despite this difficulty, Rawls's general theory of justice and his views on moral psychology contain the resources for a strong case in support of intergenerational justice. In particular, both Rawls's discussion of moral psychology and external psychological evidence give strong indication that healthy individuals have a basic and generalized need for "self transcending concern" for ideals, causes, institutions, etc. This concern may suffice to motivate in the original position the adoption of principles of "just provision" for the remote future. The paper closes with an attempt to derive such rules of "just provision" from this revised Rawlsian perspective.



In his examination of "justice between generations" (#44 of A Theory of Justice), John Rawls seeks to determine the principles of "just savings" for future generations that would be chosen in the original position. He argues that consistent with the "veil of ignorance," the parties do not know the generation to which they belong or (by implication) the economic or social circumstances in which they are to live. Rawls then stipulates that all the parties belong to the same generation (whichever it is) -- a condition he calls "the present time of entry interpretation." Concerned about the motive for savings for the future, Rawls further stipulates that the parties view themselves as "heads of families" who would be thus concerned about the welfare of persons in the following generation (and perhaps a generation beyond). Thus motivated, Rawls believes, the parties would adopt a principle of just savings (e.g., of capital goods, knowledge, culture, techniques and skills, etc. (288))2 in behalf of persons in the succeeding generations. The policies of "just savings" between adjacent generations would, by transference, amount to justice between remote generations.(290)

While Rawls's attempt to solve the difficulty of justice between generations is imaginative and ingenious, it falls short of success. As several critics have noted, it has an air of concoction about it as strange, ad hoc assumptions are added to "fix" apparent inconsistencies or to tie up various theoretical loose ends. Nonetheless, there may be unutilized resources in Rawls's theory sufficient to yield a coherent, consistent and comprehensive account of inter generational justice.

That, in brief, is the contention of this paper. My task will consist basically of three parts: First, I will examine the "present time of entry interpretation" and the "heads of families condition," two key elements of Rawls's defense of justice between generations. I will affirm the first and reject the second. Next, I will identify from external sources the motivational assumption needed to assure "just savings" for the future. (I call this assumption "the need for self transcending concern"). I will then indicate that this needed assumption is implicit in Rawls's own account of "self respect" -- a "primary good" which, according to Rawls, is acknowledged in the Original Position and serves to motivate the parties therein to accept general principles of justice. Finally, utilizing Rawls's model of the Original Position and "self transcendence" (presumably an elaboration of his own motivational assumption), I will sketch an argument in support of "just provision" -- a set of principles that are more consistent with "justice as fairness" than Rawls's own account of "just savings." Moreover, these revised principles of "just provision," I shall further argue, will better meet Rawls's own conditions of congruence (between justice and human good) and stability (the capacity of the rule to "withstand the strains of commitment" in actual life).


Generational Ignorance, Non-Reciprocity, and the Present Time of Entry Interpretation. According to the general rules of the original position, the parties therein know virtually nothing of their personal circumstances beyond the veil of ignorance. It follows, therefore, that they do not know "to which generation they belong or, what comes to the same thing, the state of civilization of their society." (287) The result of this condition, says Rawls, is that the interests of all generations are equally weighed in the original position -- all are "virtually represented." (288) Accordingly, in the original position, the moral legislators "must choose principles the consequences of which they are prepared to live with whatever generation they turn out to belong to." (137) In other words, the parties, by establishing rules for the provision of their successors are, by implication, making provision for themselves. Since the condition of "generational ignorance" is clearly consistent with the general rules of Rawls's original position, we need devote little more attention to it.

"The Present Time of Entry Interpretation." One might suppose that with no knowledge as to the generation to which he belongs, each party in the original position might individually belong to any generation (hereafter, "the atemporal interpretation"). Rawls, however, does not allow so simple an interpretation. He prefers to stipulate that all parties belong to the same, if unknown, generation. (137, 140) He describes this, rather cryptically, as "the present time of entry interpretation." Thus stated, the condition seems rather clear and straightforward. However, Rawls's presentation of it is sudden, brief, obscure, and confusing.

To the best of my knowledge the term "present time of entry" first appears in the section dealing with "the veil of ignorance" (Rawls, #24). In the immediate context, Rawls indicates that it is impossible, behind the veil of ignorance, for the parties to plan, bargain, or conspire for their personal advantages, "since they cannot identify themselves either by name or description." He continues:

The one case where this conclusion fails is that of saving. Since the persons in the original position know that they are contemporaries [!] (taking the present time of entry interpretation), they can favor their generation by refusing to make any sacrifices at all for their successors; they simply acknowledge the principle that no one has a duty to save for posterity. Previous generations have saved or they have not; there is nothing the parties can now do to affect that. So in this instance the veil of ignorance fails to secure the desired result. [My italics] (140)3

Why this interpretation? Would not posterity's interests be better served if the parties were understood to be members of several indeterminate (and thus, by implication, all) generations, past, present and future, living under "the conditions of justice"? R. M. Hare suggests that this "atemporal interpretation" (as we shall call it) is much to be preferred. In a perceptive and challenging passage, Hare complains that:

[Rawls] writes as if the [parties] were not prescribing universally (or as he would put it, "generally") in choosing their principles of justice, but only prescribing for their own behaviors (and possibly also for that of subsequent generations). From this it follows that (in default of the ad hoc restriction [to one generation?] which he imposes) they can happily say "Let our generation, whichever it is, consume all the world's resources and leave none for succeeding generations." If, on the contrary, they were prescribing universally for all men at whatever time, and did not know at what time they were to be in the world, they could not happily universalize this prescription; for they would then be prescribing equally for their own predecessors. Thus Rawls has . . . failed to avail himself of one of the "formal constraints of the concept of right" to which he himself has earlier drawn attention. (131) If the [parties] do not know to what generation they belong, and are prescribing universally for the conduct of all generations, they will have (if they are rational) to adopt principles of justice which maintain impartiality between the interests of all generations. . . . That the [parties] cannot affect the past (292) is strictly irrelevant...4

Though Rawls nowhere directly explains why, as he puts it, "it is best to take the present time of entry interpretation," (292) a review of his early and crucial discussions of "the role of justice" (#1) and "the main idea of the theory of justice" (#3) may clarify this interpretation and provide a sketch of a justification for its adoption. We begin, as does Rawls, with a definition of a "society" as "a more or less self-sufficient association of persons who in their relations to one another recognize certain rules of conduct as binding and who for the most part act in accordance with them." He continues:

Suppose further that these rules specify a system of cooperation designed to advance the good of those taking part in it. Then, although a society is a cooperative venture for mutual advantage, it is typically marked by a conflict as well as by an identity of interests. There is an identity of interests since social cooperation makes possible a better life for all than any would have if each were to live solely by his own efforts. (4)

In a society, then, the "rules of justice" are "principles that free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality as defining the fundamental terms of their association." (11) (my italics, in both quotations). The word "association" is the key here. Thus the paradigm context of justice is a community -- an arena of reciprocating interaction among contemporaries. But if a society of contemporaries is fundamental to the derivation of the rules of justice, then, due to non-reciprocity of the parties in question, "justice between generations" appears to be a virtual contradiction. Accordingly, if rules of intergenerational justice are to be validly derived, it would seem that they would have to be derived from the perspective of contemporaries seeking to define "the fundamental terms of their association." This, I presume, is the rationale behind the "present time of entry interpretation," though Rawls never says so directly.5

Non-Reciprocity and the Stability Problem. All moral philosophers who deal with the posterity question must face the inevitable and immutable condition of non-reciprocity; namely, the fact that while early generations can deliberately affect the life conditions of their non-concurrent successors, later generations cannot reciprocate in kind. Voluntary action between non- contemporaneous generations is thus unidirectional. This circumstance raises troublesome questions of "fair return for favors" -- i.e., "what has posterity ever done for me?"

Unfortunately, not only does the present time of entry interpretation fail to answer the "reciprocity problem" it also, according to Rawls, compounds the difficulties. For, as Hare indicates, with an atemporal approach one party might not know if a proposed rule of "savings" might entail a gain or a loss for him vis a vis his colleagues in the original position. Thus, from the atemporal perspective, the preferred rule of savings would maximize the prospects and minimize the risks of each party in the original position, which is to say, of any given generation. In contradistinction, says Rawls, the present time of entry interpretation puts this neat solution in jeopardy. For, since they are contemporaries, the parties can not gain advantages by proposing rules for their predecessors. Furthermore, since the past is fixed and immutable, the parties "can favor their generation by refusing to make any sacrifices at all for their successors; they simply acknowledge the principle that no one has a duty to save for posterity." (140)

Although he does not say so directly, Rawls seems here to be applying his "stability criterion."6 He seems, that is, to suggest that "the strains of commitment" will, in actual life, undo a policy of savings devised in the original position under the present time of entry interpretation unless additional motivation is found, in the original position, to secure adherence to the policy. Rawls has identified a serious problem here. His response, as we will see, is to add the "heads of families" condition to provide the needed motivation for saving. However, rather than to seek an answer perhaps a better course would be to disallow the question, (in Wittgenstein's terms: not to solve the problem, but to dissolve it).

This is the suggestion of R. M. Hare, in the long passage just quoted. Hare, we will recall, feels that Rawls's difficulties with non-reciprocity result not only from the complication of the present time of entry interpretation but also from his tendency to take the original position too seriously and from his disregard of his own "formal constraints on the concept of right." (#23) With less regard for the intricacies and workings of the original position, says Hare, and with more attention to the formal requirement of generality, most of Rawls's problems with non-reciprocity might vanish.

Hare is quite correct, I think, to suggest that Rawls may have may have imprudently placed more importance upon the deliberations within the original position than the formal constraints upon it (in particular, the constraint of generality). However, while Hare has cogently criticized Rawls for neglecting Rawls's own formal constraint of generality, Hare has himself afforded little if any significance to the stability rule, which stipulates that the parties will not accept principles of justice that can not withstand the "strains of commitment" in actual life. Rawls, on the other hand, astutely points out that the parties should, in selecting principles of intergenerational justice, be acutely concerned about the "stability" of these principles. For unless the "stability factor" is duly accounted for in the original position, the parties, in their condition of abstract, self-serving rationality, may be attracted to policies of just savings that will, in fact, turn out to be untenable in the real world where, for instance, generations can cheat the future with apparently no concern whatever for retribution from either the past or the future.

The question of the stability of principles challenges both the present time of entry and the atemporal interpretations. In the former case, as Rawls puts it, all the parties will find themselves, in the actual world, in circumstances in which "either past generations have saved or they have not," and nothing can be done about it. In the atemporal condition a single party will find, in actual life, that, at best, some of his colleagues in the original position may have, in their time, kept their part of the bargain to set aside "just savings." In both cases the past is fixed. In both cases the question remains: Why should the parties in their lifetimes (whenever they may be) be motivated to save? Why indeed, even if past generations have fully met their "duties" to save?

From the perspective of the original position, and detached from the question of compliance (or "stability"), a rule of "just savings" for the future may well appear to be rational and in the interest of each party. Even so, Rawls's essential challenge remains unanswered: What assurance in the original position will the parties have that once their time arrives their predecessors will have kept their part of the bargain? They will have no more assurance than that they themselves will be motivated to make just provision for the future. In the case both of forbearers and contemporaries, the assurance that just savings will, in fact, be made rests upon assumptions concerning the motivations of actual persons. The parties of the original position, whether contemporaries or from all generations, will agree to a principle of just savings only if they have some assurance that human nature (as they know it from their allowed fund of general information) is equipped to uphold the principle.

Abstract Justice and Practical Justice. The contrast between the approaches of Rawls and Hare is fundamental and should be identified and labeled for further use. Hare seems to suggest that we derive rules of justice entirely from "formal constraints of the concept of right" (which Rawls identifies as generality, universality, publicity, priority, finality, and time neutrality (#23)), and general criteria of conceptual intelligibility, apart from the practical question of stability; i.e., the possibility of compliance in the conditions of ordinary life. Hare's preferred approach to moral philosophy is analytical rather than contractarian. Even so, a contractarian "original position" might be devised to produce principles of justice that take no account whatever of the stability question. (For example, one might stipulate the condition that the parties are able, and know they are able, to legislate that human nature be so designed to assure full compliance with the principles). Such principles I will henceforth call "abstract principles of justice." Hare is quite correct to assert that abstract principles of provision for the future follow directly from the general criteria of the concept of right, and that such principles, being unaffected by the stability question, are likewise unaffected by the circumstances of non-reciprocity between generations.

In contradistinction, Rawls believes that no principle of justice need be agreed to that has unacceptable consequences and with which the parties can not expect compliance. (176) This qualification of stability, added to the general conditions of "abstract justice" noted above, yield what I will call "practical principles of justice." It follows that "the principles of practical justice" constitute a subset of the class of "the principles of abstract justice." Thus, principles of saving that would clearly be entailed in a system of "abstract" justice may become very problematic when the "practical" question of compliance is raised. (The distinction between "abstract justice" and "practical justice" will prove to be of fundamental importance in sections VII and VIII of this paper).



"The Heads of Families Condition." Rawls believes that if the parties in the original position know that they are contemporaries, they will have "no reason . . . to agree to undertake any saving what ever" unless a motivating condition is added to the original position. (292) Rawls's answer, we will recall, is readily at hand: "The parties are regarded as representing family lines, say, with ties of sentiment between successive generations." (292) In his section dealing with "the circumstances of justice" (#22), Rawls first presents the condition in the following passage:

The parties are thought of as representing continuing lines of claims, as being, so to speak, deputies for a kind of everlasting moral agent or institution. They need not take into account its entire life span in perpetuity, but their goodwill stretches over at least two generations. Thus representatives from periods adjacent in time have overlapping interests. For example, we may think of the parties as heads of families, and therefore as having a desire to further the welfare of their nearest descendants. As representatives of families their interests are opposed as the circumstances imply. It is not necessary to think of the parties as heads of families, although I shall generally follow this interpretation. What is essential is that each person in the original position should care about the well-being of some of those in the next generation, it being presumed that their concern is for different individuals in each case. Moreover, for anyone in the next generation, there is someone who cares about him in the present generation. Thus the interests of all are looked after and, given the veil of ignorance, the whole strand is tied together. (128-9)7

It is crucial here to keep in mind the purpose of the heads of families condition. In the first place, it is introduced to motivate the parties in the original position to adopt a principle of justice between generations. In the second place, it is intended to assure the parties that such a principle would, in fact, be complied with in actual life (in Rawls's terminology, the principle would be "stable.") Thus assured, Rawls argues, the parties in the original position would adopt a principle of just savings.

With either the "present time of entry" or the "atemporal" interpretation, the problems of non-reciprocity and stability persist: the living will neither suffer punishment nor enjoy rewards from the deceased and the yet unborn, for their policies toward posterity. When then should the living make present sacrifices for a future that they shall never see? Rawls is quite correct in saying that without some general motivating conditions, the parties can not be expected to save when in actual life. With no such expectations, the parties will adopt no ("practical") principles of just savings. Thus, if "justice between generations" is to be served, some motivation must be found for providing for the remote future. Furthermore, this motivation must be basic to human nature and universal in its manifestations, and its objects must be desirable "whatever else maybe desired" (otherwise the condition will reflect a particular good excluded by the veil of ignorance, rather than a primary good acknowledged in the original position). In short, compliance and stability must be assured or, at the very least, feasible. To this degree, I concur with Rawls. However, I strongly disagree with his suggestion that the sought-for motivation is to be found in the desire of "heads of families" to care for the well-being of identifiable persons in the next generation. (128-9) In this section I will argue against the grounds for this condition and will point out some of its inconsistencies with other parts of Rawls's theory. Later I will propose, as an alternative motivation assumption, a fundamental need for "self transcending concern."

The Problem of Consistency. The careful and sensitive reader may find something jarring and discordant in Rawls's "heads of families condition." Small wonder. It cuts across a number of basic assumptions about the general conditions in the original position that Rawls has labored diligently to defend, explicate, and assemble into a coherent pattern. The inconsistencies and difficulties raised by the heads of families condition are numerous -- too numerous to allow me to pursue more than a few in detail. It may be useful, however, to indicate some of the more serious difficulties.8

To begin, consider some strange juxtapositions of remarks by Rawls himself, remarks which appear within the space of three consecutive paragraphs (on pages 128-30 of A Theory of Justice). First, in his most careful and extensive account of the heads of families condition (noted above), Rawls states: "What is essential is that each person in the original position should care about the well-being of some of those in the next generations." (128) Yet, in the following paragraph, Rawls writes: "A conception of justice should not presuppose . . . extensive ties of natural sentiment." (129) And in the paragraph following that, he states that the circumstances of justice involve "no particular theory of human motivation." (130) But of course, the heads of families condition is just that.

Perhaps these bits are enough to suggest that Rawls is in considerable difficulty here. Let's leave the samples now and turn to a more thorough examination.

"Heads of Families" and Universality. Rawls is concerned that the conditions in the original position, as well as the resulting principles of justice, be coordinated (in "reflective equilibrium") with "considered moral judgments" of ordinary practical life. It would therefore, I think, be fair to assume that Rawls's desire that the parties in the original position establish rules of just savings is responsive to his recognition of a widespread moral consensus that the needs of future generations should be provided for. In other words, faced with this "considered moral judgment" that the living have duties to posterity, Rawls has attempted to fashion the conditions of the original position so that congruent principles of justice would be chosen therein. As we have seen, his response is to introduce the "heads of families" condition into the original position. Unfortunately, in his attempt to incorporate a principle of justice reflective of a widespread moral sentiment, Rawls has chosen a motivating condition that is neither universal, representative, nor reliably productive of the desired motive. I will consider these points in reverse order.

First of all, Rawls suggests that persons who have the status of "heads of families" can reliably be expected to have a "desire to further the welfare of their nearest descendants." (128)9 Does Rawls mean to suggest here that the circumstances of being a parent (or parent-surrogate) invariably result in care for the well-being of "some of those in the next generation?" In most cases, I will agree, this is so. But what of the lamentably all-too common cases of persons who find themselves trapped, by accident, miscalculation, or thoughtlessness, in a parental role that they do not care for but cannot escape? The heads of families condition, says Rawls, assumes that "for anyone in the next generation, there is someone who cares about him in the present generation." (129) One of the great social tragedies of our time is that this clearly is not the case in the conditions of actual life.

Even if the status of family head has the desired effect of instilling care and concern for definite individuals in the next generation, surely it falls far short of the scope of application called for in the "considered moral judgment" of concern for future persons. Would our moral sense condone a land baron's acquisition of vast holdings for the perpetual and exclusive use of his progeny, to the total exclusion of anyone else? (Imagine, for example, Yellowstone Park as a forbidden and private family enclave). "Considered moral judgment," not to mention the laws of eminent domain, proscribe such personal aggrandizement. Yet this would seem to be the sort of savings policy that would follow from an importation of the motivation of family heads into the original position. Do we wish, then, to adopt conditions in the original position that would lead to a savings principle that favors beneficiaries in the next generation on the basis of blood ties or personal affection? Such bias might well be defended on the grounds of particular life plans (i.e., "the full theory of the good"), but surely not on the grounds of universal justice. And justice is the business of the original position.

Still another question: What of those who are not "heads of families?" Are they presumed not to "care about the well-being of some of those in the next generation" -- or in generations beyond? (128) Surely this would be an unfair presumption. These days, many persons have chosen not to become family heads precisely because they are concerned about the living conditions of future generations. For example, some are aware that they are carriers of genetic defects, while others act upon their perceived duty not to aggravate the problem of over-population. (In contradistinction, some individuals willingly become heads of large families in deliberate disregard of their duty not to burden future generations with genetic defects or with the problem of over-population).

This leads to still another problem: What of the interests of the childless adults? Don't they count? Are these individuals to be morally disenfranchised? If they are not to be represented in the original position, are they morally obligated to comply with the principles of justice adopted therein? Will they be required to contribute just savings (e.g., in taxes) to individuals in the next generation with whom they have no acquaintance and for whom they have no personal concern?10

At this point I would reiterate that there does, in fact, appear to be a widespread "considered moral judgment" that the needs of the future should be provided for and that future persons should not suffer avoidable harm -- a judgment manifested in numerous newspaper editorials and columns, political speeches, and commencement addresses. Furthermore, Rawls is aware of this judgment and wishes to have it reflected in the original position. However, my fundamental question remains: Does the heads of families condition perform its intended function? I suggest that it does not. In the first place, it severely limits the temporal scope of concern for the future. Similarly, it focuses concern upon a few persons in the next generation to which the agent is tied by familial or quasi-familial attachments, to the exclusion of virtually all other members of that generation. Furthermore, the heads of families condition is based upon a status that can not be reliably expected to provide the desired motivation. Finally, and perhaps most seriously, the condition is not universal and not general, and thus it violates two basic formal constraints of the concept of right (#23)

These constraints of the concept of right are applied to the original position in the rule that "no one is able to formulate principles especially designed to advance his own cause." (140) The "cause" of being a family head is a particular interest exclusive of, and perhaps in conflict with, the interests of those who, either for selfish or altruistic reasons, choose not to assume this role. Since the savings principle adopted in the original position is clearly "designed to advance . . . [the] cause" of the heads of families, the principle, and by implication the condition, are disallowed by Rawls's own basic rules for the original position. Accordingly, I suggest, the "considered moral judgment" that the interests of posterity should be provided for will have to be derived from some other combination of rules, motivating assumptions, and admissible data in the original position.11

Our analysis of the now-rejected heads of families condition has, I believe, furnished us with some criteria to be kept in mind as we search for an acceptable "motivation assumption." Among these criteria are the following: (a) the motivation assumption must be neutral with respect to time (i.e., it should have equal prima facie application to all generations -- cf. Rawls, #45); (b) the motivation assumption should be applicable to all moral personalities (i.e., "universal"); (c) it should not favor persons identifiable by proper names or "rigged definite descriptions" (i.e., it should be "general"); (d) the motivating assumption should not represent an exclusive conception of the good, but should be based upon , or derivable from, a primary good.



"Self Transcendence:" A Proposal.12 We have found that the "heads of families condition" is unacceptable in the original position as a motive for just savings. It seems, then, that we must find another motivation assumption. How are we to proceed? Rawls's metaethics offers some guidance: we must, he suggests, look to our moral sense and our "considered moral judgments." In addition, we must draw upon general information concerning moral psychology, economic theory, social dynamics, anthropology, history, and so forth. Such will be the task of this section. However, because I must search a broad and extensive field of data and opinion, and summarize my findings in a relatively brief space, my presentation must of necessity be superficial, impressionistic and explicatory. Many important books and some splendid careers have been devoted to the study, explication, and validation of the motive of self transcendence, or of key elements thereof. I will not pretend to add significantly to this fund of data and insight. Rather, I will attempt to evoke in the reader a sense of recognition of a familiar psycho- social phenomenon and hope that with this recognition he will agree that I am denoting by "self transcendence" a significant, fundamental, and widespread feature, both of human moral and social experience and of human culture and history.13

The Concept of Self Transcendence. By claiming that there is "a need for self-transcendence," I am proposing that as a result of the psychodevelopmental sources of the self and the fundamental dynamics of social experience, well-functioning human beings identify with, and seek to further, the well-being, preservation, and endurance of communities, locations, causes, artifacts, institutions, ideals, etc., which are outside themselves and which they hope will flourish beyond their own lifetimes. Thus we cannot regard our decisions and the values which we hold to be restricted to, and isolate within, ourselves.

This claim has a reverse side to it; namely, that individuals who lack a sense of self transcendence are acutely impoverished in that they lack, to quote Rawls, "certain fundamental attitudes and capacities included under the notion of humanity,"14 Such persons are said to be alienated -- both from themselves and from their community.

"Self transcendence" describes a class of feelings which give rise to a variety of activities. It is no small ingredient in the production of great works of art and literature, in the choice of careers in public service, education, scientific research, and so forth. In all this variety, however, there is a central, generic motive; namely, for the self to be part of, to favorably affect, and to acknowledge the importance of, something beyond that is not oneself. In the foregoing account there are two aspects of self- transcendence that are of special interest to us. First, self transcendence is manifested in an interest in and a concern for events and circumstances that will obtain well beyond the lifetime of the individual. Second, the need for self transcendence is sufficiently fundamental to human experience and motivation that it might qualify as a primary good, and thus be relevant to the deliberations of the parties in the original position. The significance of self transcendence to Rawls's theory of justice and, in particular, to his account of justice between generations now becomes apparent. Rather than attempt a proof of the existence and significance of self-transcendence (which I have done elsewhere), I will briefly sketch four sources of this motive.

(a) "The Law of Import Transference." This psychological phenomenon may thus be summarized: If a person P feels that X (e.g., an institution, place, organization, principle, etc.) matters to him, P will also feel that X matters objectively and intrinsically. In other words, the significance and importance of an object to an agent is interpreted by the agent as a quality of the object itself. It thus follows that the well-being and endurance of the significant object (or place, or institution, or principle) apart from, and beyond the lifetime of, the agent becomes a concern of and a value to the agent -- a part of his inventory of personal interests or goods.

If, in "import transference," I have described a valid and universal psychological trait, what bearing would this have upon the deliberations in the original position? To begin, the veil of ignorance would, as we know, exclude any knowledge of the transfer of particular interest and attachments, among the parties, to identifiable persons, places, causes or institutions. (This would follow from the exclusion of knowledge of personal circumstances and of personal conceptions of the Good). However, and this is significant, if "import transference" is in fact a general law of moral psychology, an abstract knowledge thereof would be admissible in the original position and would likely play an important role in the derivation of the principles of justice. And how might the law of import transference bear upon the choice of principles? First of all, the parties would know that in actual life their interests and loyalties would transfer to some enduring persons, ideals, institutions, etc., albeit they would not know which these might be. Thus the parties would know that in actual life they would, somehow, care about the conditions of life for generations that would follow their own.

But this is not all. The veil of ignorance is not complete in this regard, since the conditions in the original position offer at least some general content to this concern for the future. For instance, because the parties would themselves transfer import to the principles of justice they would choose, it follows that they would want to insure a perpetuation in actual society of the circumstances of justice necessary for a well-ordered society (e.g. no less than moderate scarcity, and at least mutual disinterest. See Rawls, #22). In addition, they would want to incorporate into their principles provision for the perpetuation and flourishing of just institutions. All this, I submit, is ample material with which to devise, in the original position, abstract principles of just provision for the future.15

But would these principles of just provision be practical principles? Does "import transference" constitute the "motivation principle" that we seek? Can the psychological trait of import transference be sufficiently associated with the index of primary goods to admit it into the original position? And if the trait suggests the adoption of a principle of just provision in the original position, does the trait also provide any assurance of compliance with this principle in actual life? I believe that the answers to all these questions are affirmative, as I shall attempt to demonstrate later in this paper.

(b) "Significance" and Mortality. My next account and defense of the motive of self transcendence is based upon the universal human awareness of physical mortality. As philosophers have noted and commented upon for centuries, the price that each person must pay for his rationality and self-consciousness is a knowledge that he too must die.

Surely I need not argue that the finitude of human life is a source of much preoccupation and regret. A myriad of religious doctrines and philosophical systems have been devised to offer hope, consolation, or at least perspective in the face of this common fate. However, there is one response to the awareness of mortality that is of considerable importance to our analysis. I refer to the investment and devotion of time, talent, concern, loyalty, and substance in behalf of enduring and permanent causes, ideals, and institutions. Now there are, of course, many motives for these kinds of activities. Prominent among these, however, is the desire to extend the term of one's influence and significance well beyond the term of one's lifetime -- a desire evident in arrangements for posthumous publications, in bequests and wills, in perpetual trusts (such as the Nobel Prize), and so forth. In all this, and more, we find clear manifestation of a will to transcend the limits of personal mortality by extending one's self and influence into things, associations, and ideals that endure. This is, I suggest, a profound and universal sentiment of which the parties in the original position would surely be aware in their deliberations concerning just provision for the future.16

(c) The Self and Society. If "self transcendence" is to qualify as a primary good in Rawls's system, and not as a "take it or leave it" personal good (that may or may not be adopted in a particular "rational life plan" beyond the original position) then it must be shown that the desire for self- transcendence is essential to the very nature of a functioning human self. A strong case for this position may be found in the writings of George Herbert Mead and John Dewey.17 Mead suggests, in effect, that the notion of a totally isolated self is a virtual contradiction. The self, he argues, has its origin, nurture, and sustenance in social acts. Furthermore, says Mead, the mind emerges through the acquisition, in social acts, of communication skills and the consequent absorption of the medium of "significant symbols" known as language. Accordingly, the self is defined and identified (i.e., "self conscious") only in terms of social experience and the consequent perception of a "generalized other" (or, roughly speaking, internalized norms or "conscience"). Moreover, even in moments of solitary reflection, the mind employs, in silent soliloquy, the fund of meanings (i.e., the language) of the community. The upshot of the position of Mead and Dewey would seem to be that the self, by its very origin and nature, transcends the physical locus (of body, of sense impressions, and of behavior) which identifies the individual. "Self transcendence" becomes, then, not a moral desideratum, but a basic fact of the human condition.

Accordingly, "self transcendence" is not a more-or-less occasional and accidental characteristic of individuals and cultures. It is a consequence of universal conditions and circumstances of human development. A sense and expression of self transcendence is thus as necessary for mental health as is exercise for physical health. Accordingly, the parties in the original position would thus desire the opportunity to express and manifest self transcendence, whatever else they might desire. Self transcendence, in other words, is a primary good. Rawls, it is worth noting, virtually endorses Mead's and Dewey's view of "the genesis of the self" late in his book. (468-9)18

(d) Alienation: The Self Alone. If, as I have urged, self transcendent concern is essential to well-being, then surely its absence should be seen to exact a high price in the life quality of those who are devoid of self-transcendent interests and concerns. And here, I think, we find clear clinical evidence to support the claim that self-transcendent concern is essential to psychological health and well-being. In psychiatric and sociological literature a lack of self transcending interest, concern and involvement due to an incapacity to value external things in and for themselves is called "alienation" -- a common and apparently increasing phenomenon in contemporary life.19

The prominence of alienation in contemporary industrialized society is due, in large part, to the individual's loss of control over the social, economic, and political forces that determine his destiny. With loss of control comes indifference and apathy. Because in his social and vocational contacts one is responded to ever more in terms of his functions, and ever less in terms of his unique personality, he becomes estranged from the wellsprings of his own unique personal being. He becomes, that is, alienated from himself. He is left aimless, vulnerable, insignificant, solitary, and finite. In such a condition one loses not only his self-respect; even worse, one is hard-pressed to recognize and define the identity of his own self.

Surely alienation is the very antithesis of self- transcendence. Within such a state there is no feeling of a personal contribution to grand projects, no sense of involvement in significant events, no investment and expansion of one's self and substance into enduring causes and institutions. Surrounded by institutions, machines, individuals, social trends for which one has no significance and to which one can thus "transfer" no "import," one truly lives in an "alien" world. Surely alienation is a dreadful condition, made nonetheless so by its widespread and growing manifestations.

In the original position, the parties would have general knowledge of the causes and symptoms of alienation. They would also understand the direct threat of alienation to the primary good of self respect. It follows that the parties would devise principles of justice that would insure ample opportunities to identify with, and to work for the sustenance and improvement of, just institutions in their own time and in the future. Their chosen principles of justice, in other words, would reflect the universal need to protect and to enhance self respect through self transcendence.

The Paradox of Morality. Throughout these explorations of the putative "need for self transcendence," we have found indications of what is often called "the paradox of morality." Briefly, the paradox is found in the common circumstances that one lives best for oneself when one lives for the sake of others. Thus stated, the rule seems pious and banal. Even so, it points to a profound and recurring theme in religion and moral philosophy, a theme that is especially prominent in the writings of contract theorists from Hobbes to Rawls. Surely Rawls's theory of justice argues forcefully that a group of self-interested egoists would, from an initial position of equality and fairness, formulate and accept rules of mutual regulation, assistance, and forbearance. (Cf. Rawls, Chapter 1, and also p. 550). Other statements of the moral paradox are abundant in the writings of contemporary philosophers.20

"The moral paradox," then, supplies still another argument for self transcendence. But it is an argument with a difference. In our earlier discussion of the motive for self transcendence, we adopted a psychological approach; i.e., we considered the need for self transcendence from the perspective of its origin and sustenance in human experience and behavior. In contrast, the argument from the moral paradox recommends self transcendence (in the form of "the moral point of view") as a more prudential policy for achieving self-enrichment and personal satisfaction. We will have further occasion to refer to the moral paradox and its application to the posterity problem.21

Rawls and "Self Transcendence." Would Rawls endorse this account of the need for "self transcendence"? Not only would he do so, it seems to me that he does, at times quite explicitly. Rather than engage in a prolonged exercise in Rawlsian exegesis, I will cite briefly just two of these endorsements. For, while the primary good of self transcendence can be quite effectively presented and defended on independent grounds, if we can further indicate that Rawls's ideas concerning moral psychology are congenial with, and supportive of, the notion of self transcendence, then we may plausibly propose that an explicit statement of this concept be imported into his general theory of justice as a motivation condition in the original position.

Case One: "The Sense of Justice." In his eloquent development and explication of "the sense of justice " (Chapter VIII), Rawls states quite clearly that this sense, and the moral sentiments that follow therefrom, are fundamental traits of the human condition.

A person who lacks a sense of justice, and who would never act as justice requires except as self interest and expediency prompt . . . lacks certain natural attitudes and moral feelings of a particularly elementary kind. Put another way, one who lacks a sense of justice lacks certain fundamental attitudes and capacities included under the notion of humanity.(488-9)

Rawls then points out that having a sense of justice necessarily makes one liable to suffer the moral feelings of guilt and shame should his behavior fall short of just expectations. However, "this liability is the price of love and trust, of friendship and affection, and of a devotion to institutions and traditions from which [one has] benefited and which serve the general interest of mankind." (489)

In this final sentence, is not Rawls affirming that a sense of justice entails self transcendence, in the form of "love, trust, friendship, affection," and, most significantly for our purposes, "a devotion to institutions and traditions from which [one has] benefited"? Is not this devotion expressed in a concern for the well-being and preservation of these institutions and traditions for their own sake and beyond the term of one's own lifetime? By saying that one wishes to avoid the guilt and shame of failing to support just institutions and ideals, is he not saying that one has a need to transcend a total preoccupation with his immediate and personal needs and desires? I suggest that Rawls's analysis of the sense of justice implies affirmative answers to these questions. To have a sense of justice is to have a self transcending concern for the well-being and endurance of just associations, institutions, and ideals for their own sakes.

Case Two: "The Idea of Social Union." Another indication of Rawls's support for the concept of self transcendence is to be found in his analysis of "the idea of social union." (#79) Here he expands upon his crucial notion that it is the function of systems of justice to maximize expectations of advantage and to adjudicate conflicts within a society. (4) Of special interest to us, however, is Rawls's often reiterated belief that social activities (i.e., "the social union") necessarily lead the normal, well-functioning individual to extend his self interest toward an identification with community interests, institutional interests, and ideal interests. Thus, writes Rawls, "the members of a community participate in one another's nature. . . the self is realized in the activities of many selves." (565) And in a passage that is a virtual affirmation of the principle of self transcendence, Rawls writes:

Human beings have in fact shared final ends and they value their common institutions and activities as good in themselves. We need one another as partners in ways of life that are engaged in for their own sake, and the successes and enjoyments of others are necessary for and complementary to our own good. (522-3. My italics).

Accordingly, "only in a social union is the individual complete." (525n) The good, to the individual, of participating in a well- ordered social union follows, says Rawls, from "the psychological features of our nature." (571) The self, that is to say, "is realized in the activities of many others." (565) Thus Rawls seems, in effect, to be stating here that a well-functioning human personality needs and actualizes an extension and transcendence of itself into enduring projects, institutions, and ideals, perceived to be valuable in themselves. If this is a fair and accurate paraphrase of Rawls's intention, then, once, again, he has affirmed the need for self transcendence.

There are still more indications in A Theory of Justice that Rawls might readily recognize "self transcendence" as a primary good. However, these few will have to suffice.22



Self Transcendence as a Primary Good. A brief dialectical exercise might help us to locate the place of self transcendence in the index of primary goods, if it is to have a place at all. The list of primary goods, we will recall, is divided into two basic categories; the "natural" and the "social." Because self transcendence has its origins in, and is directed to, social phenomena, it seems obvious that it would belong in the latter category. Among the social primary goods are found "rights and liberties, powers and opportunities, income and wealth" (62) and self respect. Might self transcendence be subsumed under one of these goods, or must we suggest that it be added on as an additional primary good, which was carelessly overlooked by Rawls? Fortunately, we can adopt the simpler course of including it under an existing primary good, that of self respect which, says Rawls, may be the most important social primary good. (396)

According to Rawls, to be properly included among the primary goods a trait must (a) be fundamental to human nature, (b) be desired "whatever else might be desired," and (c) found to be indispensable to the fulfillment of a desirable and satisfactory life plan. If, on the other hand, a trait is found to be dispensable, or if acceptable substitution or compensation can be found for a deprivation thereof, a trait cannot qualify as a primary good.

How does self transcendence fare against these criteria? Quite well, I believe. Consider first the question: "Is self transcendence fundamental to human nature?" If my exposition has been sound, then according to Mead's theory of the evolution of the self, the need for social effect and identification is a necessary and inalienable aspect of selfhood. In presenting the "law of import transference" I have suggested that self transcendence is based upon a fundamental and universal psychological phenomenon. Examples of this law are, I submit, commonplace in our personal lives and in the records of human culture.

Next, let us ask: "Is self transcendence indispensable to a satisfactory life?" I believe that it is. Even great wealth cannot compensate for deep-rooted alienation. Indeed, familiar examples, in fact and fiction, of misery amidst wealth might be seen to describe alienation, often caused by the wealth itself. Thus, if alienation is understood in the original position to be a symptom of the failure of the self to identify with and be connected to transcending projects and ideals, and if alienation is further perceived to be incompatible with the formulation of a satisfactory life plan, the parties would include self transcendence, the remedy of alienation, in the index of primary goods. It would be acknowledged, that is to say, as a good to be desired, "whatever else might be desired."

Self Transcendence and Self Respect. Before we turn directly to the question of the relationship of self transcendence to self respect, it may be useful to briefly review Rawls's account of self respect. Rawls, we may recall, views self respect (or self esteem) as having two aspects. The first is a person's sense of his own value and "his secure conviction that his conception of his good, his plan of life, is worth carrying out." The second aspect of self respect "implies a confidence in one's ability, so far as it is within one's power, to fulfill one's intentions. When we feel that our plans are of little value, we cannot pursue them with pleasure or take delight in their execution." (440) Thus, Rawls concludes, without self respect, "nothing may seem worth doing, or if some things have value for us, we lack the will to strive for them. All desire and activity becomes empty and vain, and we sink into apathy and cynicism." (440) Viewed positively, Rawls contends that "self respect is not so much a part of any rational plan of life as the sense that one's plan is worth carrying out." (178) For reasons such as these, says Rawls, "the parties in the original position would wish to avoid at almost any cost the social conditions that undermine self respect." (440)

Rawls could scarcely have stated a stronger case for avoiding the psychological condition of alienation. As described earlier, personal self alienation is clearly indicated by the feeling that, in Rawls's words, "nothing is worth doing," that one is powerless, that one's "plans are of little value" and cannot be "pursued with pleasure." These feelings of insignificance and isolation, I have suggested, simply describe the absence of self transcending projects, concerns, and interests. Indeed, so fundamental is self transcendence to self respect that its opposite, alienation, is not simply destructive of self esteem, it is destructive to the very self "itself." When, in Erich Fromm's words, the individual is no longer "the center of his world" and "the creator of his own acts" he loses sight of his self identity -- the very essence of his being.23 Clearly, then, an active involvement in a world of cherished persons, honored ideals, respected institutions and enduring causes, which is to say a projection into and an identification with transcending entities and projects, all this is a sufficient antidote to alienation. Thus, if it is not too simplistic to say that alienation is the absence of self transcendence, and that alienation is incompatible with self respect, then it follows that self transcendence is a necessary condition for the achievement of the primary good of self respect.

I suggest that this conclusion is reinforced by our other findings concerning the bases of the need for self transcendence. Thus, in my earlier discussion of the development of the self, the psychological trait of "import transference" and the awareness of personal mortality, I have indicated that the self finds its own identity and value in involvements and concerns beyond itself, which is to say through its own transcendence. Without recapitulating these now familiar points, I believe that we can conclude from our earlier discussion that the self can find no source of abiding esteem totally from within. Transcendent involvement and concern with projects, ideals, persons and institutions beyond the self is necessary for self respect. Accordingly, we have arrived at our desired conclusion: Self transcendence is necessary for self respect and thus, by implication, is a primary good.

Very well, if "self transcendence" qualifies as a primary good, have we secured a practical principle of justice between generations? Alas, we have not. There is still work to be done -- in the original position. However, we have, hopefully, supplied the needed "motivation assumption" with which such a principle might be derived. Moreover, unlike Rawls's candidate assumption ("the heads of families condition"), our motivation concept meets the necessary criteria that we detailed earlier [final paragraph of Section III]. Namely, (a) it is neutral with respect to time (cf. Rawls, #45); (b) it is applicable to all moral personalities (i.e., it is "universal"); (c) it neither favors nor disadvantages identifiable particular persons (i.e., it is "general"); (d) it is a primary good, and thus is appropriately admitted into the deliberations of the original position.

From "Just Savings" to "Just Provision". It follows from the above criteria that the parties of the original position may adopt a principle (unlike Rawls's principle of "just savings") that will not necessarily favor immediately succeeding generations at the expense of remote generations.24 Rawls's concept of just savings," it should be noted, calls for "savings" of "the gains of culture," "just institutions," and "real capital" (e.g., buildings and machines, etc.). (285, 288) This is fine, as far as it goes. However, as I have argued elsewhere, some significant aspects of "justice between generations" are not included within this concept.25 For example: (a) "just anticipations" (i.e., careful and deliberate study of long-range impacts of proposed policies); (b) "just forbearances" from ultimately harmful activities and policies; and (c) "just stewardship" of an ongoing and flourishing ecosystem. I would include all of these dimensions in my broader conception of "justice between generations," which, in this paper and elsewhere, I call "just provision."



Just Provision as an Abstract Principle of Justice. My criticism of Rawls's position concerning justice between generations is now essentially complete. So too is the development and presentation of my own assumptions, concepts, and analytic tools. Following a brief inventory of the relevant available information, assumptions, and critical methods, we will assume the perspective of the parties in the original position and attempt, on the basis of this data and perspective, to derive new principles of just provision for posterity, or at least to determine if such an enterprise might still be carried out in the context of justice as fairness. This analysis from the original position will follow three basic stages: (a) an examination of just provision as an abstract principle of justice (VI); (b) an examination of the adequacy of just provision as a practical principle (i.e., its stability) (VII); and finally, (c) an assessment of the congruence of the practical principle of just provision with the full theory of the good (VIII).

Where are We? In our analysis of Rawls's argument for just savings, we found that "the heads of families condition" violated the general rules of the original position (i.e., the veil of ignorance, and the generality and universality rules). In addition, this condition appears to be an ad hoc addition to the theory, with no discernible function in Rawls's system except to affect the outcome of the posterity question. For these and other reasons, we found the "heads of families" assumptions to be untenable, and it was discarded.

Following that, I presented an alternative motivation assumption (i.e., "the need for self transcendence") which, I trust, is both consistent with the general conditions of the original position and qualified for inclusion in the index of primary goods. We can now present a case before the parties of the original position that is simple, consistent with Rawls's general theoretical rules and presuppositions, and free of ad hoc modifications. However, while we now have a better case, we have not demonstrated that it is a sound and convincing case. To carry this project to a satisfactory and affirmative conclusion would require, at least, a careful assessment of alternative policies of provision for the future and an exposition and analysis of Rawls's difficult, technical, and lengthy work on "risk assessment and aversion" (Rawls, #26-30), topics that I have, happily, been able so far to by-pass. Since I haven't the space to develop and include these conclusions, I will be unable to supply a clear, explicit, well-founded principle of just provision. Even so, I believe that we can take some significant steps toward such a realization.

What, then, do we have to bring to this task? What are our resources? They are considerable. First, we have (with the few noted exceptions) all the general conditions of Rawls's original position; namely, the constraints of the concept of right, the circumstances of justice, the rules of acceptance and exclusion of knowledge (the veil of ignorance), the primary goods the rules of deliberation, etc.26 Second, we have a condition in the original position which pertains particularly to the posterity issue; i.e., generational ignorance. Third, we have now the assumption that "self transcendence" is a primary good. With these assumptions and procedures at hand, we can now ask: "How would the parties of the original position deliberate concerning the issue of justice between generations?" And, "what principles of justice between generations would result from these deliberations?"

Toward an Abstract Principle of Just Provision: Two Arguments. The parties of the original position might first seek an abstract principle of just provision, with the understanding that such a principle might have to be modified to allow for compliance in the circumstances of actual life in a well ordered society. Such a modified principle would, according to our terminology, be a "practical" principle of justice. Very well, given the best possible case (i.e., with stability for the moment taken for granted), how might the parties proceed to formulate and defend a principle of just provision?

Consider, first, what might be called "the argument from self transcendence." By this account, the parties in the original position, by reviewing the index of primary goods, would find that whatever principles they chose, they would have to insure the security of their self respect in actual life. By examining the conditions of self respect, they would further conclude that they must, at all costs, protect their self esteem from the self-diminishing and self-demeaning condition of alienation. And since alienation can be construed as the absence of self transcending interests, concerns, loyalties, and projects, they would wish to assure that in actual life they might be identified with, involved in, and concerned about, persons, places, associations, institutions, and ideals outside themselves. Furthermore, the parties will know (through admissible knowledge of general psychology) that by investing concern for transcending things and ideals, that is to say by "transferring import," such objects, plans, associations, and ideals become intrinsic goods, and the expectation of their endurance becomes a good for the individual. It then follows that the parties will understand that in actual life their self respect will be integrally tied to active concern for enduring things, associations and ideals. Thus, paradoxically, what they perceive to be the future course of events beyond their own lifetimes becomes relevant to their own well-being during their lifetimes. (This of course is a manifestation of "the paradox of morality"). In short, the parties will understand (a) that unless lasting objective things, projects, and ideals matter to them, their lives will be empty and devoid of self-esteem, and (b) that they cannot truly love or care for these things, projects, and ideals unless they hope and plan for the preservation and flourishing thereof long beyond the span of their personal lifetimes. Self transcendence, then, as a necessary component of the primary good of self respect, assures that the parties of the original position will care, generally, about the course of events beyond their lifetimes, and about the availability, to future persons, of (unspecified) goods, opportunities, excellences, etc.

Of course, the veil of ignorance forbids any knowledge in the original position of particular personal goods and causes that the parties might wish to protect and preserve. However, the parties will know that whatever the goods and values they may cherish in actual life, these goods can not be actualized without the primary goods. Accordingly, the argument from self transcendence entails that the parties will desire to assure the continued availability of such prerequisite primary goods as basic resources, health, intelligence, self respect, equal opportunity, and equal liberty. Thus the argument from self transcendence has the interesting side effect of reinforcing the principles of equal liberty and equal opportunity. This manifest application of self transcendence to other parts of Rawls's system lends support to the notion and acquits it of the charge of being an ad hoc hypothesis.

Another argument for an abstract principle of just provision is also familiar to us. We might call it "the argument from the loyalty of justice." Assume that the deliberations concerning justice between generations appear late in the agenda of the original position. If so, some content to the rules of just provision becomes evident; namely, some prevailing conditions, assumptions and prior conclusions of the original position. Now if the parties themselves may be assumed to be subject to the "law of import transference," (the "law" is, after all, a component of the primary good of self transcendence), then the content of their prior conclusions will be invested, by the parties themselves, with intrinsic significance. The result of this transfer of import within the original position is noteworthy: the parties become motivated to adopt principles of justice between generations that will insure the perpetuation of the (to them) valued principles of justice among contemporaries. And what is required to perpetuate these principles? Answer: The circumstances of justice (moderate scarcity, mutual disinterest, etc.) and just institutions. In short, the law of import transference motivates the parties to adopt principles of just provision requiring that care be taken to perpetuate the conditions and institutions which support justice. And so, while particular personal goods can not be prescribed for the benefit of future generations (due to the veil of ignorance), the protection and perpetuation of general circumstances, conditions, and rules of right might be accomplished by an adoption of principles of just provision. Indeed, due to their own primary good of self transcendence (in the form of "import transference"), the parties would be motivated to do just that. The motive of self transcendence in the original position thus extends all rules of justice among contemporaries into the future. Furthermore, it is an extension without limit. So long as there can be moral personalities (i.e., persons with the capacity for a sense of justice, and deserving of justice), there may be just institutions, and the parties will wish these institutions to become actual and to flourish.

Some Conclusions. Having considered two arguments from the original position (by following the prescribed rules and procedures thereof and avoiding the use of data excluded by the veil of ignorance), we are prepared now to propose a "draft principle of just provision:"

Act so that the availability of primary goods, circumstances of justice, and just institutions to future generations will be assured, consistent with the preservation of the rights of the living to equal justice.

This may serve as a beginning, but it is only a beginning, since several qualifications are in order.

To begin, there is the question of the available knowledge and the capacity to affect the future course of events. Now the parties would surely understand that in actual life they would be neither omniscient nor omnipotent and that these limitations would affect their abilities to anticipate the needs of, and to provide for, future generations. Their eventual principle of just provision should reflect this.

Even with this restriction, our "draft principle" has a decidedly utilitarian tone to it, and thus might be unacceptable to the parties of a Rawlsian original position. For instance, the parties might be concerned that they might find themselves members of a generation of whom unreasonably high sacrifices might be demanded in order to maximize advantages across several generations.27 Should there not, then, be a "utility floor" (similar to that implied by the difference principle) below which a generation should not be required to go in asking just provision for the future? It would seem, from Rawls's point of view, that no generation should have to reduce its expectations so severely that it moves from a state of "moderate scarcity" to a condition of "acute scarcity," thus relinquishing the circumstances that support the special conception of justice (and the primacy of equal liberty). But what of lesser, yet still considerable, sacrifices? Rawls writes that "each age is to do its fair share in achieving the conditions necessary for just institutions and the fair value of liberty; but beyond this more cannot be required." (298) But just what is required of the living? What is a "fair share"? According to what rules do we determine a fair contribution to the well-being of future generations?

At this point we run out of the supporting data and assumptions necessary to carry this inquiry forward. To proceed further, we would, like Rawls, have to examine and assess strategies of choice-with-uncertainty and of risk- aversion. (Cf. Rawls, #26-9). In addition, to continue this line of inquiry, we would also need to examine alternative modes of provision for the future and attempt to devise rules for choosing among the menu of possible policies. In order to contain the scope of this paper, I have chosen to omit these difficult considerations.

Suffice it to say that in the interest of minimizing the risk to their prospects in actual life, the parties would likely place a limit upon the claims that (from the standpoint of actual life) future generations might place upon their own. Thus they would not allow utilitarian imperatives to mandate ruin for the present in behalf of the future. Justice as fairness prescribes "fairness" to all generations.

A Tentative Abstract Principle of Just Provision. We are ready, then, to state our somewhat less than final "abstract principle of just provision":

The generation of the living is to adopt and effect policies of care and provision such that the availability of primary goods, circumstances of justice, and just institutions to future generations will be assured, subject to the limitations of available knowledge and capability and the limits of fair sacrifice.



Just Provision as a Practical Principle of Justice. If our abstract principle of just provision is to lead to a practical principle, we must supply evidence that the principle would be complied with in a well-ordered society; that is to say, that the principle would be "stable." As we seek this evidence, we may or may not find that the abstract principle will require modification before it is found to be tenable as a practical principle of justice. Fortunately, our earlier discussion of the need for self transcendence will provide most of the evidence that we are looking for.

The Motive for Compliance. To begin, I would like to adopt a negative approach to the question of stability. Rawls, we will recall, holds that a sense of justice makes one liable, in the violation thereof, to the "moral sentiments" of guilt and shame. Similarly, I have argued that a failure to identify with self transcendent projects, causes, and ideals creates, or manifests, feelings of alienation. We are therefore led to ask: What are the consequences (in terms of shame, guilt, alienation, etc.) of a failure to make just provision for future generations? (Recall that consistent with Rawls's "full compliance" assumption we are referring here to conditions in a well-ordered society. Furthermore, I will accept for the sake of this argument Rawls's contention that in a well-ordered society the sense of justice among contemporaries is stable). The members of such a self- serving generation might have to entertain such unpleasant consequences as these: (a) they might have to live and die with the realization that future persons would likely, and with good reason, look back upon and regard their (presently) well-ordered but unproviding generation with resentment, indignation, and contempt. (b) Presumably, the members of a well-ordered but unproviding society would be mindful that their fortunate condition was the result of a long, laborious historical process of gradual moral progress; yet in the face of this knowledge, they would willfully decline to be part of this just historical community. Such an attitude would exact a high penalty in terms of lost self esteem. This would, in turn, make them liable to feelings of guilt and alienation. (c) It would clearly follow from this that members of the unproviding generation would experience the shame of falling far short of their capacity to act as free and rational agents.28 Rawls has written:

The desire to act justly derives, in part from the desire to express most fully what we are or can be, namely free and equal rational beings with a liberty to choose. . . Acting unjustly is acting in a manner that fails to express our nature as a free and equal rational being. Such actions therefore strike at our self respect, our sense of our own worth, and the experience of this loss is shame. We have acted as though we belonged to a lower order, as though we were a creature whose first principles are decided by natural contingencies. (256)

This awareness, I suggest, would exact a heavy cost in terms of the self esteem of the improvident generation.

Finally, (d) those who failed to provide for the future might attempt to rationalize this policy by arguing that they really had no projects or institutions worth preserving. This remedy would likely prove to be worse than the disorder which prompted it. Why? Because such an excuse would entail the dreadful self-deprecating admission that the activities and achievements of the generation, and presumably of most members thereof, were meaningless, insignificant, and transitory.

In light of the points developed earlier, the positive benefits of complying with a principle of just provision now become quite clear. I trust that a brief mention of these familiar benefits will suffice. First, (a) self respect is enhanced by the understanding that the results of one's labors and talents will endure. This satisfaction follows, in part, from a hope and expectation that these consequences of one's life career, and thus oneself, will be appreciated in the future. (b) A knowledge that "things that matter" will endure eases the pain of the universal knowledge of personal physical mortality. (c) The desire to actualize potentialities (What Rawls calls The Aristotelian Principle)29 is manifested in the creation of things (e.g., art objects, scientific theories, literary works, philosophical systems, etc.) of ever-greater subtlety and complexity. Just provision allows for further advance in projects to which one has contributed his work, skill and intellect. Consequently, one is less inclined to feel that all his efforts and skill devoted to the advancement of his chosen art, science or craft, "are for nothing." This leads us directly to the next point: (d) According to the law of import transference, things, places, institutions, and ideals valuable to persons are valued for themselves. The principle of just provision adds assurance that intrinsic goods will endure, which is, in turn, a good to persons who value these intrinsic goods (i.e., who have transferred import to these things). (e) Persons who act in behalf of posterity display their capacity and desire to act rationally and autonomously; i.e., they "express most fully what [they] can be, namely, free and equal rational beings with a liberty to choose." (256) Finally, (f) those who plan and act from interest and concern for future persons feel that they are part of an historical moral-community- in-time (or "social union"); that they are part of a scheme, the significance of which transcends immediate time and circumstance.30

For reasons such as these, I would suggest that members of a well-ordered society, having a sense of justice toward each other and motivated by a need for self transcendence, would also be strongly motivated to provide for the future. This motive would be sufficient to prompt them to adopt and to act according to a principle of just provision. Furthermore, I suggest (but I will not immediately attempt to prove) that this motive for compliance is strong enough that our abstract principle of just provision might be accepted, virtually intact, as a practical principle of justice between generations.

This does not, however, complete our task. For even if we eventually find warrant to believe that our abstract principle of just provision would be complied with, we have yet to demonstrate that such compliance would be a personal good. In other words, I have not proven that this principle of right is congruent with a rational person's good. This will be our task in the next section. As we examine therein the congruence of a principle of just provision with a rational person's good, we will encounter further indication of strong motivation for compliance with the abstract principle of just provision -- i.e., further reason to adopt that principle as a practical principle as well.


"Congruence:" What is at Issue? Recall, for a moment, the basic structure of Rawls's theory. Stated briefly, the order of priority is as follows: First, the index of primary goods (derived and explicated through the thin theory of the good) serves as a premise in the formal derivation (in the original position) of the principles of justice. The primary goods, we will recall, are those natural and social goods that any rational person would desire, whatever else he might desire. The principles of justice, in turn, "constrain" the full theory of the good, which defines and determines personal goods, moral virtues, and social values. This means that nothing which violates the right can count as a ("full") good. But while the principles of justice (i.e., social right) set the bounds of the ("full") good, they do not determine the content thereof. The content is derived as the individual works out his own "rational plan of life."

Now the question of congruence is simply this: Is the ("full") good (i.e., a rational life-plan, etc.) consistent with justice? Even more, are they mutually supportive? Stated thus, alongside the previous paragraph, these questions may appear to be logical nullities; i.e., by stipulation, goodness and justice must be consistent. Fortunately, there is more to it than this. Rawls also offers an independent definition of the good for a person; namely, the successful pursuit of a "rational plan of life." This definition is applied, in turn, to the definition of "moral virtue" (having qualities that it would be rational to want in one's fellow citizens). With the independent definition of good at hand, the question of congruence is "opened." We can, like Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic, ask if it is to one's personal advantage to be just. As Rawls puts it: "It remains to be shown that this disposition to take up and to be guided by the standpoint of justice accords with the individual's good." (567)31 The question of congruence, by the way, can be viewed from the perspective both of justice and goodness. Thus we may ask, on the one hand, does "a person's rational plan of life affirm and support his sense of justice?" Conversely, we may ask "do the various desiderata of a well ordered [i.e., just] society and . . . its just arrangements contribute to the good of its members?" (513)

Now it follows from all this that a "principle of just provision" for the future must be seen (in fact, and not by definition) to be congruent with the good ("rational life plans") if it is to be a genuine principle of justice. In other words, it must be shown that no bonafide rational life plan can violate the principle of just provision. Viewed positively, by asking whether just provision is congruent with the good of a person in a well-ordered society, we are asking: (a) would a person seeking to make just provision for future generations be seeking that which would contribute to a "rational plan of life" for himself? (b) is a personal disposition to make just provision for the future the sort of quality that it is rational for a person to want in his associates? In other words, is just provision a moral virtue? Finally, (c) are the qualities of a community with active policies of just provision the sort of qualities that it is rational for a person to desire in his society? In other words, is a policy of just provision a social value to living members of that society?

I believe that just provision can be shown to be congruent with all three senses of the good. Furthermore, this claim of congruence may be supported with material developed earlier in this paper. I will not attempt an extensive and multifaceted argument in support of the congruence of just provision and personal good, since such an exercise would involve a tedious recapitulation of familiar ideas. Instead, I will assume that the foregoing account of (a) the justice of fair provision for the future and (b) the (personal and social) good of caring for unborn generations offers abundant supporting arguments in favor of congruence. I cannot from this perspective conceive of any clear inconsistency between (a) this principle of justice, and (b) these traits of goodness. But while I will not present a full and detailed case for congruence, some suggestive fragments of such an argument might be illuminating.

Why, then, might we believe that a person's good is congruent with the principle of just provision? If our foregoing analysis of the bases and nature of self transcendence are correct, it would seem that no person would rationally choose (i.e., choose with sufficient knowledge and "deliberate rationality") a life plan that is without transcending meaning and direction and unproductive of results of lasting significance. The principles of moral psychology suggest that such a life, pursued wholly for oneself and thus with total indifference as to its effects beyond one's lifetime, would be empty, meaningless, and the source of self-contempt, shame, guilt and alienation. Why, conversely, might we conclude that the principle of just provision is congruent with personal good? As noted earlier [the penultimate par. of #IV], a just society is a "union of social unions" in which the good of each is enhanced and amplified through the cooperative effort of all. Accordingly, just institutions, functioning in behalf of future generations, offer the means through which the individual's personal need for self transcendence can become effective and actualized. By pooling his talents and efforts with others, in a just "social union" of complementary roles, the individual may find that his contributions in behalf of posterity (and responsive to his need for self transcendence) will be far more effective and lasting than they would be had he attempted to express his "just concern" for posterity on his own. In this sense, institutionalized just provision in a well ordered society can be seen to be congruent with the personal good of expressing self transcendence through an effective caring for posterity.

In general, our findings indicate that the person whose plan of life is responsive to his most basic human needs will desire to perceive himself as a contributing member of an inclusive community-in-time. Accordingly, he will be motivated to act, in the course of his lifetime, in behalf of future persons. Stated simply, caring for the future is a personal good. Furthermore, those qualities in his associates that enhance his plans to enrich the life of posterity will be perceived to be moral qualities, or "virtues." Finally, those just institutions of society that promote, exemplify, and amplify his efforts in behalf of the future will display, in their just provision, a consistency with and a complementation to, his personal good of self transcendence. In other words, these institutions, by endorsing and acting out the principle of just provision, will be congruent with his individual good.

Stability, Congruence, and "The Moral Paradox." While stressing the (congruent) good of seeking just provision for the future, we must not lose sight of the principle of "the moral paradox." Stated briefly, the paradox holds that one's personal interest is best served by serving others or, at least, by serving objective ends.32 By applying this paradox to the issue of the duty to posterity we understand that one might best satisfy the need for self transcendence not by seeking it directly but through a genuine identification with and a concern for transcending projects, institutions and ideals. Accordingly, a practical principle of just provision might "serve" the living best if it is explicitly oriented toward the benefit of future persons. Paradoxically, if a principle of just provision betrays ulterior personal interest of the living, then the benefits to the living may be compromised. To paraphrase the scripture: "That generation which loses itself in just concern for the future of its community, shall find its good in self esteem, vigorous purpose, and transcending significance." Like all such epigrams, this one suffers from over-simplicity and pious generality. Even so, it serves as a brief summary of some of the key findings of this paper, and of the promise of the quest for self transcendence.

With this finding we have arrived, at last, at an answer to the cynical challenge: "What do I owe posterity; after all, what has posterity ever done for me?" Our duty to posterity is not of the form of an obligation; that is to say, it is not a contractual agreement to exchange favors. To be sure, posterity does not actually exist now. Even so, in a strangely abstract and metaphorical sense, posterity may extend profound favors for the living. For posterity exists as an idea, a potentiality, and as a valid object of transpersonal devotion, concern, purpose, and commitment. Without this idea and potentiality, our lives would be confined, empty, bleak, pointless, and morally impoverished. In acting for posterity's good we act for our own as well. Paradoxically, we owe it to ourselves to be duty-bound to posterity, in a manner which focuses upon future needs as well as our own. By fulfilling our just duties to posterity we may earn and enjoy posterity's favors, even now.33

If my analysis has been sound, this strange and profound conclusion is supported by Rawls's general theory of justice, unencumbered by the inconsistency and ad hoc modification of the heads of families condition, and enriched by the motivation assumption of self transcendence.

The Stability of the Principle of Just Provision: A Summary. "The most stable conception of justice," says Rawls, will presumably display the following three features: (a) it will be "rooted not in abnegation but in affirmation of the self;" (b) it will be "perspicuous with our reason;" and (c) it will be "congruent with our good." (499)34 If this is so, then these concluding sections constitute an argument for the stability of the principle of just provision. In the first place, (a) our exposition and analysis of the need for self transcendence clearly indicates that the principle of just provision is "rooted not in abnegation but in affirmation of the self." Furthermore, (b) our derivation of the abstract principle of just provision demonstrates that such a principle is "perspicuous with our reason," in that the principle follows from rules of the original position which, as we know, displays a model of "rational decision procedures." In addition, (c) we have just completed an attempt to demonstrate that the principle of just provision is congruent with personal good. Finally, (d) we have, throughout these final sections, examined some direct arguments in support of the stability of the principle of just provision. If these various presentations have been successful, we may conclude that the abstract principle of just provision is stable; that is to say, it would generate its own support and thus would be complied with in a well-ordered society. Accordingly, the parties in the original position would have warrant to adopt the abstract principle as a practical principle of justice between generations.


"Justice as Fairness" and the Duty to Posterity. Throughout this paper, I have assumed and utilized the general features and methodology of Rawls's theory of justice, while modifying his treatment of the particular question of "justice between generations." I am mindful of many of the cogent criticisms of Rawls's contractarian approach to justice; indeed, I find many of these criticisms to be quite persuasive. However, I have not treated these objections for the simple reason that if I had done so (and still successfully defended Rawls against all critics), we never could have begun our inquiry into the adequacy of Rawls's defense of the "just savings principle" within the context of his theory. I can only hope that through this exercise I may have developed some concepts and insights (most prominently, "self transcendence") that are relevant to the posterity issue and which might survive fundamental revisions, or even an ultimate refutation, of Rawls's theory of justice.

Beyond this, I should note that despite my disagreements with the particulars of his argument for just savings, I find Rawls's contractarian approach to be an intriguing device for articulating and attempting to solve the issue of intergenerational justice. "The Original Position" displays, for ready analysis and review, the procedures of rational choice that lead to general principles of justice. By including in the rules of the original position such general conceptual constraints as universality, generality, and the prohibition against time preference, Rawls allows future persons to serve as virtual spokesmen for their own potential interests. Thus, through this suggestive thought-experiment, some very subtle and difficult ethical puzzles concerning our duties to future persons are made more tractable.

Rawls's argument for justice between generations, whatever its particular limitations and errors might be, has suggested a promising and fruitful approach to the vitally important issue of the duty to posterity. Judging from two decades of responses35 to A Theory of Justice, from both within and outside the philosophical profession, both the contractarian approach to justice and the issue of the duty to posterity have, as a result of Rawls's efforts, become more prominent in scholarly writing, discussion, and teaching. The question of the future is becoming ever more a part of our deliberative present. Rawls has introduced a provocative conception of justice into contemporary thought and has forcefully raised the question of the duty of the living to their successors. Surely, through his successful effort to restore to philosophical discourse these recently neglected, yet enduring and substantive, moral issues, John Rawls has ably and admirably fulfilled his duty to posterity.





1. This paper is an abridgment and revision of portions of the second half of my doctoral dissertation, Rawls and the Duty to Posterity (University of Utah, 1976). An earlier version was presented in July 1977 to a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at the City University of New York. I am grateful to my colleagues in the Seminar for their helpful discussion and comments, and especially to Thomas Nagel, the Seminar Director, for his careful and well-directed suggestions. And I gratefully acknowledge the support of the NEH which allowed me the time to prepare this paper.

2. All quotations from and references to John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1971) will be cited in parentheses in the body of the paper.

3. By "present time of entry interpretation," Rawls apparently means simply that the parties are, and understand themselves to be, contemporaries. Yet, in this passage there seems to be more to it than this. Rawls neither explicates the term nor offers explicit justification for this interpretation -- though I will shortly suggest the missing Rawlsian justification. (Clearly the tone of the italicized clause indicates an earlier use of the phrase "present time of entry," and an earlier argument to the effect that the parties know that they belong to the same generation. However, after at least four careful and complete readings, I have been unable to locate any such passages in the preceding pages of A Theory of Justice). The interpretation reappears near the close of the crucial section on "justice between generations." (#44) These two passages contain essentially all that Rawls has to say concerning "the present time of entry interpretation." Several philosophers have registered some annoyance with the sudden appearance of this cryptic term, among them R. M. Hare, (who calls it "an opaque phrase that I have found nowhere explained,") in Hare, "Rawls's Theory of Justice - II," Philosophical Quarterly 23:92 (July, 1973), 243), also Brian Barry, The Liberal Theory of Justice (Oxford University, 1973) p. 131n, and Gregory Kavka, "Rawls on Average and Total Utility," Philosophical Studies, V:27 (1975), pp. 250-1.

4. Hare, op. cit, pp. 243-4.

5. This construction of the missing Rawlsian justification for the present time of entry interpretation seems obvious and compelling. Yet, I must confess that here I correct an error and oversight of seven years standing. From the time I began work on my dissertation (1975), through a late draft of this paper (1982), I found neither justification for, nor significant implications of, the present time of entry interpretation. (I am grateful to Elinore Partridge for helping me to correct this error). Now I acknowledge both that Rawls is correct to take this interpretation, and that it apparently leaves the parties with no motives for savings unless additional motivational factors are either added or acknowledged in the original position. (140, 292-1) Rawls chooses to add such an assumption, while, n the following, I claim to find such an assumption present in the given conditions of the original position.

6. This criterion states that the parties "cannot enter into agreements that may have consequences they cannot accept. They will avoid those that they can adhere to only with great difficulty" (176).

7. Like the passage dealing with the "present time of entry interpretation," this paragraph appears suddenly, briefly, and with little if any support for its claims. The succeeding paragraph is involved with a separate issue. Other features of this passage are puzzling or noteworthy: (a) "The parties are thought of as representing continuing lines of claims." (By whom? Themselves? The other parties? The reader? Rawls?). (b) "We may think of the parties as heads of families," but this is apparently not necessary. (Rawls, however, seems to regard the parties as having this role). (c) Notice the tentativeness in this passage: e.g., "are thought of," "we may think," or additionally, "being, so to speak, deputies . . . ," etc. (d) The parties in the original position should "care" about individuals in the next generation. Yet "individuals" in remote generations are necessarily indeterminate from the perspective of the present. (e) Thus, presumably, provision for remote generations is accomplished only through a sequence of "carings" for adjacent generations. (Later, in pages 288-90, Rawls says this quite explicitly). See also note 14, below.

8. Kenneth Arrow can get us off to an excellent start. The heads of families assumption, he writes, "(1) . . . Introduces an element of altruism into the original position; if we introduce family sentiments, why not others (national, tribal)? And why not elements of envy? (2) One might like a theory of justice in which the role of the family was derived rather than primitive. In a re-examination of social institutions, why should the family remain above scrutiny, its role being locked into the original assumptions? (3) Anyway, the family argument for saving has an implication that should be displayed and might be questioned. Presumably the burden of saving should fall only on those with children and perhaps in proportion to the number of children. Since education and public construction are essentially forms of saving, taxes to support them should fall only on those with children. In the original position, this is just the sort of contract that would be arrived at if the concern for the future were based solely on family ties." Kenneth Arrow, "Some Ordinalist-Utilitarian Notes on Rawls's Theory of Justice," The Journal of Philosophy, LXX:9 (May 10, 1973), p. 261-2.

9. To be perfectly fair, I must note that Rawls does not insist that a person must be a family head, but he does require that one have at least a quasi-parental concern for the "well-being of some of those in the next generation, it being presumed that their concern is for different individuals in each case." 128-9 (My italics).

10. Cf. Kenneth Arrow's objection (3), quoted in note 8, above.

11. In order to save space, I have reluctantly set aside consideration of still another objection to the "heads of families" condition. Rawls argues that once the "heads of families" in the original position choose their principle of just savings for the next generation, the needs of remote generations will be accounted for as well, through a line of transfers along the intervening generations. (289-90) It is all too easy to find refuting cases among current events and issues. For example: (a) the issue of the use of chloro-fluorocarbons, and the resulting depletion of stratospheric ozone; (b) the proliferation of nuclear fission power facilities and the attendant problem of radioactive waste disposal; (c) the prediction of "The Club or Rome" study (in Limits to Growth, New York: Universe, 1972), and other such forecasts, to the effect that a continuation of current industrial practices will lead to economic and ecological collapse and catastrophe in the next century. In all these cases, and many more, the well-being of the present and immediately succeeding generation might be secured at the cost of catastrophic long-term consequences. Rawls's principle of just savings would apparently allow such short-sighted policies. For still further objections to Rawls's "heads of families condition," see Jane English's "Justice Between Generations," Philosophical Studies, 31 (1977) pp. 91-104.

12. In adopting the term "self-transcendence," I emphatically disavow any theological or metaphysical connotations that might be attached thereto. As I hope the foregoing account will indicate, the term applies to a psychological concept which is to be interpreted and applied naturalistically.

13. My task is considerably eased by the fact that I have published a more extended explication and defense of the concept elsewhere. See my "Why Care About the Future?" in Partridge, ed., Responsibilities to Future Generations (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1981), pp. 203-220.

14. Rawls is not, in this case, referring directly to self-transcendence; rather, he is speaking of the senses of justice. Later in this paper I will attempt to show that the motive of self-transcendence is a basic component of the sense of justice, and thus that Rawls could very well be referring here to what I call self transcendence.

15. Interestingly, the conclusion of this "import transference argument" is about the same as the conclusion which follows from the condition of generational ignorance. However, since these are clearly separate arguments, the claim that the parties would adopt such a principle is accordingly strengthened.

16. For an eloquent expression of the sentiment to "transcend mortality," see Nicolai Hartmann's "Love of the Remote" in his Ethics, Vol. 2: Moral Values (New York: Macmillan, 1932). Portions reprinted in Partridge, ed., Responsibilities to Future Generations, loc. cit.

17. For an eloquent expression of the sentiment to "transcend mortality," see Nicolai Hartmann's "Love of the Remote" in his Ethics, Vol. 2: Moral Values (New York: Macmillan, 1932). Portions reprinted in Partridge, ed., Responsibilities to Future Generations, loc. cit.

18. Rawls's account of the development of "the morality of association" (#71) is a virtual paraphrase of Mead's theory of the genesis of the self. Indeed, Rawls cites Mead in the course of this argument. (468n) Perhaps, then, we have found in this passage an endorsement by Rawls of one of our independent arguments for the need for self transcendence.

19. Eric and Mary Josephson thus describe alienation: "Confused as to his place in the scheme of a world growing each day closer yet more impersonal, more densely populated yet in face-to-face relations more dehumanized; a world appealing ever more widely for his concern and sympathy with unknown masses of men, yet fundamentally alienating him even from his next neighbor, today Western man has become mechanized, routinized, made comfortable as an object; but in the profound sense displaced and thrown off balance as a subjective creator and power." Eric and Mary Josephson, eds., Man Alone: Alienation in Modern Society (New York: Dell, 1962), pp. 10-1.

20. Currently, this theme is stressed by such "good reasons" philosophers as Kurt Baier, Kai Nielsen, Marcus Singer and Stephen Toulmin. Cf. in particular, the final chapter of Michael Scriven's, Primary Philosophy (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966). In a direct statement of the paradox, Scriven writes:

Each citizen's chances of a satisfying life for himself are increased by a process of conditioning all citizens not to treat their own satisfaction as the most important goal. Specifically, a system which inculcates genuine concern for the welfare of others is, it will be argued, the most effective system for increasing the welfare of each individual. Put paradoxically, there are circumstances in which one can give a selfish justification for unselfishness. (240).

21. The paradox is given its most severe testing when it is applied to the question of the duty to posterity. In such a case, the defenders of this duty might wish to affirm that life is immediately enriched by the collective agreement of the living to provide for the well-being of the unborn. This is the position of the economist Kenneth Boulding:

Why should we not maximize the welfare of this generation at the cost of posterity? Apres nous, le deluge has been the motto of not insignificant numbers of human societies. The only answer to this, as far as I can see, is to point out that the welfare of the individual depends on the extent to which he can identify himself with others, and that the most satisfactory individual identity is that which identifies not only with a community in space but also with a community extending over time from the past into the future. . . This whole problem is linked up with the much larger one of the determinants of the morale, legitimacy, and 'nerve' of a society, and there is a great deal of historical evidence to suggest that a society which loses its identity with posterity and which loses its positive image of the future loses also its capacity to deal with present problems and soon falls apart.

If I interpret Boulding correctly, he is saying, in effect, that "we need the future, now." Kenneth Boulding, "The Economics of Spaceship Earth," The Environmental Handbook, ed. Garrett deBell (New York: Ballantine, 1970), pp. 99-100.

22. In the next section, I will argue that Rawls's analysis of "self respect" is directly supportive of the primacy of self transcendence. (See Rawls #67). Further support of "self transcendence" may be found (with varying degrees of explicitness) in the third part of A Theory of Justice, particularly in Rawls's discussion there of "The Aristotelian Principle" (#65), "The Moral Sentiments" (e.g., self respect, guilt, shame, etc.) (#67, #73), "Natural and Moral Attitudes" (e.g., "the sense of justice") (#74), moral development (#40-2), "The Principles of Moral Psychology" (#75), "The Idea of Social Union" (#79), and "The Unity of the Self" (#85).

23. Erich Fromm, "Alienation Under Capitalism," The Sane Society. Reprinted in Man Alone, ed. M. and E. Josephson (op. cit), p. 56.

24. See note 11, above.

25. Rawls and the Duty to Posterity, loc. cit., ##41-2; also "Beyond Just Savings," unpublished colloquium paper presented at the annual meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association, San Francisco, CA, March 24, 1978.

26. These general conditions of the original position are spelled out in the first half of Chapter III (##20-25) of A Theory of Justice.

27. As John Passmore has indicated, we of the late twentieth century may well belong to such a generation. (Man's Responsibility for Nature, p. 87).

28. Here I am applying Rawls's "Kantian Interpretation" of his theory of "Justice as Fairness" (cf. #40 of A Theory of Justice).

29. Cf. #56 of A Theory of Justice.

30. Cf. #79 of A Theory of Justice.

31. The sentence which immediately follows indicates why we should be interested in this question: "Whether these two points of view are congruent is likely to be a crucial factor in determining stability." (567)

32. Rawls expresses the paradox (or more correctly, the subsidiary "hedonic paradox") in this manner: "A person is happy then during those periods when he is successfully carrying through a rational plan and he is with reason confident that his efforts will come to fruition. He may be said to approach blessedness to the extent that conditions are supremely favorable and his life complete. Yet it does not follow that in advancing a rational plan one is pursuing happiness, not at least as this is normally meant. For one thing, happiness is not one aim among others that we aspire to, but the fulfillment of the whole design itself." (550)

33. Here I borrow from my "Why Care About the Future?", loc cit., pp. 217-8.

34. For purposes of clarity and continuity, I have re-arranged the order of these features. I trust that this has not altered Rawls's meaning or intent.

35.    This comment apparently dates the last revision of this essay at the early 1990a.


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .