Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Moral Mortmain- a duty to future generations entails misogynistic eugenics.

Suppose I believe that I have a duty to any child I help bring into the world. Suppose, further, that I accept that I have a duty to any child that child might have and so on ad infinitum. Then I must also accept I have a duty to future generations. This duty can be discharged by setting up a trust, though there may be a legal obstacle of the nature of a rule against perpetuities or mortmain.

Do I also have a duty to future generations if I decide not to have children? It could be argued that I do have such a duty and am already neglecting it by not passing on my own genetic material so that it becomes available for future generations. Clearly, the fact that I am not doing my duty in this respect does not diminish my duty to future generations. Even suppose my genetic material is known to be so flawed that it is better for future generations that I don't have kids, still my duty to future generations is not extinguished by my disability.

What if I don't believe I have a duty to just any child I help bring into the world? It could be argued that my belief is irrelevant. Either I have the duty in question or I don't. Duties are objective.

However, if there is an objective duty to future generations, and there can be overlapping consensus in this regard, it follows that there must be an objective eugenic calculus we are obliged to obey in deciding when and under what circumstances we pass on our genetic material- in other words, we are obliged to visibly change our reproductive norms and behaviour to signal adherence to an overlapping consensus re. this objective duty.  Alternatively, this supposedly objective duty has no empirical test and may as well not exist because it changes nothing that is measurable except perhaps the quantum of  bullshit and boondoggle the voter and taxpayer has to put up with.

If the future fitness landscape is Uncertain in the Knightian sense, this objective eugenic calculus might well command men to rape or otherwise inseminate certain women under certain circumstances. Also, it would license forcible sterilization of the sort practised for much of the Twentieth Century by in certain American States and some Scandinavian countries.

Thus,  an objective duty to future generations may conflict with duties to existing people- e.g. the duty to prevent their rape or enforce their reproductive rights. However, if future generations can be conditioned to consider any type of sexual intercourse as consensual, it would still be the case that an objective duty to future generations could lead to a society ruled by an eugenic calculus in which behaviour we consider unconscionable and typifying the worst sort of serial rapist would in fact be normative.

Clearly an objective duty to future agents whose existence depends on our acts can be repugnant.
Could it possibly be beneficial?
Yes- provably so, if no Knightian uncertainty obtains.
But in that case, any evolutionary pressure upon our genetic material is undesirable.
Only conscious eugenic experimentation- or the perfection of cloning- is desirable because the future fitness landscape is known. We know better than Nature and must damp its ignorant attempts to course correct.
This is not a reasonable view.
Thus, a priori, we can say that an objective duty to future generations is not provably beneficial and possibly harmful. Furthermore, it is more naturally related to eugenics and misogyny than any environmental or cultural cause.
In my view, it is mischievous to posit an objective duty to future generations at all.
We wouldn't be here if evolution hadn't hard wired the thing into us.

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