Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What are our responsibilities to ourselves and our descendents?

From the New York Times Dot Earth blog, here are some excerpts from Sophie's World author Jostein Gaarder:

"On intergenerational responsibility:
An important basis for all ethics has been  The Golden Rule or the Principle of Reciprocity: you shall do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But the golden rule can no longer just have a horizontal dimension – in other words a “we” and “the others.” We must realize that the Principle of Reciprocity also has a vertical dimension: you shall do to the next generation what you wished the previous generation had done to you.
On the slow, steady, incomplete moral evolution of humanity:
The greatest triumph of philosophy to date may be the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights were not given us by the powers above. Nor were they pulled out of thin air either. They mark the end of a 1,000-year-long process of maturation.
Ten years into the 21st century, the question may be posed: how long can we speak of our “rights” without at the same time focusing on our responsibilities? Perhaps we need a new universal declaration? The time is ripe for a Universal Declaration of Human Obligations.
Finally, he spoke about the responsibility, if we use up a finite resource, to fill the gap for those to come:
Based on the Principle of Reciprocity, we should only permit ourselves to use non-renewable resources to the extent that we at the same time pave the way for our descendants to be able to manage without the same resources.
 You can hear it his whole speech, starting at 8:56 here:

Do Humans Need a Golden Rule 2.0?


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