Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

The Role of Moral Principles in Resolving Intergenerational Conflicts of Interest

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Abstract:  With the increase of human power, intergenerational conflicts of interest have emerged as new problems, particularly in terms of environmental and financial sustainability. This study examined the role of moral principles in inducing people to act, taking into account the interests of future generations. A survey was conducted among a representative sample of Japanese citizens to investigate the function of eight moral principles in resolving conflicts in terms of participants’ assessment of the appropriateness of the principles and their willingness to follow them. With respect to the absolute level of the function of moral principles, the results offer some, albeit cautious, promise of a strategy to resolve conflicts through moral principles. Overall, participants responded positively to these principles. Furthermore, the survey revealed that older and more educated individuals responded better. Given their leading roles in society, this finding supports the use of the principles. However, it also suggests that reaching out to those who did not respond to the strategy is challenging. The study revealed that a non-negligible proportion of respondents had only weak responses to any of the principles and that they either needed to be exposed to different principles or provided with different resources to develop sensitivity to moral ideas. The survey also revealed the relative order of principles. Egalitarianism and utilitarianism scored lower, but some principles, including Mill’s harm principle and Scheffler’s argument that the survival of humanity and the world itself has value, scored higher.

Keywords:  climate change; experimental philosophy; fiscal policy; intergenerational conflicts; intergenerational ethics; moral principle


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© Toshiaki Hiromitsu. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.