Inherited Obligations and Generational Continuity Academic Article uri icon


  • Those who believe that they have special obligations to their community — to their family, state or nation, clan, tribe, or cultural group — often insist that they have duties not merely to present and future members. They also claim to have responsibilities to, or in respect to, their predecessors. David Miller, in his defence of ‘nationality,’ claims that the existence of a nation as a historical community is one of the features which make it ‘a community of obligation.’ ‘“Because our forebears have toiled and spilt their blood to build and defend the nation, we who are born into it inherit an obligation to continue their work….’” Being a member of a nation, says Yael Tamir, requires individuals to keep faith with its history. Annette Baier thinks that if we fail to pass on our inherited public goods to our descendants we can be blamed not only for harming their interests but also for not carrying out the intentions of our forebears.

publication date

  • December 1999