College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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deconstruction, environmental ethics, intergenerational ethics, Italian philosophy, nuclear energy


This dissertation argues that contemporary nuclear waste policy instrumentalizes future generations in order to alleviate the obligations that present generations might otherwise find impossible to discharge, such as the safe inheritance of wastes that will remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years. Present generations are understood by policy-framers to have acted responsibly when future generations are overdetermined so as to make future generations into better custodians of present generations’ waste. For this reason, I argue that the continued use of nuclear energy under current conditions is unjustified. By undertaking a thorough reading of contemporary nuclear waste policy and central strands of environmental and intergenerational ethics, I establish the failure of these policies to center responsibility in a meaningful way. I offer a critique of present-privileging ethical frameworks that draws on contemporary European philosophy, especially the works of Jacques Derrida and Antonio Gramsci. I conclude by articulating a future-oriented and non-determinative relation of responsibility of use for thinking ethics in a time of crucial environmental, technological, and political decisions with long-term impacts.

Available for download on Friday, July 09, 2032