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Philosophy student Eline van Slijpe wins J.C. Baak Prize

Eline van Slijpe wrote her Master of Philosophy thesis on intergenerational justice: does the current generation have obligations towards future generations? With this thesis she won the biannual J.C. Baak Prize.

Things that we do affect the future and therefore future generations. But do current generations have obligations towards future generations? And if so, how far does this intergenerational justice go? 

With her thesis, Eline tries to answer these questions with the concept of justice in mind. She came up with the idea to write her thesis about this topic because of climate issues. 'I think we do far too little to protect our living environment. Instead, we are saddling future generations with huge climate issues. I wanted to research what could form a theoretical basis for obligations towards future generations.'

Obligations of Justice

In her thesis, she applies coercion theory to the relationship between current and future generations. Eline explains: 'This theory assumes that obligations of distributive justice - what is a socially just distribution of benefits and burdens - exist within a state because the state exerts coercion on its citizens. This would imply that intergenerational obligations exist when there is a relationship of coercion between current and future generations.'

Eline concludes that current generations do indeed influence future generations and you could conceptualize this relationship as coercion. Coercion theory can provide a basis for intergenerational obligations, but she believes other existing theories about the basis of obligations of justice are also interesting to explore. 'I hope that through this kind of research, more attention will be paid to the interests and rights of future generations.'

Eline's thesis Coercion Theory and Intergenerational Justice; An inquiry into the implications of coercion as the ground of justice for the intergenerational realm is publicly available (open access) and can be found in the Student Repository. 

Tips for writing a thesis

Previously, Eline wrote a thesis for her master's degree in Law. Both times the writing process followed the same pattern: 'first, enthusiasm about the subject. Then, a period with a lot of headaches and then a lot of enjoyment when the story starts to take shape more and more.' Fortunately, the end result is something to be proud of.

Does she have any tips for students? ‘Talk about your thesis a lot, with your thesis supervisor, but also with fellow students and friends who know little about the subject. It makes things clearer for yourself and provides unexpected perspectives!’

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The J.C. Baak Prize is awarded every two years by the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW). The prize consists of a sum of 2,000 euros for the best master's thesis in the field of philosophy, law, political science, international relations or sociology that is relevant to peaceful coexistence between peoples. 

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