Questions In Environmental Ethics & types of environmental ethics The roots of environmental degradation What are they?
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& types of
What are they?
Agriculture displaced sustainable foraging lifeways, beginning 10,000 years agoAgricultures destroyed ecosystems and the foraging societies that had co-evolved with themPaul Shephard
Critics cite 4 anti-nature tendencies in western religions
4) The sacred is beyond the world - earth is devalued in favor of heavenly hopes
Christians & Jews respond landscapes are Holy, Promised Lands
Critics blame its “dualism,” viewing humans as separate from and superior to nature
Rene Descartes (1596-1650): believed that animals have no minds and cannot suffer
Humans have minds and souls, they are different from animals
His famous dictum -- `I think, therefore I am’ -- suggested to him that thought reveals not only existence, but also human superiority
So for Descartes, HUMANS are separate from nature and superior to it.
And the natural world became an objectified "thing."
Some critics say this objectification of nature is a key to science and ‘progress’Rene Descartes is often blamed
Critics say he promoted a view of nature as a machine.
See, e.g., New Atlantis "a mechanistic utopia"--1624
Many passages reveal that he thought nature was like women and slaves: They should be bound into the service of men
Many scholars think such thinking shaped the anti-nature views of Judaism and Christianity, and thus warped human-nature relations in the westFrancis Bacon is also blamed
Whose interests count?
Whose interests must we consider?
(1) address -- Animal Liberation: How can you measure pleasure/suffering
a perennial problem with utilitarianism
(2) Animal Rights: boundary of moral considerability is very restrictive
and many plants and animals left out.
(3) Feinberg, Regan and Singer base standing on human traits: having interests, capacity to suffer, beings subjects-of-a-life"
I.e.: only if animals are like us in some important way will we grant them standingProblems with individualistic approaches:
How should we decide who should be the trustee for non-rational, morally considerable entities?
(5) Individualistic approaches provide no basis for prioritizing concern for endangered speciesProblems with individualistic approaches:
Precursors include Albert Schweitzer's "reverence for life" ethics and Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics: stressing character traits; awe, the inherent worth of each life
Paul Taylor's Respect for Nature (1986)
Living things have a good of their own, a will to live, and end of their own. Thus they have inherent worth
With this perspective comes morally responsible behavior toward nature. Also:
(1) humans are member of earth's life community
(2) all species part of interdependent ecological system
(3) all life pursues own good in own ways
(4) Humans not inherently superior (all life has moral standing)Biocentrism life centered ethics
Still pre-ecological ethics and Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics: stressing character traits; awe, the inherent worth of each life
not really focused on ecosystems, but on individual life forms.Biocentrism- key problem
Precursors: ethics and Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics: stressing character traits; awe, the inherent worth of each life
Henry David Thoreau
Aldo Leopold’s watershed Land Ethic, 1949"All ethics rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts.”
Leopold argued that ethics involves self-imposed limitations on freedom of action and is derived from the above recognitionEcocentrism: ecosystem centered ethics
A land-use decision "is right when it tends to preserve the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
Leopold spoke of the land as an organism, as alive.
"the complexity of the land organism" is the outstanding 20th century discovery."
This is a mystical revelation that sounds like pantheism and anticipates James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis
The Land Ethic: "changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the [land-] community as such."Leopold’s ecosystem-centered ethics
Arguing the earth is a self-regulating living system that maintains the conditions for the perpetuation of life, James Lovelock advanced the Gaia Hypothesis.
Although not intended as an ‘ethics,’ a biosphere-centered (large-ecocentric) ethics has been deduced from it, claiming:
People ought not degrade this wonderful system in such a way that it can not function to keep its systems within the various delicate margins necessary for lifeLovelock’s holistic planetary Gaia theory
Ethics and Environmental Ethics maintains the conditions for the perpetuation of life, James Lovelock advanced
The Gradual Extension of Moral Concern