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1. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Paul Steidlmeier The Morality of Pollution Permits
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The Clean Air Act of 1990 sets forth a system of tradable permits in pollution allowances. In this article, I examine the moral implications of such marketable allowances as a means to achieving a clean air environment. First, I examine the “ends sought” in environmental policy by discussing foundational ethical perspectives. Second, I set forth a framework for judging the moral suitability of various means. I conclude with reflections on interest group power, public policy, and the legitimacy of “second best” solutions.
2. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Clive L. Spash Economics, Ethics, and Long-Term Environmental Damages
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Neither environmental economics nor environmental philosophy have adequately examined the moral implications of imposing environmental degradation and ecosystem instability upon our descendants. A neglected aspect of these problems is the supposed extent of the burden that the current generation is placing on future generations. The standard economic position on discounting implies an ethicaljudgment concerning future generations. If intergenerational obligations exist, then two types of intergenerational transfer must be considered: basic distributional transfers and compensatory transfers. Basic transfers have been the central intergenerational concern of both environmental economics and philosophy, but compensatory transfers emphasize obligations of a kind often disregarded.
3. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Elspeth Whitney Lynn White, Ecotheology, and History
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Controversy about Lynn White’s thesis that medieval Christianity is to blame for our current environmental crisis has done little to challenge the basic structure of White’s argument and has taken little account of recent work done by medieval scholars. White’s ecotheological critics, in particular, have often failed to come to grips with White’s position. In this paper, I question White’s reading of history on both interpretative and factual grounds and argue that religious values cannot be treated independently of the political, economic, and social conditions that sustain them. I conclude that medieval religious values were more complex than White suggests: rather than causing technological innovation, they more likely provided a justification for other activity taking place for other reasons.
4. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
James Fieser Callicott and the Metaphysical Basis of Ecocentric Morality
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According to the theory of ecocentric morality, the environment and its many ecosystems are entitled to a direct moral standing, and not simply a standing derivative from human interests. J. Baird Callicott has offered two possible metaphysical foundations for ecocentrism that attempt to show that inherent goodness can apply to environmental collections and not just to individual agents. I argue that Callicott’s first theory fails because it relies on a problematic theory of moral sentiments and that his second theory fails because it rests on an unsupported parallel between the breakdown of the subject-object dichotomy suggested by quantum theory and an alleged actualization of morality upon the interaction of environmental collections with consciousness. Finally, I argue that Callicott overrates the need for a metaphysical grounding of inherent value, and that the metaphysical question has little bearing on the normative issue of ecocentrism.
5. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Karen J. Warren, Jim Cheney Ecosystem Ecology and Metaphysical Ecology: A Case Study
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We critique the metaphysical ecology developed by J. Baird Callicott in “The Metaphysical Implications of Ecology” in light of what we take to be the most viable attempt to provide an inclusive theoretical framework for the wide variety of extant ecosystem analyses—namely, hierarchy theory. We argue that Callicott’s metaphysical ecology is not consonant with hierarchy theory and is, therefore, an unsatisfactory foundation for the development of an environmental ethic.
6. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 4
Roland C. Clement On Conservative Misinterpretation
7. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 4
J. Baird Callicott On Warren and Cheney’s Critique of Callicott’s Ecological Metaphysics
8. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 4
Henry J. Folse, Jr. The Environment and the Epistemological Lesson of Complementarity
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Following discussions by Callicott and Zimmerman, I argue that much of deep ecology’s critique of science is based on an outdated image of natural science. The significance of the quantum revolution for environmental issues does not lie in its alleged intrusion of the subjective consciousness into the physicists’ description of nature. Arguing from the viewpoint of Niels Bohr’s framework of complementarity,I conclude that Bohr’s epistemological lesson teaches that the object of description in physical science must be interaction and that it is now mistaken to imagine that physical science aims to represent nature in terms of properties it possesses apart from interaction.
9. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 4
Keekok Lee Instrumentalism and the Last Person Argument
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The last person, or people, argument (LPA) is often assumed to be a potent weapon against a purely instrumental attitude toward nature, for it is said to imply the permissible destruction of nature under certain circumstances. I distinguish between three types of instrumentalism—strong instrumentalism (I) and two forms of weak instrumentalism: (IIa), which includes the psychological and aesthetic use ofnature, and (IIb), which focuses on the public service use of nature—and examine them in terms of two scenarios, the après moi, le déluge and the “ultimate humanization of nature” scenarios. With regard to the first, I show that LPA is irrelevant to all the three versions of instrumentalism. With regard to the second scenario, I show that even though it is redundant insofar as (I) is concerned and irrelevant insofar as (IIa) is concerned, it is, surprisingly, effective against (IIb), despite the fact that as a form of weak instrumentalism it is not the target of LPA. In addition, I examine the implications of LPA for the three variants when it is applied to the preservation rather than the destruction of nature and conclude that LPA is effective against (I) and (IIb), but not as effective against (IIa), which can recognize a permission, though not a duty, to save nature.
10. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 4
Thomas H. Birch Moral Considerability and Universal Consideration
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One of the central, abiding, and unresolved questions in environmental ethics has focused on the criterion for moral considerability or practical respect. In this essay, I call that question itself into question and argue that the search for this criterion should be abandoned because (1) it presupposes the ethical legitimacy of the Western project of planetary domination, (2) the philosophical methods that are andshould be used to address the question properly involve giving consideration in a root sense to everything, (3) the history of the question suggests that it must be kept open, and (4) our deontic experience, the original source of ethical obligations, requires approaching all others, of all sorts, with a mindfulness that is clean of any a priori criterion of respect and positive value. The good work that has been doneon the question should be reconceived as having established rules for the normal, daily consideration of various kinds of others. Giving consideration in the root sense should be separated from giving high regard or positive value to what is considered. Overall, in this essay I argue that universal consideration—giving attention to others of all sorts, with the goal of ascertaining what, if any, direct ethical obligations arise from relating with them—should be adopted as one of the central constitutive principles of practical reasonableness.
11. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 15 > Issue: 4
Tom Cheetham The Forms of Life: Complexity, History, and Actuality
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A fundamental misapprehension of the nature of our being in the world underlies the general inhumanity and incoherence of modern culture. The belief that abstraction as a mode of knowing can be universalized to provide a rational ground for all human knowledge and action is a pernicious and unacknowledged background to several modern diseases. Illustrative of these maladies is the seeming dichotomy between the aesthetic and the analytic approaches to nature. One critical arena in which the incoherences of our current understandings of our place in nature come to light is in the battle over the environment. I argue that a more adequate conceptualization of our place in the natural world can be erected if the central metaphors for our understanding are grounded in notions derived from the sciences of life. The key concepts must include contingency, historicity, evolution, organism, and imaginative interaction with concrete reality in individual human beings
12. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Tim Hayward Universal Consideration as a Deontological Principle
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A major problem that skeptical critics have identified with the project of environmental ethics as it is often conceived is that it involves the search for a criterion of moral considerability, and some claim that this search has not only been unsuccessful, but it is in principle mistaken. Birch has recently argued that this whole problem can be avoided through his proposal of universal consideration in a “root sense,” which applies to all beings, with no exceptions marked by any of the criteria proposed by others. I argue that the strengths of this proposal are its openness to new value discoveries and its focus on agents’ practices. Its flaw is its failure to account convincingly for how values are ever formulated or obligations generated. Hence, it does not represent a viable alternative to the approach he rejects. However, rather than return to that approach, I suggest that Birch’s own line of argument could be developed more consistently if, from his starting point of “deontic experience,” one were to develop an explicitly deontological ethic that focuses more decisively on moral consideration as opposed to moral considerability.
13. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Rebecca Raglon, Marian Scholtmeijer Shifting Ground: Metanarratives, Epistemology, and the Stories of Nature
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Recent discussions concerned with the problematical human relationship with nature have justifiably focused on the important role that language plays in both defining and limiting knowledge of the natural world. Much concern about language among environmental thinkers has been focused at the semantic level—proposing and analyzing definitions of certain key terms, such as anthropocentric, biocentric, wilderness, ecology, or holistic. Work at the semantic level, however, has had very little effect in challenging the scientific metanarrative of nature which is based on the primacy of objective knowledge. Using examples from three postmodern stories, we suggest that the only real challenge to the way humans presently construct and understand their relationship to nature can be found at the narrative level. In our discussion of these stories, we show that nature ceases to be a passive, designified object of the human eye. The result of these narrative shifts is a conception of nature composed of other subjects and otherrealities rather than a nature rendered meaningless by objectivity.
14. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Douglas J. Buege The Ecologically Noble Savage Revisited
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The stereotype of the “ecologically noble savage” is still prevalent in European-American discourses. I examine the empirical justifications offered for this stereotype, concluding that we lack sound empirical grounds for believing in “ecological nobility.” I argue that the stereotype should be abandoned because it has negative consequences for native peoples. Instead of accepting questionable stereotypes, philosophers and others should focus on the lives of particular peoples in order to understand their philosophies as well as the relationships that they maintain with their homelands.
15. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Sara Ebenreck Opening Pandora’s Box: The Role of Imagination in Environmental Ethics
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While the activity of imagination is present in much writing about environmental ethics, little direct attention has been given to clarifying its role. Both its significant presence and provocative theoretical work showing the central role of imagination in ethics suggest a need for discussion of its contributions. Environmental ethicists especially should attend to imagination because of the pervasive influence of metaphorical constructs of nature and because imaginative work is required to even partially envision the perspective of a nonhuman being. Without clear awareness of the limits of contemporary Western metaphoric constructs of nature, environmental ethicists may overlook or even contribute to the cultural extinction of ideas of nature present in the imaginative visions of indigenous cultures. In this article, I briefly review the reasons why the dominant Western philosophical tradition ranks imagination below the power of abstract reasoning, survey contemporary ideas about the role of imagination in ethics, and consider the implications of these ideas for environmental ethics. The work of imaginative empathy in constructing what might be the experience of nonhuman beings, the role of diverse metaphors and symbols in understanding nature, and the process of envisioning the possible future are developed as three central contributions of imagination to environmental ethics. Imaginative work is not peripheral, butcomplementary to the work of reason in shaping an environmental ethic.
16. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Julia Meaton, David Morrice The Ethics and Politics of Private Automobile Use
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Despite growing awareness of its various problems, private automobile use is still seen as an inviolable individual freedom. We consider the ethical arguments for and against private automobile use with particular reference to John Stuart Mill’s theory of freedom. There is much evidence to show that private automobile use is an other-regarding harmful activity that is, therefore, on Mill’s terms, liable to public control. Although it cannot be an entirely self-regarding activity, we consider private automobile use in this category and argue that even on Mill’s terms it can properly be subjected to extensive control. We also challenge Mill’s theory and argue that private automobile use lacks adequate moral justification. We then consider the policy implications of this ethical argument and review some of the policy options available. We conclude that although an immediate total ban on private automobile use is justifiable, it is inadvisable at this time and that more limited, but effective control should be implemented in preparation for a total ban.
17. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Mohammed H. I. Dore The Problem of Valuation in Neoclassical Environmental Economics
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In this paper I argue that the criterion of valuation in neoclassical economics is flawed because it is not an invariant measure of value. It is invariant only when unrealistically restrictive conditions are imposed on the class of admissible utility functions, which in fact makes it a special case. The only sensible alternative is to turn to classical value theory based on real sacrifices or opportunity costs.
18. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 4
Hugh Williams What is Good Forestry?: An Ethical Examination of Forest Policy and Practice in New Brunswick
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Public concern for ecological and environmental values is making the job of forest management increasingly complex and uncertain and is gradually undermining the domination of timber value as the primary organizing goal of forest policy. The key question is how to balance the pursuit of short-term economic self-interests with the long-term public good. I articulate a moral theory that affirms the existence of a public good that is understood teleologically as an objective purpose to be pursued. I argue that there is a connection between the philosophical and moral concept of creativity and the scientific concept of biological diversity. I suggest that these concepts are both linked to the political question of the public good. The maximization of the ethical good of creativity according to this theory is linked to the maximization of the public good. In forestry, the management of forest ecosystems in order to maximize their creative good is linked to the maximization of the public good and vice versa. This ethical theory isessentially a religious one in the neoclassical theistic tradition, in which authentic human existence is defined in terms of our relationship to reality and a metaphysically and cosmologically informed world view.
19. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 4
Eric H. Reitan Deep Ecology and the Irrelevance of Morality
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Both Arne Naess and Warwick Fox have argued that deep ecology, in terms of “Selfrealization,” is essentially nonmoral. I argue that the attainment of the ecological Self does not render morality in the richest sense “superfluous,” as Fox suggests. To the contrary, the achievement of the ecological Self is a precondition for being a truly moral person, both from the perspective of a robust Kantian moral frameworkand from the perspective of Aristotelian virtue ethics. The opposition between selfregard and morality is a false one. The two are the same. The ecological philosophy of Naess and Fox is an environmental ethic in the grand tradition of moral philosophy.
20. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 18 > Issue: 4
J. Baird Callicott Do Deconstructive Ecology and Sociobiology Undermine Leopold’s Land Ethic?
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Recent deconstructive developments in ecology (doubts about the existence of unified communities and ecosystems, the diversity-stability hypothesis, and a natural homeostasis or “balance of nature”; and an emphasis on “chaos,” “perturbation,” and directionless change in living nature) and the advent of sociobiology (selfish genes) may seem to undermine the scientific foundations of environmental ethics, especially the Leopold land ethic. A reassessment of the Leopold land ethic in light of these developments (and vice versa) indicates that the land ethic is still a viable environmental ethic, if judiciously updated and revised.