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161. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Daniel P. Thero Rawls and Environmental Ethics
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The original position contractarian model of ethical reasoning put forth by John Rawls has been examined as a basis for an environmental ethic on three previous occasions in this journal and in Peter Wenz’s Environmental Justice. In this article, I critically examine each of these treatments, analyzing the proposals offered and identifying their shortcomings. I find a total of seven different proposals in this literature for modifying Rawls’ theory to augment its adequacy or as a ground environmental ethics. The diverse difficulties that arise in attempting to apply Rawls suggest the conclusion that Rawlsian ethics may not be a suitable foundation for an adequate long-term environmental ethics.
162. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
L. M. Benton Selling the Natural or Selling Out?
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In the twenty years since the first Earth Day, the environmental movement has become increasingly “commercialized.” In this paper, I examine why many environmental organizations now offer an array of products through catalogs and magazines, or manage stores and outlets. In part one, I explore some of the economic and political influences during the 1970s and 1980s that resulted in increased organizational sophistication and an increased production of environmental products. The part two, I explore the “commercialization” of environmentalism from two angles. First, in terms of a deconstructionist critique of the system of commodities and image, I demonstrate that when environmental organizations partake in this consumer culture, they actually reproduce precisely the values and institutions that they criticize. Second, from a “constructionist” perspective, I argue that environmental products can re-enchant or reconnect people with nature, and thus can help change cultural attitudes about human-naturerelationships. I conclude that environmental products are contradictory because environmental merchandise is juxtaposed uneasily between environmental ideological rhetoric and material ambition. Environmental organizations must recognize this ambiguity before they can deal with the problem effectively.
163. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Wim J. van der Steen The Demise of Monism and Pluralism in Environmental Ethics
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Peter Wenz has recently distinguished various forms of moral pluralism in an effort to dissolve the controversy over monism and pluralism. I argue that the distinctions are not really helpful once the methodology and the substance of science are brought to bear on ethics. Theories in ethics and science alike are subject to context-dependent methodological trade-offs. Hence, the category of theories should be heterogeneous. Monism and pluralism are at cross-purposes since they endorse different unanalyzed notions of theory. Awareness of heterogeneity among theories is helpful in dismissing the controversy.
164. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Brian K. Steverson Contextualism and Norton’s Convergence Hypothesis
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Toward Unity among Environmentalists is Bryan Norton’s most developed effort to surmount the frequently intractable debate between anthropocentrists and nonanthropocentrists. Norton argues that the basic axiological differences between the two positions have become irrelevant at the level of policy formation. His thesis is that the two camps converge when dealing with practical goals and aims for environmental management. I argue that Norton’s approach falls significantly short of establishing such a convergence because of the overall methodological framework for policy formation that he defends. The key problem with that framework is that it fails to provide for the degree of species protection most suitable to the nonanthropocentrist position.
165. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Leslie Paul Thiele Nature and Freedom: A Heideggerian Critique of Biocentric and Sociocentric Environmentalism
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A reformulation of our understanding of freedom is required if we are adequately to confront the environmental crisis. Engaging the debate between biocentric ecologists and sociocentric ecologists, I argue that the biocentric effort to ascribe rights (negative liberty) to nature is misbegotten. In turn, I suggest that the sociocentric effort to seek ecological realignment through the extension of human reason (positive liberty) is equally problematic. Martin Heidegger, who rejects both “negative” and “positive” notions of liberty, offers an understanding of human freedom that constitutes an ecologically attuned alternative.
166. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Judith N. Scoville Value Theory and Ecology in Environmental Ethics: A Comparison of Rolston and Niebuhr
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The objective of Holmes Rolston, III’s writings has been the development of an “ecologically formed” environmental ethics based both on environmental values and ecological description. I show how recasting Rolston’s value theory in terms of H. Richard Niebuhr’s relational value theory can clarify and strengthen this project. Niebuhr developed a theory of value in which value is found in relationships and value systems are constructed in relation to centers of value. Niebuhr’s contextual method, with which Rolston’s methodology has substantial affinity, is particularly open to the use of such sciences as ecology. I conclude that this recasting of Rolston’s important work in terms of relational value and contextual method can clarify the use of ecology in ethics (including the is/ought dichotomy) and can contribute to ethical reflection on such difficult problems as the spotted owl controversy.
167. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
James P. Sterba From Biocentric Individualism to Biocentric Pluralism
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Drawing on and inspired by Paul Taylor’s Respect for Nature, I develop a view which I call “biocentric pluralism,” which, I claim, avoids the major criticisms that have been directed at Taylor’s account. In addition, I show that biocentric pluralism has certain advantages over biocentric utilitarianism (VanDeVeer) and concentric circle theories (Wenz and Callicott).
168. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Deborah Slicer Is There an Ecofeminism–Deep Ecology “Debate”?
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I discuss six problems with Warwick Fox’s “The Deep Ecology–Ecofeminism Debate and Its Parallels” and conclude that until Fox and some other deep ecologists take the time to study feminism and ecofeminist analyses, only disputes—not genuine debate—will occur between these two parties. An understanding of the six issues that I discuss is a precondition for such a debate.
169. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Andrew Kernohan Rights against Polluters
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When there is only one source of pollution, the language of rights is adequate for justifying solutions to pollution problems. However, pollution is often both a public and an accumulative harm. According to Feinberg, an accumulative harm is a harm to some person brought about by the actions of many people when the action of no single person is sufficient, by itself, to cause the harm. For example, although no single car emits enough exhaust to do any harm, the emissions from many cars can accumulate to an unhealthy level. In this paper, I argue that rights, understood in terms of the will theory of Hart and the interest theories of Lyons and Raz, cannot justify protecting people from public, accumulative harms. I conclude that pollution regulation should focus not on protecting people’s rights, but on preventing harm to people’s interests.
170. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Denis Collins, John Barkdull Capitalism, Environmentalism, and Mediating Structures
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How can an environmental ethic be developed that encompasses the concerns of both free market proponents and environmentalists? In this article we approach the environment-market debate using Adam Smith’s writings in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, The Wealth of Nations, and Lectures on Jurisprudence. Smith’s guiding principle for solving prominent conflicts of self-interest is that government intervention is required when the economic activities of some cause harm to others. The solution that follows from Smith’s analysis is a governmentfunded, independent, democratically controlled, and democratically accountable mediating structure that derives impartial decisions and is authorized to impose its just and fair decisions on affected parties. In practical terms, this analysis provides the ethical foundation for the wide-ranging development of stakeholder panels composed of public interest group representatives and business representatives and empowered to develop solutions to public conflicts arising out of environmental problems.
171. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Terri Field Caring Relationships with Natural and Artificial Environments
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A relational-self theory claims that one’s self is constituted by one’s relationships. The type of ethics that is said to arise from this concept of self is often called an ethics of care, whereby the focus of ethical deliberation is on preserving and nurturing those relationships. Some environmental philosophers advocating a relational-self theory tend to assume that the particular relationships that constitute the self will prioritize the natural world. I question this assumption by introducing the problem of artifact relationships. It is unclear whether a relational-self theory recognizes relationships with the artificial world as beingmeaningful in any moral sense, and whether such relationships, if they can exist, should be accorded equal value to relationships with the natural world. The problem of artifact relationships becomes particularly apparent when the relational-self theory is linked to place-based ethics. If our ethics are to develop from our relations to place, and our place is largely an artificial world, is there not a danger that our ethical deliberations will tend to neglect the natural world? I adapt Holmes Rolston’s concept of “storied residence” to show how the inclusion of the artificial world will lead to different questions regarding one’s resident environment, and perhaps a different emphasis on what is valued. My aim in raising these questions is to challenge the optimism that writers such as Karen Warren and Jim Cheney have shown in supporting relational-self theories and place-based ethics. I conclude that the challenge to develop a relational-self/place-based ethic does not appear to have been met within Western environmental philosophy, which has perpetuated a silence on the matter of our embedment in the artificial world.
172. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Troy W. Hartley Environmental Justice: An Environmental Civil Rights Value Acceptable to All World Views
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In accordance with environmental injustice, sometimes called environmental racism, minority communities are disproportionately subjected to a higher level of environmental risk than other segments of society. Growing concern over unequal environmental risk and mounting evidence of both racial and economic injustices have led to a grass-roots civil rights campaign called the environmental justice movement. The environmental ethics aspects of environmental injustice challenge narrow utilitarian views and promote Kantian rights and obligations. Nevertheless, an environmentaljustice value exists in all ethical world views, although it involves a concept of equitable distribution of environmental protection that has been lacking in environmental ethics discussion.
173. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
John van Buren Critical Environmental Hermeneutics
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Local, national, and international conflicts over the use of forests between logging companies, governments, environmentalists, native peoples, local residents, recreationalists, and others—e.g., the controversy over the spotted owl in the old-growth forests of the Northwestern United States and over the rain forests in South America—have shown the need for philosophical reflection to help clarify the basic issues involved. Joining other philosophers who are addressing this problem, my own response takes the form of a sketch of the rough outlines of a critical environmental hermeneutics. I apply hermeneutics, narrative theory, and critical theory to environmental ethics, and use this hermeneutical theory as a method to illuminate the “deep” underlying issues relating to the perception and use of forests. In applying this method, I first take up the analytical problem of identifying, clarifying, and ordering the different interpretive narratives about forests in terms of the underlying epistemological, ethical, and political issuesinvolved. I then address the critical problem of deciding conflicts between these different interpretations of forests by working out a set of legitimation criteria to which all parties concerned would ideally be able to subscribe.
174. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Janna Thompson Aesthetics and the Value of Nature
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Like many environmental philosophers, I find the idea that the beauty of wildernesses makes them valuable in their own right and gives us a moral duty to preserve and protect them to be attractive. However, this appeal to aesthetic value encounters a number of serious problems. I argue that these problems can best be met and overcome by recognizing that the appreciation of natural environments and the appreciation of great works of arts are activities more similar than many people have supposed.
175. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 4
Janis Birkeland Neutralizing Gender
176. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 4
Nicholas Agar Valuing Species and Valuing Individuals
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My goal in this paper is to account for the value of species in terms of the value of individual organisms that make them up. Many authors have pointed to an apparent conflict between a species preservationist ethic and moral theories that place value on individuals. I argue for an account of the worth of individual organisms grounded in the representational goals of those organisms. I claim thatthis account leads to an acceptably extensive species preservationist ethic.
177. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 4
Frederick Ferré Value, Time, and Nature
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Notoriously, beauty is subject to time’s “tooth”; but—somehow—we sense also the imperviousness of achieved value to mere duration. This paradox is illustrated using a recent art event, and three principles analyzed from the case in point: (1) the exclusive intrinsic importance of subjective immediacy, (2) the necessity of intersubjective connections, and (3) the crucial place of instrumental value. Moving from art to metaphysics to nature, I conclude with discussions of habitat and of evolution. Only if a habitat’s instrumental value (for many centers of subjective immediacy besides human ones) is adequately respected can anthropocentric values be prevented from always “trumping” all others. I reconsider evolution in terms of many interconnected value-realizing subjects, presenting the proffered “kalogenic” perspective as a manifestation of the most fundamental process of the universe—one in which the pursuit, actualization, and defense of concrete beauty actually generates what we abstractly call “time.”
178. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 4
Judith M. Green Retrieving the Human Place in Nature
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The present worldwide ecological crisis challenges both some fundamental Western cultural assumptions about human relationships to nature and the efficacy of democratic institutions in transforming these relationships appropriately and in a timely manner. I discuss what kind of ecophilosophy is most feasible and desirable in guiding rapid and effective response to the present crisis in the short term, as well as positive cultural transformation in the West toward sound natural and social ecology in the longer term. I argue that decontextualized liberal ecophilosophies and related deep ecologies are inadequate to these purposes and propose a Green transformative framework that “re-places” humans within nature, “re-positions” our understanding of ourselves in relation to the land, “re-pairs” intrinsic values in nature with human responsibilities, and “re-directs” the effective use of participatory democratic institutions in transforming public policy.
179. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 4
Bryan G. Norton Why I am Not a Nonanthropocentrist: Callicott and the Failure of Monistic Inherentism
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I contrast two roles for environmental philosophers—“applied philosophy” and “practical philosophy”—and show that the strategy of applied philosophy encourages an axiological and monistic approach to theory building. I argue that the mission of applied philosophy, and the monistic theory defended by J. Baird Callicott, in particular, tends to separate philosophers and their problems from real management issues because applied philosophers and moral monists insist that theoretical exploration occurs independent of, and prior to, applications in particular situations. This separation of theory and practice suggests that philosophers are likely to be effective in policy discussions only to the degree that they can offer unquestioned theories that adjudicate real problems. Callicott offers his monistic, ontological approach as universal guidance to environmental activists and decision makers, arguing that ecosystems and communities are moral subjects that can “own” their own inherent value. Callicott’s theory, however, faces a crucial, unanswered theoretical dilemma which illustrates the impossibility of the dual task Callicott has set for his theory—to provide a single, ontological unification of ethics under nonanthropocentric holism and to capture the fine nuances of ethical obligations as experienced in varied communities. I also show that monistic assumptions have led to an unfortunate interpretation ofAldo Leopold’s land ethic and that a pluralist and pragmatist direction is likely to provide a more efficacious and theoretically defensible direction for further study of environmental philosophy in a more practical mode.
180. Environmental Ethics: Volume > 17 > Issue: 4
Donald Scherer Evolution, Human Living, and the Practice of Ecological Restoration
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Critiques of ecological restoration have rested on the human/natural distinction. In opposition to the difficulties involved in that distinction, I provide a sketch of an evolutionary account of human existence. The instability of environments—beyond individual human control—conditions human life and sets the dynamic for human action. Human interdependence makes human monitoring of human interaction central. I interpret Leopold as concerned about the divergence between ecosystemic and economic value. In the face of reiterative prisoners’ dilemmas arising significantly from problems of scale, the moral imperative is the creation of practices that tolerate ecosystemic degradation minimally and those only in the face of threats to human existence. Against this background, I show that the value of ecological restoration is ambivalent.