Persons in Nature: Toward an Applicable and Unified Environmental Ethics

Ethics and the Environment 1 (1):15 - 25 (1996)
There is a dilemma facing mainstream environmental ethicists. One of our leading spokesmen, Holmes Rolston, III, offers a rich ethical position, but one that lacks internal connections between principles relevant to the environment and principles relevant to human society. These principles are just different; thus no higher-order guidance is available to cope with cases of conflict between them. A second major spokesman, Baird Callicott, recommends a "land ethics" that is internally coherent but sadly inadequate for addressing many distinctly human ethical concerns. To escape this dilemma I advocate an alternative worldview, "Personalistic Organicism." On this view, inspired by Alfred North Whitehead, a continuum of values, pervading the universe, can undergird a unified ethics in which human persons are recognized as especially valuable without rupturing the continuities that bind humanity to the rest of the living (and nonliving) environment.
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