Organism, community, and the "substitution problem"

Environmental Ethics 7 (3):241-256 (1985)
Holistic accounts of the natural environment in environmental ethics fail to stress the distinction between the concepts of comnlunity and organism. Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic” adds to this confusion, for it can be interpreted as promoting either a community or an organic model of nature. The difference between the two concepts lies in the degree of autonomy possessed by constituent entities within the holistic system. Members within a community are autonomous, while the parts of an organism are not. Different moral conclusions and environmental policies may result from this theoretical distinction. Treating natural entities as parts of an organism downgrades their intrinsic value as individual natural beings, since the only relevant moral criterion in an organic environmental ethic is the instrumental value that each natural entity has for the system. This ethic allows instances of the “substitution problem”-the replacement of one entity in an ecosystem by another provided that the overall functioning of the system is notharmed. However, since substitution violates environmentalist principles, for example, calling for respect for the integrity of the entities in a natural system, an organic environmental ethic must be rejected. A community model focuses on both the functional value and the autonomous intrinsie value of natural entities in a system. A community environmental ethic thus avoids the substitution problem
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.5840/enviroethics19857337
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,822
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

7 ( #291,451 of 1,724,741 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #167,193 of 1,724,741 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.