Convergence in environmental values: An empirical and conceptual defense

Ethics, Place and Environment 3 (1):47 – 60 (2000)
Bryan Norton's convergence hypothesis, which predicts that nonanthropocentric and human-based philosophical positions will actually converge on long-sighted, multi-value environmental policy, has drawn a number of criticisms from within environmental philosophy. In particular, nonanthropocentric theorists like J. Baird Callicott and Laura Westra have rejected the accuracy of Norton's thesis, refusing to believe that his model's contextual appeals to a plurality of human and environmental values will be able adequately to provide for the protection of ecological integrity. These theoretical criticisms of convergence, however, have made no real attempt to engage the empirical validity of the hypothesis, the dimension that Norton clearly takes to be the centerpiece of his project. Accordingly, the present paper attempts to provide an empirical analysis of the convergence argument, by means of a study of the Vermont public's environmental commitments and their attitudes toward national forest policy. Our findings support a generalized version of Norton's thesis, and lead us to suggest that environmental philosophers should try to be more inclusive and empirically minded in their discussions about public moral claims regarding nature.
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