Pragmatism in environmental ethics: Democracy, pluralism, and the management of nature

Environmental Ethics 21 (2):191-207 (1999)
Abstract
A growing number of contributors to environmental philosophy are beginning to rethink the field’s mission and practice. Noting that the emphasis of protracted conceptual battles over axiology may not get us very far in solving environmental problems, many environmental ethicists have begun to advocate a more pragmatic, pluralistic, and policy-based approach in philosophical discussions abouthuman-nature relationships. In this paper, we argue for the legitimacy of this approach, stressing that public deliberation and debate over alternative environmental ethics is necessary for a culture of democracy to be upheld in decision making and policy formulation. Then we argue for a democratically tempered environmental ethics that is grounded in a practical understanding of the character of moral claims regarding the natural world. We offer the results of an empirical study of environmental ethics held by the public to illustrate the diversity in their moral commitments to nature. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of the implications of this ethical pluralism for policy discussions about the management of American public lands
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