A philosophy for biodiversity?

Sahotra Sarkar’s Biodiversity and Environmental Philosophy is a welcome addition to the fields of environmental philosophy and the philosophy of science. First, his book has a rigorous and careful discussion of why we should preserve biodiversity. This is all the more important since much of environmental ethics has rested on normative claims which are unclear in meaning, appear unjustified at best and unjustifiable at worst, and are politically ineffective. Second, Sarkar is at home in the science of conservation biology and offers important analyses of methodological issues in both ecology and conservation biology. Third, his book does not sustain what might be thought of as a “North American bias” but takes seriously environmental issues and perspectives from many different places like Australia and India. In this commentary, I raise worries and open questions that can be divided into four sections: (a) those concerning moral philosophy, (b) those concerning ecology and in particular whether we are in an extinction crisis, (c) how biodiversity is defined as a concept, and (d) what the aim and structure of conservation biology is. Ultimately, though my analysis is critical at some junctures, its purpose is to repay and hopefully improve on Sarkar’s rewarding analysis. Let me now turn from praise to criticism
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