Ethical Theory and the Problem of Inconsequentialism: Why Environmental Ethicists Should be Virtue-Oriented Ethicists [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23 (1-2):167-183 (2010)
Many environmental problems are longitudinal collective action problems. They arise from the cumulative unintended effects of a vast amount of seemingly insignificant decisions and actions by individuals who are unknown to each other and distant from each other. Such problems are likely to be effectively addressed only by an enormous number of individuals each making a nearly insignificant contribution to resolving them. However, when a person’s making such a contribution appears to require sacrifice or costs, the problem of inconsequentialism arises: given that a person’s contribution, although needed (albeit not necessary), is nearly inconsequential to addressing the problem and may require some cost from the standpoint of the person’s own life, why should the person make the effort, particularly when it is uncertain (or even unlikely) whether others will do so? In this article I argue that justifications for making the effort to respond to longitudinal collective action environmental problems are, on the whole, particularly well supported by virtue-oriented normative theories, on which character traits are evaluated as virtues and vices consequentially or teleologically and actions are evaluated in terms of virtues and vices. If ethical theories are to be assessed on their theoretical and practical adequacy, and if providing a compelling response to the problem of inconsequentialism is an instance of such adequacy, then this is a reason for preferring virtue-oriented ethical theory over non-virtue-oriented ethical theories, such as Kantian, act utilitarian, and global utilitarian theories.
|Keywords||Virtue-oriented ethics Utilitarianism Kantian ethics Global environmental problems|
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References found in this work BETA
Derek Parfit (1984). Reasons and Persons. Oxford University Press.
Rosalind Hursthouse (1999/2001). On Virtue Ethics. Oxford University Press.
Philippa Foot (2001). Natural Goodness. Oxford University Press.
Tom Regan (2009). The Case for Animal Rights. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Noûs. Oxford University Press 425-434.
Christine Swanton (2003). Virtue Ethics: A Pluralistic View. Clarendon Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Luigi Cembalo, Giuseppina Migliore & Giorgio Schifani (2013). Sustainability and New Models of Consumption: The Solidarity Purchasing Groups in Sicily. [REVIEW] Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 26 (1):281-303.
Marcus Schultz-Bergin (2014). Making Better Sense of Animal Disenhancement: A Reply to Henschke. NanoEthics 8 (1):101-109.
Ronald Sandler (2011). Beware of Averages: A Response to John Nolt's 'How Harmful Are the Average American's Greenhouse Gas Emissions?'. Ethics, Policy and Environment 14 (1):31-33.
Christopher Morgan-Knapp & Charles Goodman (2015). Consequentialism, Climate Harm and Individual Obligations. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (1):177-190.
Elisabeth Graffy (2012). Agrarian Ideals, Sustainability Ethics, and US Policy: A Critique for Practitioners. [REVIEW] Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 25 (4):503-528.
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