The Role of Humility and Intrinsic Goods in Preserving Endangered Species

Environmental Ethics 32 (2):165-182 (2010)
Abstract
Environmental groups have worked tirelessly to save several species of endangered fish along the Colorado River, including the humpback chub (Gila cypha). The humpback chub does not seem to have any significant instrumental goods, but these environmentalists have championed its cause nonetheless. If the humpback chub has no instrumental goods, then appealing to another kind of goods is needed to show that it should be preserved. Some environmental ethicists have suggested appealing to the intrinsic goods of a species (or, alternatively, its intrinsic value or inherent value). Drawing on and going beyond John O’Neill’s work, it can be argued that all currently existing (biological) species have their own goods, or intrinsic goods. In terms of the notion of flourishing, the intrinsic goods of a species consist in its abilities to flourish. These goods can be used to construct a defense of the view that a species, even a species such as the humpback chub, ought to be preserved. One way to construct this defense is to appeal to virtue ethics, specifically the virtue of humility. Exercising the virtue of humility in our relations with species that we human beings have endangered involves preserving them along with preserving their intrinsic goods
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