The land ethic, moral development, and ecological rationality

Southern Journal of Philosophy 45 (1):149-175 (2007)
Abstract
There has been significant debate over both the imiplications and the merit of Leopold’s land ethic. I consider the two most prominent objections and a resolution to them. One of these objections is that, farfrom being an alternative to an “economic” or cost–benefit perspective on environmental issues, Leopold’s land ethic merely broadens the range of economic considerations to be used in addressing such issues. The other objection is that the land ethic is a form of “environmental fascism” because it subordinates the welfare of humans to the good of the ecological whole. I argue that these objections are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of his theory by advocates and detractors alike. The land ethic is centrally a psychological theory of moral development and ecological rationality that advocates a shift in the way that environmental problems are conceptualized and approached
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