Hume’s readers love to hate the Sensible Knave. But hating the Knave is like hating a messenger with bad tidings. The message is that there is a gap, on Hume’s account, between our motivations and our obligations to just action. But it isn’t the Knave’s character that is to blame, for the same gap will be found if we turn our attention to alter egos, such as Robin Hood, the benevolent “Prince of Thieves.” Replacing self-interest with benevolence not only does (...) not make the gap go away, it makes it harder to bridge. Of thetwo, it is benevolence, not self-interest, that actually poses the more serous challenge to Hume’s account of justice. (shrink)
Genetically modified food crops have been called ‘frankenfoods’ since 1992. Although some might dismiss the phenomena as clever marketing by anti-GM groups, of no philosophic interest, its resonance with the general public suggests otherwise. I argue that examination of the intersection of popular conceptions of monsters, nature, and food at which ‘frankenfood’ stands reveals significant and disturbing trends in our relationship to organic nature of interest to moral and social philosophy and to environmental ethics.
Norton argues on pragmatic “Deweyan” grounds that we should cease to ask scientists for value neutral definitions of “sustainability,” developed independently of moral and social values, to guide our environmental policy making debates. “Sustainability,” like human “health,” is a normative concept from the start—one that cannot be meaningfully developed by scientists or economists without input by all the stake holders affected. While I endorse Norton’s approach, I question his apparent presumption that concern for sustainability for the future is at odds (...) with and ought to trump concern for enhancement in the present of public opportunities to access the goods nature represents. I argue that the two are not separable in practice. I argue for Passmore’s position that unless we take care to enhance equitable access to the good and services nature represents in the present, we cannot succeed in promoting sustainability for future generations. (shrink)
: William James's "The Will to Believe" has been criticized for offering untenable arguments in support of belief in unvalidated hypotheses. Although James is no longer accused of suggesting we can create belief ex nihilo, critics continue to charge that James's defense of belief in what he called the "religious hypothesis" confuses belief with hypothesis adoption and endorses willful persistence in unvalidated beliefs—not, as he claimed, in pursuit of truth, but merely to avoid the emotional stress of abandoning them. I (...) argue that James's position in "The Will to Believe" can be defended provided we give up thinking of it as ethics of belief and think of it instead as an ethics of self-experimentation. Subjective data (including wants, needs, and desires) are relevant to rational consent to participation in research. (shrink)
According to current definitions of civil disobedience, drawn from the work of John Rawls and Carl Cohen, eco-saboteurs are not civil disobedients because their disobedience is not a form of address and/or does not appeal to the public's sense of justice or human welfare. But this definition also excludes disobedience by a wide range of groups, from labor activists to hunt saboteurs, either because they are obstructionist or because they address moral concerns other than justice or the public weal. However (...) earlier definitions of civil disobedience were not so narrow. I review the development of the current definition and the circumstances of its acceptance. I argue that the circumstances which help to explain the attractiveness of the Rawls/Cohen formulations in the 1970s are no longer applicable and that the question of civil disobedience should be revisited. I suggest a wider definition according to which at least some types of eco-sabotage would be civil disobedience. (shrink)
What virtues do good stewards typically have and can these virtues move people to be good stewards of nature? Why focus on the virtues of stewards rather than on trying to construct and defend morally obligatory rules to govern human behavior? I argue that benevolence and loyalty are crucial for good stewardship and these virtues can and do motivate people to act as good stewards of nature. Moreover,since it is a matter of dispute whether rational considerations can move us to (...) perform a given act in the absence of disposition to do so, I argue we should try to determine which moral dispositions (if any) will motivate people to be concerned for the environment so that the development of environmentally sensitive character may be encouraged. (shrink)
Does Leopold’s land ethic principle represent a break with traditional We stern moral philosophies as some have argued? Or is it instead an extension of traditional Western moral ideas as Leopold believed? I argue that Leopold’s principle is compatible with an ecologically-informed Kantianism.