Public recognition of the fragility of the natural systems on which present and future generations depend has prompted calls for the practice of environmental stewardship—calls widely criticised in the environmental ethics literature. Some argue that stewardship's historical associations entail that it is inherently sexist, speciesist and/or anthropocentric. Others argue that absent belief in a creator to appoint us as stewards and hold us accountable, talk of 'environmental stewardship' is empty. I review the concept's recent evolution and provide a tentative definition. (...) I argue that so defined, it is not vulnerable to standard criticisms, but is instead a promising way of construing morally decent conduct towards the environment. (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)
Professions have traditionally treated advocacy as a collective duty, best assigned to professional associations to perform. In North American nursing, advocacy for issues affecting identifiable patients is assigned instead to their nurses. We argue that nursing associations’ withdrawal from advocacy for patient care issues is detrimental to nurses and patients alike. Most nurses work in large institutions whose internal policies they cannot influence. When these create obstacles to good care, the inability of nurses to affect change can result in avoidable (...) distress for them and for their patients. We illustrate this point with a case study: the circumstances of the death of Michael Joseph LeBlanc, an inmate at Kingston Penitentiary Regional Hospital (Ontario). We conclude that patients and their nurses will suffer unnecessarily unless or until nursing associations cease to burden individual nurses with the responsibility for patient advocacy. (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.