Neosentimentalist accounts of value need an explanation of which of the sentiments they discuss are pro-attitudes, which attitudes are con-attitudes, and why. I argue that this project has long been neglected in the philosophical literature, even by those who make extensive use of the distinction between pro- and con-attitudes. Using the attitudes of awe and respect as exemplars, I argue that it is not at all clear what if anything makes these attitudes pro-attitudes. I conclude that neither our intuitive sense (...) of the distinction nor the vague accounts of it that exist in the philosophical literature are especially helpful in sorting out the hard cases. What is needed is a more explicit and thorough account of what the valence of our attitudes consists in. (shrink)
Neosentimentalism provides environmental ethics with a theory of value that might be particularly useful for solving many of the problems that have plagued the field since its early days. In particular, a neosentimentalist understanding of value offers us hope for making sense of (1) what intrinsic value might be and how we could know whether parts of the natural world have it; (2) the extent to which value is an essentially anthropocentric concept; and (3) how our understanding of value could (...) be compatible with both a respectable naturalism and a robust normativity. (shrink)
This essay provides an overview of the field of environmental ethics. I sketch the major debates in the field from its inception in the 1970s to today, explaining both the central tenets of the schools of thought within the field and the arguments that have been given for and against them. I describe the main trends within the field as a whole and review some of the criticisms that have been offered of prevailing views.
Bryan Norton argues that my recent critique of anthropocentrism presupposes J. Baird Callicott's philosophically problematic distinction between intrinsic and instrumental value and that the problems that it raises for anthropocentrism in general are in fact only problems for strong anthropocentrism. I argue, first, that my own view does not presuppose Callicott's distinction, nor any claims about instrumental value, and second, that the problems it raises for anthropocentrism apply to weak and strong anthropocentrism alike.
Many recent critical discussions of anthropocentrism have focused on Bryan Norton's 'convergence hypothesis': the claim that both anthropocentric and nonanthropocentric ethics will recommend the same environmentally responsible behaviours and policies. I argue that even if we grant the truth of Norton's convergence hypothesis, there are still good reasons to worry about anthropocentric ethics. Ethics legitimately raises questions about how to feel, not just about which actions to take or which policies to adopt. From the point of view of norms for (...) feeling, anthropocentrism has very different practical implications from nonanthropocentrism; it undermines some of the common attitudes – love, respect, awe – that people think it appropriate to take toward the natural world. (shrink)
Recent critics (Andrew Light, Bryan Norton, Anthony Weston, and Bruce Morito, among others) have argued that we should give up talk of intrinsic value in general and that of nature in particular. While earlier theorists might have overestimated the importance of intrinsic value, these recent critics underestimate its importance. Claims about a thing’s intrinsic value are claims about the distinctive way in which we have reason to care about that thing. If we understand intrinsic value in this manner, we can (...) capture the core claims that environmentalists want to make about nature while avoiding the worries raised by contemporary critics. Since the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic value plays a critical role in our understanding of the different ways that we do and should care about things, moral psychology, ethical theory in general, and environmental ethics in particular shouldn’t give up on the concept of intrinsic value. (shrink)
On most understandings of what an ecosystem is, it is a kind of thing that can be literally, not just metaphorically, healthy or unhealthy. Health is best understood as a kind of well-being; a thing’s health is a matter of retaining those structures and functions that are good for it. While it is true both that what’s good for an ecosystem depends on how we define the system and that how we define the system depends on our interests, these facts (...) do not force us to the conclusion that an ecosystem has no good of its own. Ecosystems and persons can have goods of their own in spite of the fact that the schemes we use to categorize them are matters that we decide upon. (shrink)