Many environmental problems are longitudinal collective action problems. They arise from the cumulative unintended effects of a vast amount of seemingly insignificant decisions and actions by individuals who are unknown to each other and distant from each other. Such problems are likely to be effectively addressed only by an enormous number of individuals each making a nearly insignificant contribution to resolving them. However, when a person’s making such a contribution appears to require sacrifice or costs, the problem of inconsequentialism arises: (...) given that a person’s contribution, although needed (albeit not necessary), is nearly inconsequential to addressing the problem and may require some cost from the standpoint of the person’s own life, why should the person make the effort, particularly when it is uncertain (or even unlikely) whether others will do so? In this article I argue that justifications for making the effort to respond to longitudinal collective action environmental problems are, on the whole, particularly well supported by virtue-oriented normative theories, on which character traits are evaluated as virtues and vices consequentially or teleologically and actions are evaluated in terms of virtues and vices. If ethical theories are to be assessed on their theoretical and practical adequacy, and if providing a compelling response to the problem of inconsequentialism is an instance of such adequacy, then this is a reason for preferring virtue-oriented ethical theory over non-virtue-oriented ethical theories, such as Kantian, act utilitarian, and global utilitarian theories. (shrink)
This article focuses on the follow question: Are human enhancement technologies likely to be justice impairing or justice promoting? We argue that human enhancement technologies may not be inherently just or unjust, but when situated within obtaining social contexts they are likely to exacerbate rather than alleviate social injustices.
If claims about which character traits are environmental virtues are to be more than rhetoric, there must be some basis or standard for evaluation. This naturalistic, teleological, pluralistic, and inclusive account of what makes a character trait an environmental virtue can be such a standard. It is naturalistic because it is consistent with and motivated by scientific naturalism. It is teleological becausecharacter traits are evaluated according to how well they promote certain ends. It is pluralistic because those ends are both (...) agent-relative and agent-independent. It is inclusive because it counts environmentally justified, environmentally responsive and environmentally productive virtues as environmental virtues. This theory of environmental virtue provides the basis for the development of a typology ofenvironmental virtue that includes virtues of sustainability, virtues of communion with nature, virtues of respect for nature, virtues of environmental activism, and virtues of environmental stewardship. (shrink)
Artefacts are often regarded as being mere things that possess only instrumental value. In contrast, living entities (or some subset of them) are often regarded as possessing some form of intrinsic (or non-instrumental) value. Moreover, in some cases they are thought to possess such value precisely because they are natural (i.e., non-artefactual). However, living artefacts are certainly possible, and they may soon be actual. It is therefore necessary to consider whether such entities should be regarded as mere things (like most (...) non-living artefacts) or as possessing intrinsic value (like many, if not all) living entities. That is, it is necessary to determine whether artefactualness is a value-relevant property with respect to the intrinsic value of living things. (shrink)
Julia Driver has argued that there is a class of virtues that are compatible with or even require that an agent be ignorant in some respect. In this paper I argue for an alternative conception of the relationship between ignorance and virtue. The dispositions constitutive of virtue must include sensitivity to human limitations and fallibility. In this way the virtues accommodate ignorance, rather than require or promote it. I develop my account by considering two virtues in particular: tolerance (the paradigm (...) for my account) and modesty (which Driver employs as the paradigm for her account). Although several philosophers have offered alternatives to Driver's account of modesty and others have discussed tolerance as a moral virtue, an adequate account of the role of ignorance in the specification of the virtues generally has yet to be provided. I believe that similarities between the two virtues are instructive for defining that role. (shrink)
Considerations of virtue and character appear from time to time in the agricultural biotechnology literature. Critics of the technologies often suggest that they are contrary to some virtue (usually humility) or do not fit with the image of ourselves and the human place in the world that we ought to embrace. In this article, I consider the aretaic or virtue-based objection that to engage in agricultural biotechnology is to exhibit arrogance, hubris, and disaffection. In section one, I discuss Gary Comstock's (...) treatment of this objection. In section two, I provide an alternative interpretation of the objection that more accurately reflects the concerns of those who offer the criticism than does Comstock's standard interpretation. In sections three and four, I assess the objection. I argue that despite its merits, the objection does not justify global opposition to agricultural biotechnology. Instead, it favors a limited endorsement position not unlike the one defended by Comstock. (shrink)
Martin Calkins proposes the “combined use of casuistry and virtue ethics as a way for both sides to move ahead on [the] pressing issue [of agricultural biotechnology].” However, his defense of this methodology relies on a set of mistaken, albeit familiar, claims regarding the normative resources of virtue ethics: (1) virtue ethics is egoistic; (2) virtue ethics cannot defend any particular account of the virtues as the objectively correct ones and is therefore inextricably relativistic; (3) virtue ethics cannot supply a (...) procedure for providing practical or policy guidance in concrete situations; and (4) virtue ethics cannot adequately account for the possibility of conflicting or partial virtues. After a brief overview of the basic structure of virtue ethics, I take up each of these misconceptions in turn. I conclude with some comments on the implications of these considerations for Calkins’s proposed methodology for addressing theissue of agricultural biotechnology. (shrink)
One concern about a virtue ethics approach to environmental ethics is that virtue ethics lack the theoretical resources to provide a specification of environmental virtue that does not pander to obtaining cultural practices and conceptions of the human-nature relationship. In this paper I argue that this concern is unfounded.
It is sometimes claimed that as members of the species Homo sapiens we have a responsibility to promote the good of Homo sapiens itself (distinct from the good of its individual members). Lawrence Johnson has recently defended this claim as part of his approach to resolving the problem of future generations. We show that there are several difficulties with Johnson's argument, many of which are likely to attend any attempt to establish the moral considerability of Homo sapiens or species generally. (...) Further, even if Homo sapiens were morally considerable, this would not ground an adequate response to the problem of future generations. The sort of moral considerability that would be appropriate to Homo sapiens, or species generally, would not be as robust nor have the implications that many have supposed. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. The value of species; 3. The conservation biology dilemma; 4. Assisted colonization; 5. Shifting goals and changing strategies; 6. The (in)significance of species boundaries; 7. Homo sapiens in particular; 8. Artifactual species; 9. Conclusion.
This article addresses the implications of rapid and uncertain ecological change, and global climate change in particular, for reserve oriented and restoration oriented ecosystem management. I argue for the following conclusions: (1) rapid and uncertain ecological change undermines traditional justifications for reserve oriented and restoration oriented ecosystem management strategies; (2) it requires rethinking ecosystem management goals, not just developing novel strategies (such as assisted colonization) to accomplish traditional goals; (3) species preservation ought to be deemphasized as an ecosystem management goal; (...) (4) reserve oriented ecosystem management remains well justified, but the goals for it must be revised. (shrink)
In this article I consider four concerns regarding the possibility of an environmental virtue ethic functioning as an alternative – rather than a supplement – to more conventional approaches to environmental ethics. The concerns are: (1) it is not possible to provide an objective specification of environmental virtue, (2) an environmental virtue ethic will lack the resources to provide critique of obtaining cultural practices and policies, (3) an environmental virtue ethic will not provide sufficient action-guidance, (4) an environmental virtue ethic (...) cannot ground constraints on human activities regarding the natural environment. Each of these concerns makes a claim about the poverty of normative resources at the disposal of environmental virtue ethics. I defend a conception of environmental virtue – as a character virtue with the same normative standing as the conventional personal and interpersonal virtues – that enables an environmental virtue ethic with the wherewithal to address each of the concerns. (shrink)
If virtue ethics are to provide a legitimate alternative for reasoning about environmental issues, they must meet the same conditions of adequacy as any other environmental ethic. One such condition that most environmental ethicists insist upon is that an adequate environmental ethic provides a theoretical platform for consistent and justified critique of environmentally unsustainable practices and policies. The external goods approach seeks to establish that any genuinely virtuous agent will be disposed to promote ecosystem sustainability on the grounds that ecosystem (...) sustainability is a necessary external good for cultivating the virtues and/or human flourishing. At most the external goods approach is able to provide an environmental ethic that in most contexts will require that any genuinely virtuous agent will have the goal of promoting a weak environmental sustainability. A better approach may be the substantive approach, which incorporates environmental concern and practice into the substance of the virtues, rather than as a boundary condition for any prospective virtue. (shrink)
Synthetic biology makes use of genetic and other materials derived from modern biological life forms to design and construct novel synthetic organisms. Artificial organisms are not constructed from parts of existing biological organisms, but from non-biological materials. Artificial and synthetic organisms are artefactual organisms. Here we are concerned with the non-instrumental value of such organisms. More specifically, we are concerned with the extent to which artefactual organisms have natural value, inherent worth and intrinsic value. Our conclusions are largely supportive of (...) the value of artefactual organisms. However, they do not constitute a comprehensive ethical evaluation of them. (shrink)
A central finding in experimental research identified with Embodied Cognition (EC) is that understanding actions involves their embodied simulation, i.e. executing some processes involved in performing these actions. Extending these findings, I argue that reenactment – the overt embodied simulation of actions and practices, including especially communicative actions and practices, within utterances – makes it possible to forge an integrated EC-based account of linguistic meaning. In particular, I argue: (a) that remote entities can be referred to by reenacting actions performed (...) with them; (b) that the use of grammatical constructions can be conceived of as the reenactment of linguistic action routines; (c) that complex enunciational structures (reported speech, irony, etc.) involve a separate level of reenactment, on which characters are presented as interacting with one another within the utterance; (d) that the segmentation of long utterances into shorter units involves the reenactment of brief audience interventions between units; and (e) that the overall meaning of an utterance can be stated in reenactment terms. The notion of reenactment provides a conceptual framework for accounting for aspects of language that are usually thought to be outside the reach of EC in an EC framework, thus supporting a view of meaning and linguistic content as thoroughly grounded in action and interaction. (shrink)
Symposium: A Changing Moral Climate With a discussion of Stephen Gardiner’s A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change (OUP 2012) Guest Editor: Marcello Di Paola Submission Deadline Long(1,000 words max): September 15, 2012 Full paper (10,000 words max, upon acceptance): January 15, 2013 Invited Contributors Simon Caney (University of Oxford), Dale W. Jamieson (New York University), Christopher Preston (University of Montana), RonaldSandler (NorthWestern University), and Stephen M. Gardiner (University of Washington).
Most of the philosophical work written on environmental issues focuses on notions such as rights, consequences, duties, etc. And most of the theoretical philosophy done in environmental ethics focuses on questions of whether animals, plants, or ecosystems have inherent value or moral standing independently of their usefulness to humans. A character-based approach has been largely neglected (despite a few important works). In this paper, I consider what a plausible environmental virtue ethics would look like. Specifically, I argue (pace Sandler) (...) that it would not require any distinct eco-virtue but would involve merely widening the scope of traditional virtues to include the non-human world. I further argue that a successful environmental virtue ethics would have to be pluralistic (involving more than one virtue) and would require the formulation of prima facie (rather than absolute) v-rules. Finally, borrowing from Naess, I suggest a way that eco-friendly character could be acquired. (shrink)