A good philosophical understanding of ecology is important for a number of reasons. First, ecology is an important and fascinating branch of biology, with distinctive philosophical issues. Second, ecology is only one small step away from urgent political, ethical, and management decisions about how best to live in an apparently fragile and increasingly-degraded environment. Third, philosophy of ecology, properly conceived, can contribute directly to both our understanding of ecology and help with its advancement. Philosophy of ecology can thus be seen (...) as part of the emerging discipline of “biohumanities”, where biology and humanities disciplines together advance our understanding and knowledge of biology (Stotz and Griffiths 2008). In this paper, we focus primarily on this third role of the philosophy of ecology and consider a number of places where philosophy can play an important role in ecology. In the process, we survey some of the current research being done in philosophy of ecology, as well as make suggestions about the agenda for future research in this area. We also hope to help clarify what philosophy of ecology is and what it should aspire to be. In what follows, we discuss several topics in the philosophy of ecology and conservation biology, starting with the role and understanding of mathematical models. This is followed by a discussion of a couple of practical problems involving the standard model of hypothesis testing and the use of decision-theoretic methods in environmental science. We then move on to discuss the issue of how we should understand biodiversity, and why this matters for conservation management. Finally, we look at environmental ethics and its relationship with ecology and conservation biology. These four topics were chosen because they are all of contemporary interest in philosophy of ecology circles and are ones where there is much fruitful work still to be done. The topics in question are also useful vehicles for highlighting the variety of issues in ecology and conservation biology where philosophy might prove useful.. (shrink)
Philosophical interest in ecology is relatively new. Standard texts in the philosophy of biology pay little or no attention to ecology (though Sterelny and Griffiths 1999 is an exception). This is in part because the science of ecology itself is relatively new, but whatever the reasons for the neglect in the past, the situation must change. A good philosophical understanding of ecology is important for a number of reasons. First, ecology is an important and fascinating branch of biology with distinctive (...) philosophical issues that arise from its study. Second, ecology is only one small step away from urgent political, ethical, and management decisions about how best to live in an apparently increasingly-fragile environment. Third, philosophy of ecology, properly conceived, can contribute directly to both our understanding of ecology and help with its advancement. Philosophy of ecology can thus be seen as part of the emerging discipline of “biohumanities”, where biology and humanities disciplines together advance our understanding and knowledge of biology (Stotz and Griffiths forthcoming). In this paper, we focus primarily on this third role of the philosophy of ecology and consider a number of places where philosophy can play an important role in ecology. In the process, we.. (shrink)
Mark Colyvan (University of Sydney)∗ Stefan Linquist (University of Queensland) William Grey (University of Queensland) Paul E. Griffiths (University of Sydney) Jay Odenbaugh (Lewis and Clark College).
Epicurus notoriously argued that death at no time is a harm because before death there is no harm and after death there is no victim. The denial that death can be a harm to the one who dies has been challenged by various claims including (1) death is eternally bad for the victim (Feldman), (2) it is before death that it is bad for the victim (Feinberg and Pitcher), (3) death is bad for the victim but at no particular time (...) (Nagel), and (4) it is at the time of death that death is bad for the victim (Lamont). Nagel's account is more plausible and is consistent with the view that the temporal location of the harm of untimely death is best understood as the time when the decedent might otherwise have lived. (edited). (shrink)
Talk about time travel is puzzling even if it isn't obviously contradictory. Philosophers however are divided about whether time travel involves empirical paradox or some deeper metaphysical incoherence. It is suggested that time travel requires a Parmenidean four-dimensionalist metaphysical conception of the world in time. The possibility of time travel is addressed (mainly) from within a Parmenidean metaphysical framework, which is accepted by David Lewis in his defence of the coherence of time travel. It is argued that time travel raises (...) formidable difficulties which are not satisfactorily resolved by Lewis's ingenious defence of time travel. Objections to time travel considered include: (1) travel to other times is impossible because there is nowhere (or “nowhen”) to go to; (2) the problem that upon setting out on a journey to the past a time machine will collide with itself; (3) time travel generates a mysterious temporal dualism between experiential time and physical time; (4) travel to the past permits reverse causation, raising the possibility of causal loops and attendant problems arising, for example, from the prospect of empirical contradiction and the possibility of someone being one of their ancestors. (shrink)
The critique of traditional Western ethics, and in particular its anthropocentric foundations, is a central theme which has dominated environmental philosophy for the last twenty years. Anthropocentrism is widely identified as a fundamental source of the alienating and destructive attitudes towards the nonhuman world which are a principal target of a number of salient ecophilosophies. This paper addresses a problem about articulating the concern with anthropocentrism raised by the influencial formulations of deep ecology by nature liberation proponent Val Plumwood.
The moral status of future persons is problematic. It is often claimed that we should take the interests of the indefinite unborn very seriously, because they have a right to a decent life. It is also claimed (often by the same people) that we should allow unrestricted access to abortion, because the indefinite unborn have no rights. In this paper I argue that these intuitions are not in fact inconsistent. The aim is to provide an account of trans-temporal concern which (...) resolves the prima facie inconsistency between commonly held intuitions about our obligations to future persons. I argue that our intuitions can be reconciled provided that we explicate obligations to the future in terms of impersonal principles subject to retroactive person-affecting constraints. (shrink)