The paradox of environmental ethics: Nietzsche's view of nature and the wild

Environmental Ethics 21 (2):163-175 (1999)

Authors
Martin Drenthen
Radboud University Nijmegen
Abstract
In this paper, I offer a systematic inquiry into the significance of Nietzsche’s philosophy to environmental ethics. Nietzsche’s philosophy of nature is, I believe, relevant today because it makes explicit a fundamental ambiguity that is also characteristic of our current understanding of nature. I show how the current debate between traditional environmental ethics and postmodern environmental philosophycan be interpreted as a symptom of this ambiguity. I argue that, in light of Nietzsche’s critique of morality, environmental ethics is a highly paradoxical project. According to Nietzsche, each moral interpretation of nature implies a conceptual seizure of power over nature. On the other hand, Nietzsche argues, the concept of nature is indispensable in ethics because we have to interpret nature in order to have a meaningful relation with reality. I show that awareness of this paradox opens a way for a form of respect for nature as radical otherness
Keywords Environmental Ethics  Nietzsche's philosophy of nature  Nietzsche's critique of morality
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DOI 10.5840/enviroethics199921229
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