In Search of Ecocentric Sentiments: Insights from the CAD Model in Moral Psychology

Environmental Ethics 35 (4):419-437 (2013)
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Abstract

One aspect of J. Baird Callicott’s foundational project for ecocentrism consists in explaining how moral consideration for ecological wholes can be grounded in moral sentiments. Some critics of Callicott have objected that moral consideration for ecological wholes is impossible under a sentimentalist conception of ethics because, on both Hume and Smith’s views, sympathy is our main moral sentiment and it cannot be elicited by holistic entities. This conclusion is premature. The relevant question is not whether such moral consideration is compatible with the moral psychologies elaborated by Hume and Smith themselves, but, rather, whether it is possible given the moral psychology human beings actually possess. To answer this question, we must turn to empirical moral psychology and consider the possibility of a sentimentalist ecocentrism based on the community, autonomy, diversity model, a very promising model of human moral psychology developed by psychologists Richard Shweder, Paul Rozin, and Jonathan Haidt. This model can be used to assess the possibility of grounding ecocentrism in human moral sentiments. In light of this assessment, ecocentrism should be understood as a new form of naturalistic ethics informed by the moral emotions of disgust, shame, awe, and wonder.

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