In David Schmidtz (ed.), Philosophy: Environmental Ethics. Boston: Gale. pp. 151-183 (2016)

Gary Comstock
North Carolina State University
This chapter concerns the role accorded to animals in the theories of the English-speaking philosophers who created the field of environmental ethics in the latter half of the twentieth century. The value of animals differs widely depending upon whether one adopts some version of Holism (value resides in ecosystems) or some version of Animal Individualism (value resides in human and nonhuman animals). I examine this debate and, along the way, highlight better and worse ways to conduct ethical arguments. I explain that two kinds of appeals (which I call intuition and reductio) are questionable foundations for environmental ethics and that representatives of both schools occasionally appeal unhelpfully to intuition or caricature the commitments of the other side. I review two stronger arguments for Ecoholism (inference and eco-organisms) and show that they have performed a useful function in environmental ethics. Ultimately, however, both arguments fail because their proponents are unable to answer four critical objections: weakness of will, no eco-organisms, no teleology, and is/ought. I then show that Animal Individualism operates on more secure footing when it comes to philosophical and scientific assumptions. I also propose that Animal Individualism is more likely to prove effective in establishing progressive environmental policies insofar as it builds on existing legal concepts, especially the concept of moral rights, and political institutions, such as democratic states. I note that wild animals are not inherently more valuable than domestic animals and, finally, offer a brief outline of an animal rights environmental ethic.
Keywords environmental ethics  animal ethics  ecoholism  animal rights  intuition  predation  reductio  individualism  meat eating  vegetarianism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Upload history
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.David L. Hull - 1997 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (3):435-438.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.Daniel C. Dennett - 1995 - American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 17 (2):235-240.
Animal Liberation: A Triangular Affair.J. Baird Callicott - 1980 - Environmental Ethics 2 (4):311-338.
The Nature and Possibility of an Environmental Ethic.Tom Regan - 1981 - Environmental Ethics 3 (1):19-34.

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Should the Lion Eat Straw Like the Ox? Animal Ethics and the Predation Problem.Jozef Keulartz - 2016 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 29 (5):813-834.
Animals, Relations, and the Laissez-Faire Intuition.Trevor Hedberg - 2016 - Environmental Values 25 (4):427-442.
Nonhuman Animal Property: Reconciling Environmentalism and Animal Rights.John Hadley - 2005 - Journal of Social Philosophy 36 (3):305–315.
Animal Rights and Human Needs.Angus Taylor - 1996 - Environmental Ethics 18 (3):249-264.
In Defense of Eating Vegan.Stijn Bruers - 2015 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 28 (4):705-717.
Animal Ethics: Toward an Ethics of Responsiveness.Kelly Oliver - 2010 - Research in Phenomenology 40 (2):267-280.
Animal Rights: Autonomy and Redundancy. [REVIEW]David Sztybel - 2001 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 14 (3):259-273.
Wild Animals and American Environmental Ethics.Lisa Mighetto - 1993 - Environmental Values 2 (3):276-277.
Human Diets and Animal Welfare: The Illogic of the Larder. [REVIEW]Gaverick Matheny & Kai M. A. Chan - 2005 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 18 (6):579-594.
Raising the Bar in the Justification of Animal Research. Galgut - 2015 - Journal of Animal Ethics 5 (1):5-19,.
Justification of Animal Rights Claim.Azam Golam - 2009 - Philosophy and Progress 43 (2):139-152.
Personhood and Animals.Elisa Aaltola - 2008 - Environmental Ethics 30 (2):175-193.


Added to PP index

Total views
1,148 ( #2,801 of 2,331,429 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
410 ( #730 of 2,331,429 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes