On the Origin of Species Notions and Their Ethical Limitations

In Tom L. Beauchamp & R. G. Frey (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Animal Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 577-602 (2011)

Authors
Mark Edward Greene
University of Delaware
Abstract
I argue that defenders of general duties of species preservation are faced with an impossible task. I distinguish derivative from non-derivative value and argue that the derivative value of species can yield only limited and contingent duties of preservation. There can be no general duty of species preservation unless all species have non-derivative value. Ongoing controversy over the ’species’ notion has not deterred some from claiming settled authority for whatever notion appears most conducive to their favored account of species value. This is a mistake. The actual task is to state biologically plausible criteria for a ’species’ notion and to make the case that these criteria demarcate something of moral value. I argue that the task is made impossible by the same basic biological facts that led Darwin to the view that species are “merely artificial combinations made for convenience.‘.
Keywords speciation species ethics ANIMAL environment Conservation
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