Political respect for nature

Philosophy and Social Criticism 47 (2):241-266 (2021)
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Abstract

Political respect for nature is an important part of cultivating a more emancipatory and ecologically sustainable politics. As a political principle, it can supplement respect for persons with institutional mechanisms that formally constrain how human power may be exercised over non-human beings and things and that require us to use our power in ways that are attentive to nature’s well-being along with our own. Moreover, when internalized by citizens as part of their shared political ethos and public culture, respect for nature has the potential to protect against the abuse of power in our interpersonal relations with Earth’s non-human parts. Political respect for nature means acknowledging that non-human beings and things count, that they deserve to be treated according to standards of right and that there are principled limits to how human power may be exercised over them. It means formalizing these constraints in the basic structure of society and fostering a public culture of self-restraint and responsiveness.

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