Geoethics: Ethics, Geography and Moral Understanding

Dissertation, University of Minnesota (2000)

Geoethics merges the horizons of ethics and geography, or more accurately, the horizons of distinct readings of ethics and geography. I approach this merging without assuming that ethics and geography have unique and mutually exclusive identities, nor that one should subsume or subordinate the other. Rather I see ethics and geography as distinct if overlapping traditions of scholarship, intellectual practices sharing a reciprocally informative constellation of interests in ethical knowledge. This constellation includes situated knowledge, contextual interpretation, and society/nature relations. From this merging, I trace three implications. First, geoethics uses geography's insight into the importance of context to avoid the major pitfalls of analytic moral thought---universalism and anthropocentrism---while navigating the equally problematic grounds of their binary opposites---relativism and misanthropism. Second, and in contrast to ethical theories stressing rigourous deduction from unitary moral principles, geoethics emphasizes a plurality of moral concepts situationally appropriate for a moral understanding of our world. Third, geoethics seeks a moral understanding that values the well-being of animals, humans and the rest of nature on our inextricably earth-bound and interconnected world, something I do through a geocentric value paradigm that recognizes a plurality of anthropofocused and non-anthropofocused values at multiple scales of existence and analysis
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