The atrocity paradigm applied to environmental evils

Ethics and the Environment 9 (1):85-93 (2004)
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Abstract

I am persuaded both by the theory of evil advanced by Claudia Card in The Atrocity Paradigm and by the idea that there are evils done to the environment; however, I argue that the theory of evil she describes has difficulty living up to her claim that it "can make sense of ecological evils the victims of which include trees and even ecosystems" (2002, 16). In this paper, I argue that Card's account of evil does not accommodate the kinds of harms inflicted on ecosystems and such nonhuman individuals as trees. I consider the possibility that Card intends a much broader version of evils than the language of the atrocity paradigm lets on, with its attention to sentience and dignity. I'm so persuaded by the atrocity paradigm, however, that I retain the centrality of suffering and introduce the idea that atrocities are intuitively massive, that is, done to groups or generations and not an individual person, animal or tree, so that the paradigm encourages us to think of evil as it relates to far more holistic entities which include the sentient. Evil may require the sort of suffering that only sentience can give rise to, which is not to say we let out trees but says rather that it is impossible to identify wrongs to ecosystems and groups that are not also intertwined with the fates of their sentient dependents. I conclude that Card is right to emphasize victims' suffering as a chief component of evil, and that the ontology of what constitutes a victim must be interpreted broadly, not the notion of suffering.

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Kathryn J. Norlock
Trent University

Citations of this work

Introduction to "Diálogos : A Special Edition on Environmental Philosophy".Shawn Simpson - 2024 - Diálogos. Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad de Puerto Rico 55 (114):9-16. Translated by Etienne Helmer.
Environmental atrocities and non-sentient life.Claudia Card - 2004 - Ethics and the Environment 9 (1):23-45.

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