The Monist 75 (2):119-137 (1992)

John O’Neill
University of Manchester
To hold an environmental ethic is to hold that non-human beings and states of affairs in the natural world have intrinsic value. This seemingly straightforward claim has been the focus of much recent philosophical discussion of environmental issues. Its clarity is, however, illusory. The term ‘intrinsic value’ has a variety of senses and many arguments on environmental ethics suffer from a conflation of these different senses: specimen hunters for the fallacy of equivocation will find rich pickings in the area. This paper is largely the work of the underlabourer. I distinguish different senses of the concept of intrinsic value, and, relatedly, of the claim that non-human beings in the natural world have intrinsic value; I exhibit the logical relations between these claims and examine the distinct motivations for holding them. The paper is not however merely an exercise in conceptual underlabouring. It also defends one substantive thesis: that while it is the case that natural entities have intrinsic value in the strongest sense of the term, i.e., in the sense of value that exists independently of human valuations, such value does not as such entail any obligations on the part of human beings. The defender of nature’s intrinsic value still needs to show that such value contributes to the well-being of human agents.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Philosophy of Science
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ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI 10.5840/monist19927527
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Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Value.Michael J. Zimmerman - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A Distinction in Value: Intrinsic and for its Own Sake.Wlodek Rabinowicz & Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen - 2000 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100 (1):33–51.
Environmental Ethics.Andrew Brennan - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Luck and Interests.Nathan Ballantyne - 2012 - Synthese 185 (3):319-334.
The Ethics of De-Extinction.Shlomo Cohen - 2014 - NanoEthics 8 (2):165-178.

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