Incalculable Instrumental Value in the Endangered Species Act

Philosophia 50 (5):2249-2262 (2022)
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The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of America’s most powerful statutes, not only in American domestic environmental law, but in American domestic law in general. The first part of the ESA gives us the ‘Findings, Purposes, and Policy’ that underlie the Act. In this prefratory language, it is explicit that the ESA is referring to instrumental aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific values. But J. Baird Callicott and Andrew Wetzler argued that the ESA is also implicitly committed to endangered species having intrinsic value. I argue that the best explanation of the seeming tacit intrinsic value in the ESA is not that such value really is implicit in the ESA; rather, the best explanation is that the ESA is committed to instrumental value with a certain feature that has not been carefully considered in the environmental ethics/philosophy literature before, that of incalculable instrumental value, in this case held by endangered species.



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Ian Smith
Washburn University