The presidential address: nature, respect for nature, and the human scale of values

I. The development of the earth has not progressed in the way that Leibniz so hopefully envisaged three hundred years ago. Late twentieth century disillusion demonstrated by citation. II-IV. In making sense of that disillusion it is a good beginning to abstain from speculative extravagance and simply to bring the human scale of values to bear; then to inquire how far the destruction of that which we prize has been gratuitous or economically subsidized. The human scale of values is not a scale of exclusively human values. (Cp. Williams.) It gives no licence to the instrumentalist attitude. V. The swallow or the lapwing in Cambridgeshire (for instance) as a value recognized by the human scale of values, but misrepresented by many forms of economic analysis. The off-colour presuppositions of the question 'Can we afford to save the swallow in Cambridgeshire?' Will the natural framework be preserved for meaningful life, or will human beings face an aeon of inanition? VI. Every departure from policies of 'sustainability' to be justified by dire need. Incommensurability in the theory of practical reason, and in possible forms of politics. John Stuart Mill on a world with 'nothing left to the spontaneous activity of Nature'. VII. 'Nature' explicated by the use of three contrasts proposed by Hume. VIII. Respect for Nature? Roman religio and its secular-cum-precautionary counterpart. In risk analysis, are there moral asymmetries between assurable satisfaction of vital needs (one part of contentment) and probable provision of future benefits? Analogous asymmetries with respect to the reasonableness of the reliance on Nature under normal conditions and under radically altered conditions
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9264.00063
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