Recent work in applied ethics has advanced a raft of arguments regarding individual responsibilities to address collective challenges like climate change or the welfare and environmental impacts of meat production. Frequently, such arguments suggest that individual actors have a responsibility to be more conscientious with their consumption decisions, that they can and should harness the power of the market to bring about a desired outcome. A common response to these arguments, and a challenge in particular to act-consequentialist reasoning, is that (...) it “makes no difference” if one takes conscious consumption action or not – that one is “causally impotent” to change an outcome. In this paper, I break causal impotence objections into three distinct lines of argument and present causal indeterminacy as a third, unexplored variation of much more common causal impotence lines. I suggest that the causal indeterminacy argument presents additional challenges to consequentialist moral theory because it acknowledges that individual actions can have an impact on outcome, but suggests instead that the outcome can neither be known nor secured by the action itself. (shrink)
Ever since Kenneth Goodpaster published his article "On Being Morally Considerable," environmental ethicists have been engaged in a debate over whether animals, plants, and other natural objects matter morally (Goodpaster 1978). Many, if not most, theorists have treated the problem of moral considerability as a problem of status, arguing that earlier ethical positions have unjustifiably given privileged status to one group of beings over others. They have then proceeded in one of two ways. Either they have appealed to intrinsic value (...) and absolute ends, suggesting that there are somehow non-anthropocentric, objective values "out there," outside of human considerations; or they have appealed to subjective or .. (shrink)
A "moral hazard" is a market failure most commonly associated with insurance, but also associated by extension with a wide variety of public policy scenarios, from environmental disaster relief, to corporate bailouts, to natural resource policy, to health insurance. Specifically, the term "moral hazard" describes the danger that, in the face of insurance, an agent will increase her exposure to risk. If not immediately clear, such terminology invokes a moral notion, suggesting that changing one's exposure to risk after becoming insured (...) is morally problematic. This paper challenges that position. It argues that there is nothing inherently moral about the moral hazard. It does so by arguing against three proposed claims regarding the wrongness of the moral hazard: first, the view that conceives of it as deception; then, the view that conceives of it as cheating; and finally, the view that conceives of it as stealing. (shrink)
Should we restore degraded nature, and if so, why? Environmental theorists often approach the problem of restoration from perspectives couched in much broader debates, particularly regarding the intrinsic value and moral status of natural entities. Unfortunately, such approaches are susceptible to concerns such as the baseline problem, which is both a philosophical and technical issue related to identifying an appropriate restoration baseline. Insofar as restoration ostensibly aims to return an ecosystem to a particular baseline state, and depends upon clearly identifying (...) this baseline for success, the very project of restoration appears impossible to get off the ground. Recasting environmental restoration in terms of obligations, instead of status, value, or worth, can avoid this and other classic challenges. If obligations to restore nature follow from intersubjectively validated reasons to justify our actions, we can salvage restoration from the threat of the baseline problem. (shrink)
Many geoengineering projects have been proposed to address climate change, including both solar radiation management and carbon removal techniques. Some of these methods would introduce additional compounds into the atmosphere or the ocean. This poses a difficult conundrum: Is it permissible to remediate one pollutant by introducing a second pollutant into a system that has already been damaged, threatened, or altered? We frame this conundrum as the ‘‘Problem of Permissible Pollution.’’ In this paper, we explore this problem by taking up (...) ocean fertilization and advancing an argument that rests on three moral claims. We first observe that pollution is, in many respects, a context-dependent matter. This observation leads us to argue for a ‘‘justifiability criterion.’’ Second, we suggest that remediating actions must take into account the antecedent conditions that have given rise to their consideration. We call this second observation the ‘‘antecedent conditions criterion.’’ Finally, we observe that ocean fertilization, and other related geoengineering technologies, propose not strictly to clean up carbon emissions, but actually to move the universe to some future, unknown state. Given the introduced criteria, we impose a ‘‘future-state constraint’’. We conclude that ocean fertilization is not an acceptable solution for mitigating climate change. In attempting to shift the universe to a future state geoengineering sidelines consideration of the antecedent conditions that have given rise to it —conditions, we note, that in many cases involve unjustified carbon emissions —and it must appeal to an impossibly large set of affected parties. (shrink)
Engineering the Climate: The Ethics of Solar Radiation Management is a wide-ranging and expert analysis of the ethics of the intentional management of solar radiation. This book will be a useful tool for policy-makers, a provocation for ethicists, and an eye-opening analysis for both the scientist and the general reader with interest in climate change.
In this paper we examine the relation between technologies that aim to remediate pollution and moral responsibility. Contrary to the common view that successful remediation technologies will permit the wheels of industry to turn without interruption, we argue that such technologies do not exculpate polluters of responsibility. To make this case, we examine several environmental and non-environmental cases. We suggest that some strategies for understanding the moral problem of pollution, and particularly those that emphasise harms, exclude an important dimension of (...) morality. In lieu of these strategies, we employ the concept of respect to characterise the type of attitude that underlies many of our judgments about responsibility. (shrink)
This article introduces a non-human version of the non-identity problem and suggests that such a variation exposes weaknesses in several proposed person-focused solutions to the classic version of the problem. It suggests first that person-affecting solutions fail when applied to non-human animals and, second, that many common moral arguments against climate change should be called into question. We argue that a more inclusive version of the person-affecting principle, which we call the ‘patient-affecting principle’, captures more accurately the moral challenge posed (...) by the non-identity problem. We argue further that the failure of person-affecting solutions to solve non-human versions of the problem lend support to impersonal solutions to the problem which avoid issues of personhood or species identity. Finally, we conclude that some environmental arguments against climate change that rely on the notion of personal harm should be recast in impersonal terms. (shrink)
The term moral considerability refers to the question of whether a being or set of beings is worthy of moral consideration. Moral considerability is most readily afforded to those beings that demonstrate the clearest relationship to rational humans, though many have also argued for and against the moral considerability of species, ecosystems, and “lesser” animals. Among these arguments there are at least two positions: “environmentalist” positions that tend to emphasize the systemic relations between species, and “liberationist” positions that tend to (...) emphasize the attributes or welfare of a particular individual organism. Already, this classic conflict provides for some challenging theoretical clashes between environmentalists and animal liberationists. The question of moral considerability is complicated, however, by recent developments in genetic engineering. Some animals, like pigs and fish, have been genetically modified by humans to grow organs that can then be transplanted into humans. If environmental arguments for the moral consideration of species are correct, then we are released from our obligations to morally consider those animals that we have genetically modified, since they are by their nature always an “invader species.” If, instead, the welfare of the animal is of penultimate importance, then there is a case for strengthening the moral considerability of GM animals over “naturally-occurring” animals, since they bear a closer relationship to humans. This would appear to be an intractable problem, a “bad marriage,” as Mark Sagoff once proposed. This paper argues that the case of invasive transgenic animals exposes weaknesses in this classic conflict, and particularly, in the framing of this conflict. To remedy this framing problem, this paper argues for a reconceptualization of the term “moral considerability,” instead urging a strong distinction between moral considerability, moral relevance, and moral significance. (shrink)
This article argues that teachers of environmental ethics must more aggressively entertain questions of private property in their work and in their teaching. To make this case, it first introduces the three primary positions on property: occupation arguments, labor theory of value arguments, and efficiency arguments. It then contextualizes these arguments in light of the contemporary U.S. wise-use movement, in an attempt to make sense of the concerns that motivate wise-use activists, and also to demonstrate how intrinsic value arguments miss (...) the mark. Finally, it offers some suggestions about further directions for environmental ethics, reasoning that there is a good deal of headway to be gained for environmental ethics by accepting that nature can be owned as property, but nevertheless engaging the idea of private property critically. (shrink)
Recent advancements in stem-cell research have given scientists hope that new technologies will soon enable them to grow a variety of organs for transplantation into humans. Though such developments are still in their early stages, romantic prognosticators are hopeful that scientists will be capable of growing fully functioning and complex organs, such as hearts, kidneys, muscles, and livers. This raises the question of whether such profound medical developments might have other potentially fruitful applications. In the spirit of innovation, this paper (...) examines the ethical ramifications of a spin-off technology that has just begun being considered by scientists and enthusiastic entrepreneurs: animal organs grown, independently of their host animals, for food. -/- Most importantly, this paper presents the homegrown organs market as a philosopher's Gedankenexperiment come true. By comparing three of the primary arguments against the use of animals for meat production -- Peter Singer's Utilitarianism, Tom Regan's Kantianism, and Cora Diamond's non-cognitivism -- this paper proposes that the case of organs grown in a laboratory for food further accentuates the point that the critical moral difference between an animal and a slab of meat lies in the way in which the animal interacts with us, not in specific attributes or values intrinsic to that animal. It suggests that our main impetus for not eating, and even for protecting, animals ought to be grounded in our sense of who we are, in our own practical identity as ethical agents, which develops over a long course of interactive interrelations with human and non-human others. (shrink)
Designer Biology: The Ethics of Intensively Engineering Biological and Ecological Systems consists of thirteen chapters that address the ethical issues raised by technological intervention and design across a broad range of biological and ecological systems. Among the technologies addressed are geoengineering, human enhancement, sex selection, genetic modification, and synthetic biology.
_The Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics_ is comprised of sixty original essays, which focus on how ethical questions intersect with real and pressing policy issues. Rather than overviewing abstract conceptual categories, the authors focus on specific controversies involving the environment. Clearly written contributions on Fossil Fuels, Urban Sustainability, Novel Ecosystems, and many other subjects make accessible these issues‘ empirical and political dimensions as well as their theoretical underpinnings. Written to be accessible for undergraduates and general readers, but comprehensive enough to (...) be a useful reference work for researchers in a variety of related fields, it promises to be an invaluable resource for better understanding the ethical landscape of our environmental world. (shrink)
A brief foray into a moral thicket, exploring why we should protect nature despite tsunamis, malaria, bird flu, cancer, killer asteroids, and tofu. Most of us think that in order to be environmentalists, we have to love nature. Essentially, we should be tree huggers—embracing majestic redwoods, mighty oaks, graceful birches, etc. We ought to eat granola, drive hybrids, cook tofu, and write our appointments in Sierra Club calendars. Nature's splendor, in other words, justifies our protection of it. But, asks Benjamin (...) Hale in this provocative book, what about tsunamis, earthquakes, cancer, bird flu, killer asteroids? They are nature, too. For years, environmentalists have insisted that nature is fundamentally good. In The Wild and the Wicked, Benjamin Hale adopts the opposite position—that much of the time nature can be bad—in order to show that even if nature is cruel, we still need to be environmentally conscientious. Hale argues that environmentalists needn't feel compelled to defend the value of nature, or even to adopt the attitudes of tree-hugging nature lovers. We can acknowledge nature's indifference and periodic hostility. Deftly weaving anecdote and philosophy, he shows that we don't need to love nature to be green. What really ought to be driving our environmentalism is our humanity, not nature's value. Hale argues that our unique burden as human beings is that we can act for reasons, good or bad. He claims that we should be environmentalists because environmentalism is right, because we humans have the capacity to be better than nature. As humans, we fail to live up to our moral potential if we act as brutally as nature. Hale argues that despite nature's indifference to the plight of humanity, humanity cannot be indifferent to the plight of nature. (shrink)
U.S. conservation policy, both in structure and in practice, places a heavy burden on conservationists to halt development projects, rather than on advocates of development to defend their proposed actions. In this paper, we identify this structural phenomenon in several landmark environmental policies and in practice in the contemporary debate concerning oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The burdens placed on conservation can be understood in terms of constraints—as conservation ‘floors’ and degradation ‘ceilings’. At base, these floors and (...) ceilings emerge out of underlying consequentialist commitments that assume that our environmental activity can be justified by appeal primarily to ends. A series of intuition pumps guides our argument to instead shift the conservation discourse away from these consequentialist commitments to more widely justify activities on our public lands. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Some fear the Anthropocene heralds the end of nature, while others argue that nature will persist throughout the Anthropocene. Still others worry that acknowledging the Anthropocene grants humanity broad license to further inject itself into nature. We propose that this debate rests on a conﬂation between naturalness and wildness. Where naturalness is best understood as fundamentally a metaphysical category, wildness can be better understood as an inter-relational category. The raccoons in cities, the deer in suburban yards, the coyotes hunting (...) cats and dogs: these all return wildness, where naturalness may have been lost. (shrink)
In this paper we claim that individual subjects do not have so much control over sleep that it is aptly characterized as a personal choice; and that normative implications related to public health and sleep hygiene do not necessarily follow from current findings. It should be true of any empirical study that normative implications do not necessarily follow, but we think that many public health sleep recommendations falsely infer these implications from a flawed explanatory account of the decision to sleep: (...) the consumer choice view. This view, which we criticize here, proposes that sleep duration and sleep quality be understood as one choice among many. (shrink)
Electronic waste is the fastest growing form of waste worldwide, associated with a range of environmental, health, and justice problems. Unfortunately, disposal and recycling are hindered by a tendency of consumers to resist recycling their e-waste. This backlog of un-discarded e-waste poses significant challenges for the future. This paper addresses the reasons why many people might continue to value their technological artifacts and therefore to hoard them, suggesting that many of these common explanations are deficient in some way. It argues (...) instead for a derivative kind of value, here labelled “system value”. Addressing the problem of hoarding by invoking the idea of system value, the authors conjecture, could offer some clarity about how to move forward with more successful e-waste management programs. (shrink)
This book offers a collection of contemporary essays that explore philosophical themes at work in chess. This collection includes essays on the nature of a game, the appropriateness of chess as a metaphor for life, and even deigns to query whether Garry Kasparov might—just might—be a cyborg. In twelve unique essays, contributed by philosophers with a broad range of expertise in chess, this book poses both serious and playful questions about this centuries-old pastime. -/- Perhaps more interestingly, philosophers have often (...) used chess in discussions of their work. Walter Benjamin compares the marching of history to an automaton playing chess. John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce utilize chess to explain their pragmatism. The linguist Ferdinand de Saussure employs the analogy of chess to explain the exchange of signifiers. There are approximately 181 uses of the word chess or one of its cognates in the published works of Ludwig Wittgenstein. John Rawls explains that one might want to make a distinction between constitutive and regulative rules, which can best be understood by examining a game of chess. John Searle, deeply convinced of this distinction, explains further: "The rules of football or chess are given as an example of constitutive rules because they 'create the very possibility of playing such games.'" Hubert Dreyfus and Daniel Dennett have had extensive public discussions about the issue of artificial intelligence and chess. Dreyfus, utilizing chess examples, has written extensively on what computers still cannot do. Meanwhile, in spite of his protestations, chess-playing computers continue to fascinate those who work in the area of artificial intelligence. -/- The game of chess has endured since at least the sixth century. Its earliest variant, the Indian game of Chaturanga, was from the beginning a game for thinkers. Since its inception, scholars, statesmen, strategists, and warriors have been fascinated by the game and its variants. German philosopher Emmanuel Lasker and famed French artist Marcel Duchamp were both Grandmasters at chess. Karl Marx played chess avidly, as did Sir Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the logical positivist Max Black. Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentions in his Confessions that, at the time, he "had another expedient, not less solid, in the game of chess, to which I regularly dedicated, at Maugis's, the evenings on which I did not go to the theater. I became acquainted with M. de Legal, M. Husson, Philidor, and all the great chess players of the day, without making the least improvement in the game." More recently, philosopher Stuart Rachels reports that his father, the late philosopher and prominent ethicist James Rachels, received a bribe from a Russian Grandmaster while he was the chair of the U.S. Chess Federation's Ethics committee. -/- "Whether you’re a professional philosopher, an armchair chess player, or something in between, Philosophy Looks at Chess gives you hours of thought-provoking reading. With chapters on technology, ethics, hip hop, and backward analysis, this book carves out a new space in the literature on both chess and philosophy" -/- —Jennifer Shahade, two-time U.S. Women's Champion and author of Chess Bitch -/- "Chess and philosophy are natural mates that have been awaiting the proper introduction. This wide-ranging collection of stimulating essays is the perfect opening gambit for philosophical chess enthusiasts." -/- —Will Dudley, author of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Philosophy: Thinking Freedom. (shrink)
The suggestion that we might grow human tissue for the dinner table is likely to provoke a ‘yuk’ response in many of us. But would it be morally wrong? Might it not, in fact, be far preferable to the current situation?
In this paper, we present an argument strengthening the view of Norman Daniels, Bruce Kennedy and Ichiro Kawachi that justice is good for one's health. We argue that the pathways through which social factors produce inequalities in sleep more strongly imply a unidirectional and non-voluntary causality than with most other public health issues. Specifically, we argue against the 'voluntarism objection' – an objection that suggests that adverse public health outcomes can be traced back to the free and voluntary choices of (...) individual actors. Our argument proceeds along two lines: an empirical line and a conceptual line. We first show that much of the empirical research on sleep supports the view that those with fewer opportunities are those who have poorer sleep habits. We then argue that sleep-related decisions are not of the same nature as most other lifestyle choices, and therefore are not as easily susceptible to the voluntarism objection. (shrink)
In this paper we introduce the 'New Substitution Problem' which, on its face, presents a problem for adaptation proposals that are justified by appeal to obligations of reparation. In contrast to the standard view, which is that obligations of reparation require that one restore lost value, we propose instead that obligations to aid and assist species and ecosystems in adaptation, in particular, follow from a failure to adequately justify - either by absence, neglect, omission or malice - actions that caused, (...) or coalesced to cause, climatic change. Because this position suggests a different reason for reparation - namely, it does not rely on the notion that an obligation to repair is contingent upon a lost good - it permits moving forward with assisted colonisation and migration, but does so without falling subject to the complications of the New Substitution Problem. (shrink)
This volume presents the concept of Ecoscape as spatial interrelations, or spatially patterned processes, that are constitutive of an environment_an ecosystem. Contributors investigate environmental issues concerning the human impact on geohistory, food distribution, genetically modified biota, waste management, scientific mapping, and the rethinking of human identity.
The problem of feeling guilty about a pregnancy loss is suggested to be primarily a moral matter and not a medical or psychological one. Two standard approaches to women who blame themselves for a loss are first introduced, characterised as either psychologistic or deterministic. Both these approaches are shown to underdetermine the autonomy of the mother by depending on the notion that the mother is not culpable for the loss if she "could not have acted otherwise". The inability to act (...) otherwise is explained as not being as strong a determinant of culpability as it may seem at first. Instead, people’s culpability for a bad turn of events implies strongly that they have acted for the wrong reasons, which is probably not true in the case of women who have experienced a loss of pregnancy. The practical conclusion of this paper is that women who feel a sense of guilt in the wake of their loss have a good reason to reject both the psychologistic and the deterministic approaches to their guilt—that they are justified in feeling upset about what has gone wrong, even responsible for the life of the child, but are not culpable for the unfortunate turn of events. (shrink)
In this paper I present the position that the use of face recognition technology (FRT) in law enforcement and in business is restrictive of individual autonomy. I reason that FRT severely undermines autonomous self-determination by hobbling the idea of freedom of the will. I distinguish this position from two other common arguments against surveillance technologies: the privacy argument (that FRT is an invasion of privacy) and the objective freedom argument (that FRT is restrictive of one's freedom to act). To make (...) this case, I suggest that autonomy itself is predicated on the possibility of acting ethically, of freely willing moral laws. I then claim that autonomous self-determination is established as self-determination via social interactions with others. If we conceptualize self-determination as a relation of establishing a claim to individual autonomy in a community of others, we can see how planned uses of FRT subvert possibilities for the establishment of socially recognized agency. FRT not only confuses the process of asking ethical questions but it also imposes the immanent likelihood that all actions are taken not by self-directed, free agents, but by passive subjects in the interest of abiding by the institutionally enforced law. (shrink)