Written by one of the instrumental figures in environmental ethics, Nature as Subject traces the development of an ethical policy that is centered not on human beings, but on itself. Katz applies this idea to contemporary environmental problems, introducing themes of justice, domination, imperialism, and the Holocaust. This volume will stand as a foundational work for environmental scholars, government and industry policy makers, activists, and students in advanced philosophy and environmental studies courses.
Environmental pragmatism is a new strategy in environmental thought. It argues that theoretical debates are hindering the ability of the environmental movement to forge agreement on basic policy imperatives. This new direction in environmental thought moves beyond theory, advocating a serious inquiry into the merits of moral pluralism. Environmental pragmatism, as a coherent philosophical position, connects the methodology of classical American pragmatic thought to the explanation, solution and discussion of real issues. This concise, well-focused collection is the first comprehensive presentation (...) of environmental pragmatism as a new philosophical approach to environmental thought and policy. (shrink)
Should the process of ecological restoration be considered a type of moral reparation? Defenders of the restoration process have recently proposed an affirmative answer to this question. The idea itself is not new. Paul Taylor considered the possibility of reparations to the natural world in his seminal work in environmental ethics, Respect for Nature, although Taylor was not directly considering the process of ecological restoration as the means to secure the reparations. In a recent issue of this journal, Ben Almassi (...) has argued that ecological restoration should be understood as a moral repair, i.e., as "a model for rebuilding the moral conditions of relationships". His argument... (shrink)
Ecological restoration has been a topic for philosophical criticism for three decades. In this essay, I present a discussion of the arguments against ecological restoration and the objections raised against my position. I have two purposes in mind: to defend my views against my critics, and to demonstrate that the debate over restoration reveals fundamental ideas about the meaning of nature, ideas that are necessary for the existence of any substantive environmentalism. I discuss the possibility of positive restorations, the idea (...) that nature can restore itself, the meaning of artifacts, and the significance of the distinction between humanity and nature. (shrink)
For much of its brief history, the field of environmental ethics has been critical of anthropocentrism. I here undertake a pragmatic reconsideration of anthropocentrism. In the first part of this essay, I explain what a pragmatic reconsideration of anthropocentrism means. I differentiate two distinct pragmatic strategies, one substantive and one methodological, and I adopt methodological pragmatism as my guiding principle. In the second part of this essay, I examine a case study of environmental policy—the problem of beach replenishment on Fire (...) Island, New York—as a pragmatic test of anthropocentrism. I conclude that the debate between anthropocentrism and nonanthropocentrism needs to be expressed in non-absolutist terms, i.e., in a language that permits compromise, flexibility, and a pluralism of values. Thechoice between anthropocentrism and nonanthropocentrism as the basis of both environmental policy and environmental ethics is highly contextual and thus requires a subtle examination of the concrete policy situation. (shrink)
In this essay, I use encounters with the white-tailed deer of Fire Island to explore the “call of the wild”—the attraction to value that exists in a natural world outside of human control. Value exists in nature to the extent that it avoids modification by human technology. Technology “fixes” the natural world by improving it for human use or by restoring degraded ecosystems. Technology creates a “new world,” an artifactual reality that is far removed from the “wildness” of nature. The (...) technological “fix” of nature thus raises a moral issue: how is an artifact morally different from a natural and wild entity? Artifacts are human instruments; their value lies in their ability to meet human needs. Natural entities have no intrinsic functions; they were not created for any instrumental purpose. To attempt to manage natural entities is to deny their inherent autonomy: a form of domination. The moral claim of the wilderness is thus a claim against human technological domination. We have an obligation to struggle against this domination by preserving as much of the natural world as possible. (shrink)
An old book by children’s author Dr. Seuss can be an inspiration to examine the ethical and ontological meaning of geoengineering. My argument is based on my critique of the process of ecological restoration as the creation of an artifactual reality. When humanity intentionally interferes with the processes and entities of nature, we change the ontological reality of the natural world. The world becomes a garden, or a zoo, an environment that must be continually managed to meet the goals of (...) human purposes. Geoengineering is a more radical and comprehensive example of this process of planetary management. Thus, as with ecological restoration, geoengineering reinforces the paradigm of human mastery and domination of nature. To counteract this dream of domination, we must, as Dr. Seuss instructed us when we were children, learn to live in the natural world with humility. (shrink)
Engineers, architects, and other technological professionals designed the genocidal death machines of the Third Reich. The death camp operations were highly efficient, so these technological professionals knew what they were doing: they were, so to speak, good engineers. As an educator at a technological university, I need to explain to my students—future engineers and architects—the motivations and ethical reasoning of the technological professionals of the Third Reich. I need to educate my students in the ethical practices of this hellish regime (...) so that they can avoid the kind of ethical justifications used by the Nazi engineers. In their own professional lives, my former students should not only be good engineers in a technical sense, but good engineers in a moral sense. In this essay, I examine several arguments about the ethical judgments of professionals in Nazi Germany, and attempt a synthesis that can provide a lesson for contemporary engineers and other technological professionals. How does an engineer avoid the error of the Nazi engineers in their embrace of an evil ideology underlying their technological creations? How does an engineer know that the values he embodies through his technological products are good values that will lead to a better world? This last question, I believe, is the fundamental issue for the understanding of engineering ethics. (shrink)
Consider the significance of Anne Frank's horse chestnut tree. During her years of hiding in the secret annex, Anne thought of the tree as a symbol of freedom, happiness, and peace. As a stand-in for all of Nature, Anne saw the tree as that part of the universe that could not be destroyed by human evil. In this essay, I use Anne's tree as a starting point for a discussion of the domination of both nature and humanity. I connect the (...) concept of domination to the policy of ecological restoration, to national and historical narratives of the connection to forest landscapes, and to the environmental policies of the Third Reich, the specific evil entity that confronted Anne Frank. Domination is also intertwined with the idea of the “paradox of progress,” viz., that human progress cannot be separated from acts and policies of domination. (shrink)
Holistic accounts of the natural environment in environmental ethics fail to stress the distinction between the concepts of comnlunity and organism. Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic” adds to this confusion, for it can be interpreted as promoting either a community or an organic model of nature. The difference between the two concepts lies in the degree of autonomy possessed by constituent entities within the holistic system. Members within a community are autonomous, while the parts of an organism are not. Different moral (...) conclusions and environmental policies may result from this theoretical distinction. Treating natural entities as parts of an organism downgrades their intrinsic value as individual natural beings, since the only relevant moral criterion in an organic environmental ethic is the instrumental value that each natural entity has for the system. This ethic allows instances of the “substitution problem”-the replacement of one entity in an ecosystem by another provided that the overall functioning of the system is notharmed. However, since substitution violates environmentalist principles, for example, calling for respect for the integrity of the entities in a natural system, an organic environmental ethic must be rejected. A community model focuses on both the functional value and the autonomous intrinsie value of natural entities in a system. A community environmental ethic thus avoids the substitution problem. (shrink)
In “The Concept of the Irreplaceable,” John N. Martin claims that utilitarian arguments can explain the environmentalist position concerning the preservation of natural objects as long as human attitudes toward preservation are considered along with the direct benefits of environmental preservation. But this type of utilitarian justification is biased in favor of the satisfaction of human preferences. No ethical theory which calculates goodness in terms of the amount of human satisfaction can present an adequate justification of environmental preservation. Since human (...) interests must be considered primary, natural objects will only be preserved when their preservation is in accord with human preferences. (shrink)
The inaugural collection in an exciting new exchange between philosophers and geographers, this volume provides interdisciplinary approaches to the environment as space, place, and idea. Never before have philosophers and geographers approached each other's subjects in such a strong spirit of mutual understanding. The result is a concrete exploration of the human-nature relationship that embraces strong normative approaches to environmental problems.