Recent critics (Andrew Light, Bryan Norton, Anthony Weston, and Bruce Morito, among others) have argued that we should give up talk of intrinsic value in general and that of nature in particular. While earlier theorists might have overestimated the importance of intrinsic value, these recent critics underestimate its importance. Claims about a thing’s intrinsic value are claims about the distinctive way in which we have reason to care about that thing. If we understand intrinsic value in this manner, we can (...) capture the core claims that environmentalists want to make about nature while avoiding the worries raised by contemporary critics. Since the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic value plays a critical role in our understanding of the different ways that we do and should care about things, moral psychology, ethical theory in general, and environmental ethics in particular shouldn’t give up on the concept of intrinsic value. (shrink)
While holist views such as ecocentrism have considerable intuitive appeal, arguing for the moral considerability of ecological wholes such as ecosystems has turned out to be a very difficult task. In the environmental ethics literature, individualist biocentrists have persuasively argued that individual organisms—but not ecological wholes—are properly regarded as having a good of their own . In this paper, I revisit those arguments and contend that they are fatally flawed. The paper proceeds in five parts. First, I consider some problems (...) brought about by climate change for environmental conservation strategies and argue that these problems give us good pragmatic reasons to want a better account of the welfare of ecological wholes. Second, I describe the theoretical assumptions from normative ethics that form the background of the arguments against holism. Third, I review the arguments given by individualist biocentrists in favour of individualism over holism. Fourth, I review recent work in the philosophy of biology on the units of selection problem, work in medicine on the human biome, and work in evolutionary biology on epigenetics and endogenous viral elements. I show how these developments undermine both the individualist arguments described above as well as the distinction between individuals and wholes as it has been understood by individualists. Finally, I consider five possible theoretical responses to these problems. (shrink)
Most ethicists agree that at least some nonhumans have interests that are of direct moral importance. Yet with very few exceptions, both climate ethics and climate policy have operated as though only human interests should be considered in formulating and evaluating climate policy. In this paper I argue that the anthropocentrism of current climate ethics and policy cannot be justified. I first describe the ethical claims upon which my analysis rests, arguing that they are no longer controversial within contemporary ethics. (...) Next, I review work in climate ethics and policy, demonstrating the absence of consideration of nonhuman interests in both domains. Finally, I consider five possible justifications for omitting nonhuman interests in the evaluation climate policy options, arguing that none of these arguments succeeds. (shrink)
This paper explores what is meant by ‘loss and damage’ within the area of climate policy focused on loss and damage. I present two possible understandings of loss and damage, one of which connects it to harm and one of which connects it to value. In both cases, I argue that the best contemporary philosophical understandings of these concepts suggest a much broader range of losses and damages than is currently being considered within the usual discussions in this area. I (...) argue that a broader understanding of loss and damage would allow a more complete assessment of potential climate impacts. I conclude by offering recommendations for evaluating loss and damage according to this broader understanding. (shrink)
Environmental ethics—the study of ethical questions raised by human relations with the nonhuman environment—emerged as an important subfield of philosophy during the 1970s. It is now a flourishing area of research. This article provides a review of the secular, Western traditions in the field. It examines both anthropocentric and nonanthropocentric claims about what has value, as well as divergent views about whether environmental ethics should be concerned with bringing about best consequences, respecting principles and rights, or embodying environmental virtues. The (...) article also briefly considers two critical traditions—ecofeminism and environmental pragmatism—and explores some of the difficult environmental ethics questions posed by anthropogenic climate change. (shrink)
The etiological account of function defines a part’s/trait’s function as whatever that part/trait does and was selected for doing. Some philosophers have tried to employ this as an account of biological interests, claiming that to benefit an organism is to promote its etiological functioning and to harm it is to inhibit such functioning. I argue that etiological functioning is not a good account of biological interests. I first describe the history of theories of biological interests, explaining the special role that (...) etiological accounts of function have played within such theories. Second, I explain the problems with allowing etiological accounts of function to play this role and consider objections to my line of argument. Finally, I consider the theoretical alternatives to etiological function accounts of interests and assess their advantages and disadvantages. (shrink)
Neosentimentalist accounts of value need an explanation of which of the sentiments they discuss are pro-attitudes, which attitudes are con-attitudes, and why. I argue that this project has long been neglected in the philosophical literature, even by those who make extensive use of the distinction between pro- and con-attitudes. Using the attitudes of awe and respect as exemplars, I argue that it is not at all clear what if anything makes these attitudes pro-attitudes. I conclude that neither our intuitive sense (...) of the distinction nor the vague accounts of it that exist in the philosophical literature are especially helpful in sorting out the hard cases. What is needed is a more explicit and thorough account of what the valence of our attitudes consists in. (shrink)
On most understandings of what an ecosystem is, it is a kind of thing that can be literally, not just metaphorically, healthy or unhealthy. Health is best understood as a kind of well-being; a thing’s health is a matter of retaining those structures and functions that are good for it. While it is true both that what’s good for an ecosystem depends on how we define the system and that how we define the system depends on our interests, these facts (...) do not force us to the conclusion that an ecosystem has no good of its own. Ecosystems and persons can have goods of their own in spite of the fact that the schemes we use to categorize them are matters that we decide upon. (shrink)
Recently in environmental ethics some theorists have advocated narrative accounts of value, according to which the value of environmental goods is given by the role that they play in our narratives. I first sketch the basic theoretical features of a narrative accounts of value and then go on to raise some problems for such views. I claim that they require an evaluative standard in order to distinguish the valuable from the merely valued and that the project of constructing such a (...) standard faces significant problems. I conclude by questioning whether narrative accounts of value really offer advantages over other pluralistic and context-sensitive accounts of value. (shrink)
I argue that different approaches to environmental ethics can be traced to different ways of thinking about value. In particular, it can be traced to different understandings of what kinds of things are the primary bearers of value and different views about how we should respond to that value. These different ways of thinking about value are thought to have their origins in consequentialism and Kantianism, respectively. I briefly describe these theoretical differences and consider how they lead to different approaches (...) in environmental ethics, with particular attention to the issue of climate change. (shrink)
Neosentimentalism provides environmental ethics with a theory of value that might be particularly useful for solving many of the problems that have plagued the field since its early days. In particular, a neosentimentalist understanding of value offers us hope for making sense of (1) what intrinsic value might be and how we could know whether parts of the natural world have it; (2) the extent to which value is an essentially anthropocentric concept; and (3) how our understanding of value could (...) be compatible with both a respectable naturalism and a robust normativity. (shrink)
This essay provides an overview of the field of environmental ethics. I sketch the major debates in the field from its inception in the 1970s to today, explaining both the central tenets of the schools of thought within the field and the arguments that have been given for and against them. I describe the main trends within the field as a whole and review some of the criticisms that have been offered of prevailing views.
KATIE McSHANE | : Taking the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as representative, I argue that animal ethics has been neglected in the assessment of climate policy. While effects on ecosystem services, biodiversity, and human welfare are all catalogued quite carefully, there is no consideration at all of the effects of climate change on the welfare of animals. This omission, I argue, should bother us, for animal welfare is not adequately captured by assessments of ecosystem (...) services, biodiversity, or human welfare. After describing the paper’s assumptions and discussing the role of the IPCC’s Assessment Reports in climate policy, I consider the presentation of climate impacts in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, noting the aspects of animal welfare that are considered there, and comparing the report’s treatment of animal welfare to its treatment of human welfare. Next, I argue that the concepts of ecosystem services, biodiversity, and human welfare do not adequately capture the welfare of animals. Finally, I discuss concerns about human responsibility for animal welfare and the practicality of including considerations of animal welfare among the climate impacts studied by the IPCC. | : En prenant le Cinquième Rapport d’évaluation du Groupe d’experts intergouvernemental sur l’évolution du climat à titre de cas représentatif, je soutiens que l’éthique animale a été négligée dans l’évaluation de la politique climatique. Alors que les effets sur les services écosystémiques, la biodiversité et le bien-être humain y sont tous soigneusement recensés, les effets du changement climatique sur le bien-être des animaux n’y sont aucunement pris en considération. Je soutiens que cette omission devrait nous préoccuper, étant donné que l’évaluation des services écosystémiques, de la biodiversité et du bien-être humain ne rend pas compte adéquatement du bien-être des animaux. Après avoir décrit les présupposés de l’article et réfléchi au rôle des Rapports d’évaluation du GIEC quant à la politique climatique, j’examine la présentation des effets climatiques dans le Cinquième Rapport du GIEC, en indiquant les aspects du bien-être animal qui y sont pris en considération, tout en comparant le traitement que fait le rapport du bien-être animal à celui qui est fait du bien-être humain. Ensuite, je soutiens que les concepts de services écosystémiques, de biodiversité et de bien-être humain ne reflètent pas adéquatement le bien-être des animaux. Enfin, je traite des problèmes potentiels liés à la responsabilité humaine relativement au bien-être des animaux ainsi que de la faisabilité d’inclure des considérations liées au bien-être animal parmi les effets climatiques étudiés par le GIEC. (shrink)
Bryan Norton argues that my recent critique of anthropocentrism presupposes J. Baird Callicott's philosophically problematic distinction between intrinsic and instrumental value and that the problems that it raises for anthropocentrism in general are in fact only problems for strong anthropocentrism. I argue, first, that my own view does not presuppose Callicott's distinction, nor any claims about instrumental value, and second, that the problems it raises for anthropocentrism apply to weak and strong anthropocentrism alike.
Abstract:If climate change is as bad as many now predict, we may be faced with the problem of how to cope with a natural world that is changing more rapidly than our ability to form emotional attachments can keep pace with. How can we love a natural world that seems so strange and unfamiliar to us? For help in answering this question, I turn to structurally similar problems that we face in our emotional attachments to other people. Using the cases (...) of dementia and mental illness, I investigate how people adapt their love in cases where their beloved changes in ways that render her, at least at times, unfamiliar, strange, and unpredictable. I argue that in both human and nonhuman cases, love can be compatible with dramatic and rapid changes in one's beloved, but to achieve this one must remain open-minded about the nature of the beloved and morally attentive to the ongoing question of which states will promote its well-being. (shrink)
The issue of intrinsic values is often a point of disagreement and sometimes confusion between ethicists and economists. Ethicists often criticise economic modes of valuation for failing to take account of intrinsic values. In response, economists have proposed a number of different types of value meant to account for intrinsic values within an economic framework. However, many ethicists have criticised these notions as inadequate substitutes for ethical understandings of intrinsic value. One reason for confusion about this issue is that there (...) are many different meanings of ‘intrinsic value’ within ethics. This chapter identifies those meanings and the differences among them, and considers how well the types of value proposed within economics can capture them. (shrink)