Robin Attfield introduces environmental ethics, exploring the values involved in issues such as pollution, habitat loss, and climate change. Considering the different groups involved in environmental ethics, and the attitudes of the world's religions to environmental stewardship, he calls for action from us all to manage our environment ethically.
In this clear, concise and up-to-date introduction to environmental ethics, Robin Attfield guides the student through the key issues and debates in this field in ways that will also be of interest to a wide range of scholars and researchers. The book introduces environmental problems and environmental ethics and surveys theories of the sources of the problems. Attfield also puts forward his own original contribution to the debates, advocating biocentric consequentialism among theories of normative ethics and defending objectivism in meta-ethics. (...) The possibilities of ethical consumerism and investment are discussed, and the nature and basis of responsibilities for future generations in such areas as sustainable development are given detailed consideration. Attfield adopts an inclusive, cosmopolitan perspective in discussions of global ethics and citizenship, and illustrates his argument with a discussion of global warming. The text uses a range of devices to aid understanding, such as summaries of key issues, and guides to further reading and relevant websites. It has been written particularly with a view to the needs of students taking courses in environmental ethics, and will be of interest to students and scholars of philosophy, ethics, geography, religion and environmental studies. (shrink)
This book presents the case for belief in both creation and evolution at the same time as rejecting creationism. Issues of meaning supply the context of inquiry; the book defends the meaningfulness of language about God, and also relates belief in both creation and evolution to the meaning of life. Meaning, it claims, can be found in consciously adopting the role of steward of the planetary biosphere, and thus of the fruits of creation. Distinctive features include a sustained case for (...) a realist understanding of language about God; a contemporary defence of some of the arguments for belief in God and in creation; a sifting of different versions of Darwinism and their implications for religious belief; a Darwinian account of the relation of predation and other apparent evils to creation; a new presentation of the argument, from the world's value to the purposiveness of evolution; and discussions of whether or not meaning itself evolves, and of religious and secular bases for belief in stewardship. (shrink)
"This fully updated and expanded textbook offers new reflections on global environmental issues including climate change, sustainable development and biodiversity preservation, while remaining sensitive to global developments such as the Summits at Durban on climate and at Nagoya on biodiversity. It supplies an ethical critique of current international environmental problems and negotiations, and the shape which international regimes will need in order to cope with global environmental problems"--Back cover.
This work defends an interrelated set of theses in value-theory, normative ethics and meta-ethics. The three Parts correspond to these three areas.Part One defends a biocentric theory of moral standing, and then the coherence and objectivity of belief in intrinsic value, despite recent objections. Intrinsic value is located in the flourishing of living creatures; specifically, a neo-Aristotelian, species-relative account is supplied of wellbeing or flourishing, in terms of the development of the essential capacities of one's species. There follows a theory (...) of priorities, or of relative intrinsic value, in which the satisfaction of basic needs takes priority over other needs and over wants, and the interests of complex and sophisticated creatures over those of others, where they are at stake.Part Two defends a practice-consequentialist theory of the criteria of rightness and of obligation, which leaves room for supererogation, underpins our intuitions about justice, commends population growth only where it is genuinely desirable, and responds better than act-consequentialism to objections like that concerned with the separateness of persons. Part Three sifts meta-ethical theories, rejects moral relativism, and defends a cognitivist and naturalist meta-ethic. In defending analytical naturalism, it takes into account the latest literature on supervenience.By responding to recent discussions, this study supersedes my Theory of Value and Obligation . It is equipped with detailed end-notes and an ample bibliography, which could prove a research tool of itself. (shrink)
Originally published in 1987 and re-issued in 2020 with a new Preface, this book presents and elaborates interrelated solutions to a number of problems in moral philosophy, from the location of intrinsic value and the nature of a worthwhile life, via the limits of obligation and the nature of justice, to the status of moral utterances. After developing a biocentric account of moral standing, the author locates worthwhile life in the development of the generic capacities of a creature, whether human (...) or nonhuman, and presents an account of relative intrinsic value which later generates a theory of interspecific justice. This value-theory also informs a consequentialist understanding of obligation, of moral rightness and of supererogation. The understanding thus supplied is shown to cope with the problems of integrity, of justice and of the 'Repugnant Conclusion' in population ethics. A cognitivist account of ethical conclusions such as those so far reached is then defended against non-cognitivist and relativist objections and a far-reaching naturalist theory is defended, integrating earlier conclusions with an account of the logic of the fundamental ethical concepts. This wide-ranging volume which maps the whole area of morality is thoroughly argued with reference both to contemporary philosophical developments and to classical theories. (shrink)
Biocentrism maintains that all living creatures have moral standing, but need not claim that all have equal moral significance. This moral standing extends to organisms generated through human interventions, whether by conventional breeding, genetic engineering, or synthetic biology. Our responsibilities with regard to future generations seem relevant to non-human species as well as future human generations and their quality of life. Likewise the Precautionary Principle appears to raise objections to the generation of serious or irreversible changes to the quality of (...) life of non-human species. Objections to the application of all this to new life-forms produced by synthetic biology are considered and addressed from a biocentric perspective. The bearing of biocentrism on religions is also considered, together with contrasting views about science, religion and the creation of life. (shrink)
Possible environmental and related impacts of human activity are shown to include the extinction of humanity and other sentient species, excessive human numbers, and a deteriorating quality of life (I). I proceed to argue that neither future rights, nor Kantian respect for future people's autonomy, nor a contract between the generations supplies a plausible basis of obligations with regard to future generations. Obligations concern rather promoting the well-being of the members of future generations, whoever they may be, as well as (...) of current generations. Future benefits and costs should only be discounted where there are special reasons for doing do so (e.g. relevant opportunity costs) (II). A sustainable economy is held to be necessary for intergenerational equity. This granted, principles of equity are introduced concerning: compensation for long-term risks and for resource depletion; conserving the stock of resources, resource diversity, and assimilative capacity; equal options and opportunities for each generation; and remedying past failures to conserve environmental quality. Rules and policies considered include: an efficient, diversified, and ecologically sustainable economy; no increase of risk of irreversible environmental change; and action despite uncertainty to avert serious future outcomes (the Precautionary Principle). These policies are argued to require rectification of current injustices within and between current generations (III). Finally, the recently resuscitated metaphysical model of society as a partnership between generations is held to imply the view of each generation as trustees rather than owners of the planet. This trusteeship view is independently credible, and supportive of the principles and policies earlier introduced; and its adoption by successive generations could turn the partnership model into a reality (IV). (shrink)
Can room be found in between the matter and void of a Newtonian universe for an immaterial and immortal soul? Can followers of Locke with his agnosticism about the nature of substances claim to know that some of them are immaterial? Samuel Clarke, well versed in Locke's thought and a defender both of Newtonian science and Christian orthodoxy, believed he could do both and attempted to prove his case by means of some hard-boiled reductionism. Anthony Collins, a deist whose only (...) lapse from materialism concerned God himself, rejected Clarke's argument. In this paper I discuss their controversy' in order to bring out the state of debate about material systems and consciousness among people influenced by Locke and Newton in the early eighteenth century, and I also assess Clarke's reductionist premise, as he himself frequently invites "the impartial reader" to do. (shrink)
After the first wave of writings in environmental philosophy in the early 1970s, which were mostly critical of anthropocentrism, a new trend emerged which sought to humanise this subject, and to revive or vindicate anthropocentric stances. Only in this way, it was held, could environmental values become human values, and ecological movements manage to become social ecology. Later writers have detected tacit anthropocentrism lurking even in Deep Ecology, or have defended ‘perspectival anthropocentrism’, as the inevitable methodology of any system of (...) environmental ethics devised by and for the guidance of human beings. Human good, broadly enough conceptualised, is held to be the basis of ethics. Besides, it is sometimes added, non-anthropocentric considerations in any case add nothing to anthropocentric ones, when broadly construed. (shrink)
My theory of biocentric consequentialism is first shown not to be significantly inegalitarian, despite not advocating treating all creatures equally. I then respond to Carter's objections concerning population, species extinctions, the supposed minimax implication, endangered interests, autonomy and thought-experiments. Biocentric consequentialism is capable of supporting a sustainable human population at a level compatible with preserving most non-human species, as opposed to catastrophic population increases or catastrophic decimation. Nor is it undermined by the mere conceivable possibility of counter-intuitive implications. While Carter (...) shows that value-pluralism need not be riddled with contradictions, his version still introduces some, and faces further problems. Thus consequentialist theories may be needed to sift our values, at least if our values are commensurable. Carter's apparent suggestion that monistic theories such as biocentric consequentialism can never be harnessed to rich theories of value and must each myopically give undue prominence to a single value is questioned. (shrink)
Believers in the objectivity of morals are required some time or another to reply to their opponents’ objections, to supply an acceptable account of the evidence deployed by their opponents consistent with their own view, and to bring to light reasons for rejecting their opponents’ case. This paper is intended to go some of the way towards carrying out these objectives. Moral objectivists must also, of course, furnish a positive and defensible account of the status of moral judgments; and, as (...) Kai Nielsen has suggested, they should also ideally construct an acceptable theory of normative ethics, if only to put flesh on the skeleton of their metaethical analysis: though this latter task is not an obligatory one, for their metaethical claims will entail that there are true moral judgments, but need not settle which these are or even how to decide which these are. The present paper contains no more than hints on how in my view these further projects may be accomplished. (shrink)
This fully updated and expanded textbook looks at issues including climate change, sustainable development and biodiversity preservation, and sensitively addresses global developments such as the Summits at Durban on climate and at Nagoya on biodiversity.
Alan Carter's recent review in Mind of my Ethics of the Global Environment combines praise of biocentric consequentialism with criticisms that it could advocate both minimal satisfaction of human needs and the extinction of ‘inessential species’ for the sake of generating extra people; Carter also maintains that as a monistic theory it is predictably inadequate to cover the full range of ethical issues, since only a pluralistic theory has this capacity. In this reply, I explain how the counter-intuitive implications of (...) biocentric consequentialism suggested by Carter are not implications, and argue that since pluralistic theories either generate contradictions or collapse into monistic theories, the superiority of pluralistic theories is far from predictable. Thus Carter's criticisms fail to undermine biocentric consequentialism as a normative theory applicable to the generality of ethical issues. (shrink)
This paper affirms the continuing importance of full employment, as the best prospect for most people of the goods of meaningful work and of self-respect, and welcomes the failure of new technology in Western societies to engender mass unemployment, despite predictions to the contrary. It also replies to criticismsfrom John White (in Education and the End of Work) of a previous paper of mine, 'Work and the Human Essence (1984). Employing a different sense of 'meaningful work related to agents major (...) goals in life. White claims that little work is meaningful, or capable of becoming so, and that social policy shouldrecognise this and exonerate most people from expectations of employment. His argument embodies a distinctive understanding of human flourishing, and a critique of my earlier argument from the human essence. This paper defends that argument, plus a separate argument of my earlier paper from self-respect,which White apparently ignores, for meaningful work as crucial to human flourishing. Most employment, I maintain, is capable of being modified so as to become meaningful work, and since this is most peoples best prospect ofthat good, policies of full employment should not be discarded, either in the West or in the Third World. (shrink)
Karl Popper identified Xenophanes of Colophon as the originator of the method of conjectures and refutations. This essay explores this claim, and the methods of both philosophers. Disparagement of Xenophanes has been misguided. Xenophanes, a critical rationalist and realist, pioneered philosophy of religion and epistemology, but his method was not confined to falsificationism, and appears compatible with inductivism and abductionism. The method employed by Popper in interpreting Herodotus in support of his conjectures about Xenophanes is typical of the multiple-strand reasoning (...) characteristic of the humanities, and is as much inductivist or abductionist as refutationist. Popper’s theories about Xenophanes are convincing; but even if Popperians would claim that Popper’s refutationism largely fits the natural sciences, his application of it to history is implausible, and conflicts with own practice. An appendix reflects on Popper’s interest in cultured refugees. (shrink)
Paul Thompson argues that current synthetic biology amounts to synthetic genomics, comprising a ‘platform’ technology, and that Christopher Preston's deontological objections based on its supposed rejection of the historical process of evolution miscarry. This makes it surprising that Thompson's normative ethic consists in a deontological appeal to Kantian duties of imperfect obligation. Construed as obligations subject to choice, such constraints risk being excessively malleable where the ethical objections to deployment of this technology concern land rights and/or exploitation. Thompson's advocacy of (...) processes ‘more beneficial’ well illustrates another vulnerability; processes more beneficial than ones that undermine livelihoods could be best avoided themselves, although ones more beneficial than the status quo may not. He well argues that non-deontological arguments should not be confined to human survival, but neglects stances that are either biocentric, consequentialist, or both. Yet a truly synthetic bioethics would be likely to embody these characteristics. (shrink)
Through a survey of the discussions of the decline of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century witch-craze of Hugh Trevor-Roper, Keith Thomas and Brian Easlea, the role and impact of Balthasar Bekker, a seventeenth-century Dutch Cartesian, is shown to have been under-estimated, and not inconsiderable.
Jenkins and Sherman hold that belief in the value of work is artificially inculcated and that a ‘leisure society’ is desirable and possible, as well as being necessitated by the introduction of microprocessors. After distinguishing between meaningful work and labour (first section), I reply obliquely to their case by contending that meaningful work affords most people their best chance of the necessary good of self-respect (second section), and that it constitutes the exercise of an essential human capacity, the development of (...) which is necessary to human wellbeing (third section). Because of the contingent connections between employment on the one hand and meaningful work and self-respect on the other, we should recognise the value of work and plan for full employment (fourth section). (shrink)
In an influential paper, Elliott Sober raises philosophical problems for environmentalism, and proposes a basis for being an environmentalist without discarding familiar, traditional ethical theories, a basis consisting in the aesthetic value of nature and natural entities. Two of his themes are problematic. One is his objection to arguments from the unknown value of endangered species, which he designates “the argument from ignorance,” but which should instead be understood as arguments from probability. The other concerns his attempt to avoid holistic (...) value theories by appealing to aesthetic value. If one invokes Derek Parfit’s response to the non-identity problem, one can appeal to another tradition-related approach that Sober neglects, which can readily be employed in support of species preservation without disparaging aesthetic value or endorsing holistic theories. (shrink)
The concept of sustainable development of the Brundtland Report and the related one of the Rio Declaration are interpreted differently by United Nations agencies, NGOs and business corporations. What should really be sustained includes quality of life; this requires sustainable natural systems and social systems. Living within our carbon budget is a prominent example. The management of resources on others’ behalf should share with ‘stewardship’ characteristics of care for what is intrinsically valuable, and responsibilities not only to owners but also (...) towards present and future people and other creatures. Reasons are considered for holding capitalist companies and capitalism itself to be unsustainable, such as its inbuilt imperative of growth. Sustainability cannot wait for a different system, as by then serious climate change will be irreversible. Carbon footprints need to be limited now. Practical measures include not blocking transitional steps, and finding innovative ways to reduce one’s company’s carbon footprint. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to explore what Henry Odera Oruka, a renowned ecophilosopher and Director designate of an Ecophilosophy Centre, would have thought and argued in the sphere of climate change if he had remained alive beyond 1995 and up to the present time.The methodology of the paper combines an analytic and normative study of ethical issues concerning climate change that arose during the 1990s or have arisen during the subsequent period, with a critical examination of relevant international (...) conferences of the period 1995 to 2012, and of intervening developments, together with inferences grounded in Odera’s knowledge, experience and interests to conclusions about attitudes, arguments and stances that he would have been likely to form in the course of that same period.The central argument of the paper is premised on key concerns of Odera, not least his concern for a “future beyond poverty” for Africa , and for characteristic African values. It is also premised on the impression likely to have been made on Odera by the remarks of Michel van Hulten at this Conference. It argues accordingly that Odera would have been likely to defend some version of the Contraction and Convergence strategy, modified to take account of recent discoveries about humanity’s carbon budget, and the extent to which much of this budget has already been consumed in the period since 1990 by the industrialised countries, to the detriment of developing countries such as the countries of Africa.This paper is relevant to Thought and Practice through presenting to scholars with broad interests in the humanities and social sciences an original examination of climate change ethics and its bearing on Africa, and of Odera’s likely attitudes, arguments and stances in this field, thus supplying suggestions about further research needing to be undertaken on these intellectual, social and political issues, with their special and vital importance for contemporary Africa. (shrink)
Cultural transmission in non-literate societies (including that of Homer) is first discussed, partly to test some theories of Dan Sperber, and partly to consider thetheory of memes, which is sometimes held applicable to Homeric formulae, and is considered next. After discussing Sperber's criticism of memeticism, I turn toSperber's susceptibility theory of culture, and his discussions of religion and of music. Further examples drawn from Homeric religion are found to be in tension with aspects of this theory. Two diverse interpretations of (...) susceptibility present in Sperber's text are elicited and contrasted, of which one is criticised and the other welcomed as consistent with the role of reflection, artifice and rationality in the development of culture, activities that theories of culture cannot afford to disregard. (shrink)
Hume Regards it as a mere “Verbal Dispute” whether or not various “natural abilities” should be regarded as moral virtues. In his Treatise he complains that “good sense and judgment”, “parts and understanding” are classed in all systems of ethics of the day with bodily endowments and ascribed no “merit or moral worth”. Yet if compared with the received virtues, they fell short in no material respect, both sets being “mental qualities” and each equally tending to procure “the love and (...) esteem of mankind’. (shrink)
An interdisciplinary reappraisal of Lynn White, Jr.’s “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” reopens several issues, including the suggestion by Peter Harrison that White’s thesis was historical and that it is a mistake to regard it as theological. It also facilitates a comparison between “Roots” and White’s earlier book Medieval Technology and Social Change. In “Roots,” White discarded or de-emphasized numerous qualifications and nuances present in his earlier work so as to heighten the effect of certain rhetorical aphorisms and (...) to generalize their scope and bearing well beyond what the evidence could bear. The meaning of Genesis and other biblical books proves to be just as important in White’s thesis as their historical reception. In “Roots,” White presents, alongside other contentions, the claims that Christian doctrines have all along been both anthropocentric and despotic, especially in the West, and that this is where the real roots of the problems are to be found. These claims, however, conflict with most of the relevant evidence. An adequate reappraisal of White’s work needs to recognize that there is a cultural determinism parallel to the technological determinisms alleged by R. H. Hilton and P. H. Sawyer, to endorse Elspeth Whitney’s “single-cause” critique of links between religion and technological change in the Middle Ages, and to treat sympathetically Whitney’s claim that White and some of his eco-theological critics have in common both their valorizing of individual beliefs and values and their neglect of economic and institutional factors. Nevertheless, our ecological problems need to be understood through explanations turning on beliefs and values as well as on economics and institutions. (shrink)
After a clarification of the concept of concept the project of analysing the concept of man is defended (I), and it is concluded that to be human involves being both of a certain anatomical structure and a member of a race most of whose members are capable of theoretical and practical reasoning (II). Since further the development of essential capacities is necessary for members of a species to flourish, the ability to exercise the essential human capacities for theoretical and practical (...) reasoning is necessary for a man to live well (III). Besides its bearing on ideals of human flourishing, this conclusion would have a crucial bearing on moral issues, were it granted that there is an internal relation between morality and human flourishing (IV). Finally the conclusions of III are sustained against further objections (V). Educational and other practical implications of these conclusions are remarked upon throughout. (shrink)
Examples are presented which raise problems for theories of proper names which deny their equivalence either with descriptions (miller, Kripke) or with non-Trivial descriptions (bach). These examples of names equivalent to the same descriptions for all the possible worlds in which their bearers exist require the theories to be abandoned or at least modified as to their scope.
Alvin Plantinga, echoing a worry of Charles Darwin which he calls 'Darwin's doubt', argues that given Darwinian evolutionary theory our beliefs are unreliable, since they are determined to be what they are by evolutionary pressures and could have had no other content. This papers surveys in turn deterministic and non-deterministic interpretations of Darwinism, and concludes that Plantinga's argument poses a problem for the former alone and not for the latter. Some parallel problems arise for the Cognitive Science of Religion, and (...) in particular for the hypothesis that many of our beliefs, including religious beliefs, are due to a Hypersensitive Agency-Detection Device, at least if this hypothesis is held in a deterministic form. In a non-deterministic form, however, its operation need not cast doubt on the rationality or reliability of the relevant beliefs. (shrink)