Reverence for Life as a Viable Environmental Virtue

Kawall, Jason
Environmental Ethics Vol. 25/4 (2003), pages 339-358

There have been several recent defenses of biocentric individualism, the position that all living beings have at least some moral standing, simply insofar as they are alive. I develop a virtue-based version of biocentric individualism, focusing on a virtue of reverence for life. In so doing, I attempt to show that such a virtuebased approach allows us to avoid common objections to biocentric individualism, based on its supposed impracticability (or, on the other hand, its emptiness).

A Biocentrist Strikes Back

Sterba, James P.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 20/4 (1998), pages 361-376

Biocentrists are criticized (1) for being biased in favor of the human species, (2) for basing their view on an ecology that is now widely challenged, and (3) for failing to reasonably distinguish the life that they claim has intrinsic value from the animate and inanimate things that they claim lack intrinsic value. In this paper, I show how biocentrism can be defended against these three criticisms, thus permitting biocentrists to justifiably appropriate the salutation, “Let the life force (or better the ethical demands of life) be with you.”

From Biocentric Individualism to Biocentric Pluralism

Sterba, James P.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 17/2 (1995), pages 191-207

Drawing on and inspired by Paul Taylor’s Respect for Nature, I develop a view which I call “biocentric pluralism,” which, I claim, avoids the major criticisms that have been directed at Taylor’s account. In addition, I show that biocentric pluralism has certain advantages over biocentric utilitarianism (VanDeVeer) and concentric circle theories (Wenz and Callicott).

Against Biospherical Egalitarianism

French, William C.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 17/1 (1995), pages 39-57

Arne Naess and Paul Taylor are two of the most forceful proponents of the principle of species equality. Problematically, both, when adjudicating conflict of interest cases, resort to employing explicit or implicit species-ranking arguments. I examine how Lawrence Johnson’s critical, species-ranking approach helpfully avoids the normative inconsistencies of “biospherical egalitarianism.” Many assume species-ranking schemes are rooted in arrogant, ontological claims about human, primate, or mammalian superiority. Species-ranking, I believe, is best viewed as a justified articulation of moral priorities in response to individuals’
or entities’ relative ranges of vulnerability and need, rooted in their relative ranges of capacities and interests.

The Institutionalization of the Ethics of “Non-Injury” toward All “Beings” in Ancient India

Jacobsen, Knut A.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 16/3 (1994), pages 287-301

The principle of non-injury toward all living beings in India was originally a rule restraining human interaction with the natural environment. I compare two discourses on the relationship between humans and the natural environment in ancient India: the discourse of the priestly sacrificial cult and the discourse of the renunciants. In the sacrificial cult, all living beings were conceptualized as food. The renunciants opposed this conception and favored the ethics of non-injury toward all beings (plants, animals, etc.), which meant that no living being should be food for another. The first represented an ethics modelled on the power that the eater has over the eaten while the second attempted to overturn this food chain ethics. The ethics of non-injury ascribed ultimate value to every individual living being. As a critique of the individualistic ethics of noninjury, a holistic ethics was developed that prescribed the unselfish performance of one’s duties for the sake of the functioning of the natural system. Vegetarianism became a popular adaptation of the ethics of non-injury. These dramatic changes in ethics in ancient India are suggestive for the possibility of dramatic changes in environmental ethics today.