The Historical Foundations of American Environmental Attitudes

Hargrove, Eugene C.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 1/3 (1979), pages 209-240

John Passmore has claimed that American environmental attitudes are incompatible with Western traditions and Western civilization: they arose out of a Romantic transvaluation of values in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and today are defensible only in terms of antiscientific nature mysticism and Oriental religions. I argue that these attitudes developed out of an intricate interplay between Western science and art over the last three centuries, and are, therefore, of Western, not Eastern, origin. Moreover, they are a part of scientific and aesthetic changes so broad and fundamental that, despite Passmore’s prediction that they are unlikely to survive into the twenty-first century, they cannot be regarded lightly as a passing fad, and probably have already found a permanent place in Western thought and values.

Cheney and the Myth of Postmodernism

Smith, Mick
Environmental Ethics Vol. 15/1 (1993), pages 3-17

I draw critical parallels between Jim Cheney’s work and various aspects of modernism, which he ignores or misrepresents. I argue, first, that Cheney’s history of ideas is appallingly crude. He amalgamates all past Western philosophical traditions, irrespective of their disparate backgrounds and complex interrelationships, under the single heading, modern. Then he posits a radical epistemological break between a deluded modernism—characterized as foundationalist, essentialist, colonizing, and totalizing—and a contextual postmodernism. He seems unaware both of the complex genealogy of postmodernism and of those aspects of modern traditions that prefigure his own thesis. Second, Cheney’s account of primitive peoples is both ethnocentric (though positively so) and inaccurate. Third, Cheney reduces context or place to a concept of bioregionality. In this way, he reinstates a privileged foundationalism which, by his own definitions, makes his philosophy modernist. I develop these criticisms in order to suggest a less restricted contextual approach to environmental values.