A Defense of Environmental Ethics: A Reply to Janna Thompson

Nelson, Michael P.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 15/3 (1993), pages 245-257

Janna Thompson dismisses environmental ethics primarily because it does not meet her criteria for ethics: consistency, non-vacuity, and decidability. In place of a more expansive environmental ethic, she proposes to limit moral considerability to beings with a “point of view.” I contend, first, that a point-of-view centered ethic is unacceptable not only because it fails to meet the tests of her own and other criteria, but also because it is precisely the type of ethic that has contributed to our current environmental dilemmas. Second, I argue that the holistic, ecocentric land ethic of Aldo Leopold, as developed by J. Baird Callicott, an environmental ethic that Thompson never considers, nicely meets Thompson’s criteria for acceptable ethics, and may indeed be the cure for our environmental woes.

Minimal, Moderate, and Extreme Moral Pluralism

Wenz, Peter S.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 15/1 (1993), pages 61-74

Concentrating on the views of Christopher Stone, who advocates moral pluralism, and J. Baird Callicott, who criticizes Stone’s views, I argue that the debate has been confused by a conflation of three different positions, here called minimal, moderate, and extreme moral pluralism. Minimal pluralism is uncontroversial because all known moral theories are minimally pluralistic. Extreme pluralism is defective in the ways that Callicott alleges and, moreover, is inconsistent with integrity in the moral life. However, moderate pluralism of the sort that I advance in Environmental Justice is distinct from extreme pluralism and free of its defects. It is also consistent with Callicott’s version of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, which is itself moderately pluralistic.

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.

Are Humans Superior to Animals and Plants?

Taylor, Paul W.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 6/2 (1984), pages 149-160

Louis G. Lombardi’s arguments in support of the claim that humans have greater inherent worth than other living things provide a clear account of how it is possible to conceive of the relation between humans and nonhumans in this way. Upon examining his arguments, however, it seems that he does not succeed in establishing any reason to believe that humans actually do have greater inherent worth than animals and plants.

The Rights of the Subhuman World

Hartshorne, Charles
Environmental Ethics Vol. 1/1 (1979), pages 49-60

Religion, philosophy, and science are best interpreted as supporting the idea that nonhuman forms of existence have intrinsic as well as instrumental values that we are ethically obligated to try to safeguard as best we can.