Ideals of Human Excellence and Preserving Natural Environments

Hill, Thomas E. Jr.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 5/3 (1983), pages 211-224

The moral significance of preserving natural environments is not entirely an issue of rights and social utility, for a person’s attitude toward nature may be importantly connected with virtues or human excellences. The question is, “What sort of person would destroy the natural environment—or even see its value solely in cost/benefit terms?” The answer I suggest is that willingness to do so may well reveal the absence of traits which are a natural basis for a proper humility, self-acceptance, gratitude, and appreciation of the good in others.

The Value of Wilderness

Godfrey-Smith, William
Environmental Ethics Vol. 1/4 (1979), pages 309-19

In this paper I explore various grounds on which wilderness can be regarded as something which we should value, and I draw attention to the problems of resolving conflict which are generated by these diverse grounds. I conclude that our attitudes toward nature are partially determined by a background of metaphysical assumptions which derive in particular from the philosophy of Descartes. These metaphysical preconceptions lead to the misconception that various alternative views about the natural environment are mystical or occult. Thus, an alternative non-Cartesian mode of conception involving holistic or systemic modes of thought is required in order to develop a satisfactory basis for our attitude toward the natural world.

In Defense of Biocentrism

Taylor, Paul W.

Environmental Ethics Vol. 5/3 (1983), pages 237-43

Gene Spitler has raised certain objections to my views on the biocentric outlook: (1) that a factual error is involved in the assertion that organisms pursue their own good, (2) that there is an inconsistency in the biocentric outlook, (3) that it is impossible for anyone to adopt that outlook, and (4) that the outlook entails unacceptable moral judgments, for example, that killing insects and wildflowers is as morally reprehensible as killing humans. I reply to each of these points, showing that the biocentric outlook on nature is not only a possible, but also a reasonable world view.

Multicentrism: A Manifesto

Weston, Anthony
Environmental Ethics Vol. 26/1 (2004), pages 25-40

The familiar “centrisms” in environmental ethics aim to make ethics progressively more inclusive by expanding a single circle of moral consideration I propose a radically different kind of geometry. Multicentrism envisions a world of irreducibly diverse and multiple centers of being and value—not one single circle, of whatever size or growth rate, but many circles, partly overlapping, each with its own center. Moral consideration necessarily becomes plural and ongoing, and moral action takes place within an open-ended context of negotiation and covenant. Much critical and constructive work, both in environmental ethics proper and in many related fields, is already multicentric in spirit. It needs to be drawn together into an explicit, alternative environmental-ethical “platform.”

Environmental Ethics as Environmental Etiquette: Toward an Ethics-Based Epistemology

Cheney, Jim; Weston, Anthony
Environmental Ethics Vol. 21/2 (1999), pages 115-134

An ethics-based epistemology is necessary for environmental philosophy—a sharply different approach from the epistemology-based ethics that the field has inherited, mostly implicitly, from mainstream ethics. In this paper, we try to uncover this inherited epistemology and point toward an alternative. In section two, we outline a general contrast between an ethics-based epistemology and an epistemology-based ethics. In section three, we examine the relationship between ethics and epistemology in an ethics-based epistemology, drawing extensively on examples from indigenous cultures. We briefly explore several striking implications of an ethics-based epistemology in sections four and five.