Arne Naess and the Task of Gestalt Ontology

Diehm, Christian
Environmental Ethics Vol. 28/1 (2006), pages 21-35

While much of Arne Naess’s ecosophy underscores the importance of understanding one’s ecological Self, his analyses of gestaltism are significant in that they center less on questions of the self than on questions of nature and what is other-than-human. Rather than the realization of a more expansive Self, gestalt ontology calls for a “gestalt shift” in our thinking about nature, one that allows for its intrinsic value to emerge clearly. Taking such a gestalt shift as a central task enables Naess to avoid some common criticisms of his view.

Itch Scratching, Patio Building, and Pesky Flies: Biocentric Individualism Revisited

Davion, Victoria
Environmental Ethics Vol. 28/2 (2006), pages 115-128

Biocentric individualism, the position that all life has intrinsic value, is of no practical help in policy-making contexts. Examples commonly used in discussions of biocentric individualism are themselves alienating and threaten to make environmental philosophy appear irrelevant to policy decisions. Hence, both biocentric individualism and typical discussions of it are problematic for those wishing to make environmental philosophy useful in policy. A recent article by Jason Kawall, in which he attempts to defend biocentric individualism, demonstrates these points.

Instrumental Value in Nature as a Basis for the Intrinsic Value of Nature as a Whole

Elliot, Robert
Environmental Ethics Vol. 27/1 (2005), pages 43-56

Some environmental ethicists believe that nature as whole has intrinsic value. One reason they do is because they are struck by the extent to which nature and natural processes give rise to so much that has intrinsic value. The underlying thought is that the value-producing work that nature performs, its instrumentality, imbues nature with a value that is more than merely instrumental. This inference, from instrumental value to a noninstrumental value (such as intrinsic value or systemic value), has been criticized. After all, it seems to rely on the bizarre idea that a thing’s instrumental value could be a basis for it’s intrinsic value. This idea, however, is not as easy to dismiss as many might think. Review of the obvious arguments that might be deployed to defeat it shows that they have to be rejected, suggesting that a thing’s instrumental value could be, and arguably is, a basis for it’s intrinsic value. Defending this apparently bizarre idea provides a way of justifying the claim that nature as a whole has intrinsic value.

St. Francis, Paul Taylor, and Franciscan Biocentrism

Mizzoni, John
Environmental Ethics Vol. 26/1 (2004), pages 41-56

The biocentric outlook on nature affirms our fellowship with other living creatures and portrays human beings as members of the Earth’s community who have equal moral standing with other living members of the community. A comparison of Paul Taylor’s biocentric theory of environmental ethics and the life and writings of St. Francis of Assisi reveals that Francis maintained a biocentric environmental ethic. This individualistc environmental ethic is grounded in biology and is unaffected by the paradigm shift in ecology in which nature is regarded as in flux rather than tending toward equilibrium. A holistic environmental ethic that accords moral standing to holistic entities (species, ecosytems, biotic communities) is more vulnerable to these changes in ecology than an environmental ethic that accords moral standing to individuals. Another strength of biocentrism is its potential to provide a unified front across religious and scientific lines.

Against the Social Construction of Nature and Wilderness

Crist, Eileen,
Environmental Ethics Vol. 26/1 (2004), pages 5-24

The application of constructivism to “nature” and “wilderness” is intellectually and politically objectionable. Despite a proclivity for examining the social underpinnings of representations, constructivists do not deconstruct their own rhetoric and assumptions; nor do they consider what socio-historical conditions support their perspective. Constructivists employ skewed metaphors to describe knowledge production about nature as though the loaded language use of constructivism is straightforward and neutral. They also implicitly rely on a humanist perspective about knowledge creation that privileges the cognitive sovereignty of human subject over nature. Politically, the constructivist approach fails to take the scientific documentation of the biodiversity crisis seriously; it diverts attention toward discourses about the environmental predicament, rather than examining that predicament itself; and it indirectly cashes in on, and thus supports, human colonization of the Earth.