A Theory of Environmental Virtue

Sandler, Ronald
Environmental Ethics Vol. 28/3 (2006), pages 247-264

If claims about which character traits are environmental virtues are to be more than rhetoric, there must be some basis or standard for evaluation. This naturalistic, teleological, pluralistic, and inclusive account of what makes a character trait an environmental virtue can be such a standard. It is naturalistic because it is consistent with and motivated by scientific naturalism. It is teleological because character traits are evaluated according to how well they promote certain ends. It is pluralistic because those ends are both agent-relative and agent-independent. It is inclusive because it counts environmentally justified, environmentally responsive and environmentally productive virtues as environmental virtues. This theory of environmental virtue provides the basis for the development of a typology of environmental virtue that includes virtues of sustainability, virtues of communion with nature, virtues of respect for nature, virtues of environmental activism, and virtues of environmental stewardship.

Environmental Virtue Ethics: A New Direction for Environmental Ethics

Frasz, Geoffrey B.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 15/3 (1993), pages 259-274

In this essay, I first extend the insights of virtue ethics into environmental ethics and examine the possible dangers of this approach. Second, I analyze some qualities of character that an environmentally virtuous person must possess. Third, I evaluate “humility” as an environmental virtue, specifically, the position of Thomas E. Hill, Jr. I conclude that Hill’s conception of “proper” humility can be more adequately explicated by associating it with another virtue, environmental “openness.”

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.

Thoreau’s Virtue Ethics in Walden

Cafaro, Philip
The Concord Saunterer (Journal of the Thoreau Society) 8 (2000), pages 23-47

I believe the time has come to appreciate Thoreau as an ethical philosopher. Two recent changes within academic philosophy should pave the way for such an appreciation. First, the rise of environmental ethics; second, the recent rise of virtue ethics as an alternative or supplement to mainstream Kantianism and utilitarianism. Today, the ethical issues Thoreau’s writings address have finally been recognized as real philosophical issues. Because he wrestled with fundamental problems and linked particular ethical judgments to a plausible general framework, philosophers can recognize Thoreau as one of their own. Because he lived his ethical truths and demanded that we live ours, professional philosophers and general readers are equally challenged by his words.

Environmental Virtue Ethics: Half the Truth but Dangerous as a Whole

Rolston, Holmes III
Cafaro, P., Sandler, R. (eds.) (2004): Environmental Virtue Ethics. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pages 61-78

Rolston warns against casting environmental virtue in too fundamental a role in environmental ethics. Although environmental virtue is an intrinsically good state, valuable to its possessor, and enables attunement to “the flow of nature,” we must not identify human virtue or excellence as the source of natural value. Natural entities do not derive their value from their relationship to human virtue und flourishing; nature and natural entities have value in themselves. Indeed, environmental virtue is only intelligibly as a responsiveness to the independent value of nature. After all, it is hard to gain much excellence of character from appreciating an otherwise worthless thing. The author finds environmental virtue ethics dangerous to the extent that its focus on human flourishing distracts us from the intrinsic value of natural entities that makes environmental virtue possible. Our deeper ethical achievement needs to focus on values as intrinsic achievement in wild nature. These virtues within us need to attend to values without us.