Schweitzer Reconsidered: The Applicability of Reverence for Life as Environmental Philosophy

Goodin, David K.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 29/4 (2007), pages 403-21

As the last great philosopher of the will, Albert Schweitzer rejected the radical individualism of Nietzsche and the pessimistic-mystical detachment of Schopenhauer, and instead sought to create a true social ethic. Schweitzer’s particular contribution was to move further than Nietzsche to reconcile philosophy with natural science while simultaneously preserving and transforming the sense of mysticism and higher world-order principles from Schopenhauer. He joined this new cosmology to the virtue ethics of Aristotle, and recovered one key element of his ontology of becoming to transcend the Humean “is/ought” gap for ethics. The result is a philosophy that is as much biographical of Schweitzer himself as it is systematic. This result is both the strength and greatest weakness of his reverence-for-life ethic. It is tailor-made for contemporary environmental ethics: it has applications in many strands of environmental thought, including deep ecology, ecofeminism, and ecotheology, and may attract considerable interest from environmental movements that seek to cultivate deep personal conviction.

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.

Gluttony, Arrogance, Greed, and Apathy: An Exploration of Environmental Vice

Cafaro, Philip
Cafaro, P., Sandler, R. (eds.) (2004): Environmental Virtue Ethics. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pages 135-158

Traditional virtue ethics recognized that human flourishing depends on a supportive social environment. Hence traditional virtue theories defined vices or character defects in terms of their harm to both individuals and society. An environmental virtue ethics builds on the recognition that human flourishing also depends on appreciating and sustaining healthy, biologically diverse natural environments. This article discusses four key environmental vices that harm vicious people, the human and nonhuman beings around them, and the environment broadly considered. Such an exploration suggests both self-interested and altruistic reasons to improve our environmental behavior.