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Ethics Theory and Business Practice 9.1 Environmental Ethics – Part One Some Contrasting Ways of Valuing the Natural World.

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Presentation on theme: "Ethics Theory and Business Practice 9.1 Environmental Ethics – Part One Some Contrasting Ways of Valuing the Natural World."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ethics Theory and Business Practice 9.1 Environmental Ethics – Part One Some Contrasting Ways of Valuing the Natural World

2 aims to explain the difference between anthropocentric and biocentric approaches to environmental ethics to explore some implications of anthropocentrism and biocentrism for business

3 the growing importance of environmental ethics for business expectations of influential stakeholders the environmental impact of business

4 why does the natural world matter? an anthropocentric response: the natural world matters because of what it provides for humans a biocentric response: the natural world matters in its own right, regardless of what it provides for humans

5 some anthropocentric rationales 1.resource anthropocentrism 2.enlightened anthropocentrism 3.aesthetic anthropocentrism 4.emotional anthropocentrism

6 1. resource anthropocentrism nature exists for humans to use as a resource Aquinas: animals and plants occupy lower levels in the universal hierarchy, so humans are entitled to use them to meet their needs Locke: humans need to transform nature in order to make it more productive for their use Mill: humans must control and shackle nature so as to defuse the dangers that it presents businesses should harness the natural world and put it to productive human use

7 2. enlightened anthropocentrism the natural world derives its value from its usefulness to humans, but we need to be careful how we use nature otherwise future generations will suffer the consequences tends to focus more on long-term preservation of natural resources than on short-term exploitation of them business should put the natural world to productive human use, but should also be careful to preserve scare resources for future use

8 theory in practice the Marine Stewardship Council: a case of enlightened anthropocentrism

9 3. aesthetic anthropocentrism valuing nature as a source of artistic pleasure the beautiful and the sublime the picturesque and the not so picturesque

10 businesses which offer customers the opportunity to experience beauty in nature are performing a valuable role other businesses should ensure that their activities do not diminish people’s opportunity to experience the beauty of the natural landscape

11 4. emotional anthropocentrism intimate connection with the natural world is essential to the emotional well-being of humans which is particularly important in an increasingly urbanized world hence the need to preserve pristine landscapes where humans can reconnect with nature

12 businesses which give people the opportunity to experience nature in the raw are playing a worthwhile role other businesses should avoid either contaminating the wild spaces that humans might want to visit or preventing human access to them

13 theory in practice wind farms: an enlightened way of meeting human energy needs; or a blight on the landscape?

14 some biocentric rationales 1.last-person argument 2.redefining the moral community 3.challenging anthropocentrism’s atomistic presupposition

15 1. last-person argument suppose that you are the last person left on earth suppose, moreover, that you are in a position to inflict widespread environmental devastation after your death anthropocentrism implies there would be no reason not to inflict this devastation which conflicts with ethical intuition so the natural world must matter in its own right after all (Sylvan, 2003/1973)

16 businesses should not view the natural world as a resource to be exploited for human use they should respect its intrinsic value and avoid doing anything that might impair that value

17 2. redefining the moral community the very notion of ethics presupposes the idea of a moral community and anthropocentrism limits this community to humans but what grounds do we have for this restriction on the moral community? the usual response refers to the fact that only humans possess human rationality but what’s so great about human rationality?

18 speciesism one group of beings specifies a criterion of value that only they meet (such as human rationality) they use that criterion of value to evaluate the worth of all beings and they find that, according to that criterion of value, they are of greater worth than other beings (Ryder, 2011)

19 animals and other non-human creatures are deserving of ethical consideration, so businesses which impact on non-human creatures should treat them with respect animals are not just there for human use; they matter in themselves

20 3. challenging anthropocentrism’s atomistic presupposition atomism: an assumption that human beings can stand apart from nature taking from it what they need when they need it, but otherwise leading their lives in isolation from it which misunderstands the unavoidable interconnections that pervade our world interconnections which mean that humans and nature are so deeply implicated in mutual dependency that neither can be considered apart from the other

21 biotic pyramids humans and larger mammals plants, insects, birds and small mammals absorption of energy (Leopold, 2003/1949)

22 businesses should consider the impact of their activities on nature they should be aware that in altering nature they may damage the balance within complex eco-systems upon which everything and everybody depends

23 theory in practice is krill the only species endangered by the over fishing of krill?

24 key points how we define business’s environmental responsibilities depends to a large extent about how we attribute value to the natural world anthropocentrism attributes value to the natural world insofar as it serves the needs of humans, while biocentrism accords intrinsic value to nature

25 references Aquinas, T. (2010/ ) ‘Humans as Moral Ends’, in D.R. Keller (ed.), Environmental Ethics: the big questions. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell. pp Leopold, A. (2003/1949) ‘The Land Ethic’, in A. Light and H. Rolston (eds) Environmental Ethics: An Anthology. Malden: Blackwell. pp Locke, J. (1988/1690) Two Treatises of Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mill, J.S. (2010/1874) ‘The Amoral Status of Nature’, in D.R. Keller (ed.), Environmental Ethics: the big questions. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell. pp Ryder, R.D. (2011) Speciesism, Painism and Happiness: A Morality for the 21st Century. Exeter: Societas. Sylvan (Routley), R. (2003/1973) ‘Is There a Need for a New, and Environmental, Ethic?’, in A. Light and H. Rolston (eds) Environmental Ethics: An Anthology. Malden: Blackwell. pp


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