Presentation on theme: "Environmental Ethics. Three theories Deep ecology intrinsic value of all the natural world, both plant and animal. Eco-holism world is like one interconnected."— Presentation transcript:
Three theories Deep ecology intrinsic value of all the natural world, both plant and animal. Eco-holism world is like one interconnected body (Gaia = earth goddess) Shallow ecology environment is means to human survival, so needs be conserved
Deep ecology Writers: Aldo Leopold (1949), Arne Naess (1973), George Sessions (1983). Ecosophy “By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony and balance” (Naess, 1973:8). “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the bionic community” (Leopold, 1949). bios = Greek for life
Biodiversity: all inter-connected
Main points Ethics must discuss human relations to land, animals and plants. Richness, diversity of world intrinsic goods Every living thing (including plants) have a right to flourish (Naess). Nature does not exist to serve humans. Christian view of stewardship is arrogant.
George Sessions’ 8 point manifesto All life has intrinsic value Diversity creates well-being of all Humans must protect this responsibly Human impact is excessive Lifestyle and population change are critical Human impact must be reduced Political, economic systems must change Those who accept this must commit to peaceful change
What do you think of Sessions’ manifesto? Would you sign up to it?
Naess’ radical agenda (1973) Reduce population growth now Abandon economic growth as a goal Conserve diversity of species Live in small, self-reliant communities Touch the earth lightly: leave a soft footprint
The Gaia Project
Eco-holism Writers: James Lovelock (1979) Gaia hypothesis: earth is sustained by a self-regulating living system, like a body Gaia, the goddess of the earth, establishes and maintains this system (?paganism).
Main points Life can never be destroyed Gaia shall find new ways of restoring balance Humans may destroy themselves, but earth will go on without them The earth is a unified, holistic system, but we are just a part of this In his later work, Lovelock argues Gaia may herself destroy everything, thus altering his earlier view
Shallow ecology Underlies Kyoto (1997) Environment is means for human flourishing Environment has utility, so must be preserved Animals, plants have instrumental value alone Species die: this is part of a natural cycle
Does this have intrinsic worth?
Peter Singer’s version of shallow ecology Interests of all sentient beings should be included in utilitarian calculation. Plants etc have no intrinsic moral worth. There may be a case for preserving wilderness, rainforest etc but only if human welfare is maximised by this. Rather than being just human-centred, he is sentient-being centred!
Problems with environmental ethics You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”. “Is statement”: the planet is becoming unbalanced, and biodiversity is falling. “Ought statement”: so we ought to address the problem eg by recycling. So what principle will we use to connect the “is” and the “ought”?
Spend a few moments trying to connect the “is” of global warming with the “ought” of prescriptive action.
Human-centred or planet-centred? Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics have been criticised for being anthropocentric (human focused). Singer widens the calculation to include sentient beings. Does it make sense morally to include animals? What about tiny insects? What might a Buddhist argue?
A hierarchy of values Singer has argued that we should weight our calculation according to a hierarchy of values. Humans at the top, mammals next, insects, single cell organisms etc coming further down the list. Does such a hierarchy help? “Here complexity acts as an intensifier: if living, then the more complex the more morally significant” (Elliott in Singer ed. p287)