Ben Minteer

Introduction to Nature in Common? (2009)

“Unity among Environmentalists?”


1.      Main issues

         a.      Which is correct moral/value theory, anthropocentrism or nonanthropocentrim (which denies that nonhuman nature’s value is solely to serve human’s interests)?

         b.      Which is more effective in policy, anthropocentrism or nonanthropocentrims?

         c.      Which is built into our env laws?

         d.      Does non-anthropocentrism give trumping weight (moral superiority) to env arguments?

         e.      Do these moral/value theories converge? (Is the convergence thesis true?)



3.      First generation env ethicists believed we need to base env ethic on nonanthropocentric, intrinsic value of nature idea

         a.      Believed that mainstream anthropocentric ethics of the west (Kantian, utilitarian, virtue ethics) where inadequate to developing a more respectful relationship with nature

         b.      Anthropocentric ethic of env is shallow, need deep ecology

         c.      Philosophical task of env ethics is still seen to articulate a nature-centered (nonanthropocentric) worldview

                   i.       That takes into consideration good of nature

4.      Non-anthropocentric ethics would provide a persuasive moral justification for env policies (that anthropocentric ethics lacked)

         a.      “A knockdown ethical defense,” a solid, unassailable foundation for endangered species, wilderness protection and so on

         b.      Only IV arguments have a kind of “trumping power” that can defeat traditional, powerful econ arguments for env exploitation

         c.      IV arguments give a kind of moral authority

                   i.       Idea is that human economic (jobs, profits) or noneconomic concerns (e.g., psychological relaxation) can’t trump economic reasons for exploitation of nature

                   ii.      Where as nonanthropocentric intrinsic value can

         d.      Makes sense only if asserting “rights” for nature–rights trump utilitarian economic concerns.

                   i.       Simply seeing nature intrinsically valuable does not

5.      Env policies/practice to be “truly principled and justified” must be underwritten by strong biocentric and ecocentric arguments

         a.      Issues

                   i.       If convergence thesis is right, then anthropocentric reasons can justify all env policies

                   ii.      But one might think that a “principled” justification for env protection must include nonanthropocentric concerns

                   iii.     Nonanthropocentrists are saying only that nonhuman interests must be included as part of the justification and not that they are the entire justification

                            (1)    Human reasons need to be included too

                   iv.     Env policies to be truly principled and justified must be underwritten by anthropocentric reasons as well



7.      Nonanthropocentric ethics going against the practice (non-pragmatic) –it is “swimming upstream”

8.      Most env activism, policy, law in US motivated and explained by advancing human interests

         a.      Human health, welfare and safety

9.      “Environmental ethics with greatest impact in US and West is enlightened self-interest”

10.    NEPA example (requiring Env Impact Statements)

         a.      Sounds anthropocentric

         b.      No claim env itself has any interest independent of human welfare

         c.      No idea nature might have moral claim against humans who wish to alter or destroy it

11.    Some other major env laws also overwhelmingly anthro

12.    Some env laws may fit with non-anthro, but primary concern is anthropocentric;

13.    Anthropocentric concerns are dominant motivational elements of major advocacy groups (in policy and vision statements)

         a.      In footnote mentions that in England a majority of folks in env groups had intrinsic value of nature views

14.    Concludes from this that “env policy at best only reflect indirect regard for env, only human interests are of direct concern.”


15.    Worries

         a.      That many or most env laws are anthropocentric or primarily anthropocentric doesn’t mean they don’t also have nonanthropocentric elements that are important too

         b.      Examples of nonanthropocentric laws?

                   i.       Is the Endangered Species Act nonanthropocentric?

                   ii.      Is wilderness act nonanthropocentric?

                   iii.     Animal welfare laws give rights/protection to animals for own sake.

         c.      That laws are anthropocentric does not mean they should be

         d.      It is also an empirical issue whether most people are anthropocentric or do think nonhumans count morally

                   i.       My guess is that if we focus on nonhuman animals (e.g., pets) almost everyone thinks their interests counts directly



17.    Norton argues that nonanthropocentrism is

         a.      Conceptually flawed

         b.      Pragmatically unnecessary

18.    Rejects idea anthropocentrism is anathema to env protection

19.    Norton’s “Weak anthropocentrism” (Ned: Enlightened anthropocentrims) takes into account the full range of human values

         a.      Anthropocentrism not limited to exploitative, economic, and consumptive values of nature (“more consumer goods now”)

                   i.       Includes (intangible) spiritual, aesthetic, character building values

                   ii.      Includes tangible benefits (cancer cures, recreation)

                   iii.     Services (oxygen production, pollination by insects)

         b.      Widening of anthropocentrism to include full array of human goods from nature beyond narrow set of values that can be captured in market terms $

                   i.       Didn’t need nonanthropocentrism to criticize economistic views of nature (only thing valuable in nature is what has market value)

                   ii.      Could use other anthropocentric instrumental values to do this

         c.      Nature has “transformative value”

                   i.       Takes given “felt” preferences and changes them into more “considered” preferences

                   ii.      E.g., going to a classical music performance may change one’s felt preferences in music

                   iii.     E.g., paddling through a swamp can change one’s desires for what happens to the swamp and wetlands in general

                   iv.     Nature transforms human character and makes us better people

         d.      Anthropocentrism include resource sustainability for future generations


20.    Convergence thesis

         a.      Anthropocentrism and nonanthropocentrism have different values, but can agree on policy objectives

         b.      They will “converge”

         c.      Assuming the anthropocentrism is Norton’s enlightened anthro

21.    Example of convergence and divergence

         a.      Agree on objective to stop strip mining in a wilderness area

                   i.       One values wilderness as sacred vs other who values it as recreational opportunity for the community

         b.      Counter example to convergence thesis

                   i.       Once strip-mining is prohibited, supporters of recreational values may become allied with local Chamber of Commerce in supporting a larger parking lot for access to the wilderness, while former (nonanthropocentric) ally opposes parking lot

22.    Empirical hypo that nonanthropocentrists reject (does Rolston?)

23.    Nonanthropocentrists insist env policy needs to be nonanthropocentric

         a.      Nonanthropocentrism will support a more ambitious policy agenda

         b.      Env policies must express nonanthropocentric values to ensure preservation of biodiversity

         c.      “Conservation based on anthropocentrism alone is less robust/inclusive than policy based on IV”

         d.      NA only basis (no) or NA must be one basis (yes)?

         e.      Need to add NA to A justifications for the best defense of nature

                   i.       Seems correct

                   ii.      Unless one thinks intrinsic value claims somehow get in the way, turn people off to env protection


24.    Norton believes it is more effective to argue for env policy from weak anthropocentrism (and future generations) than non-anthropocentrims

         a.      Wouldn’t the most effective be both?

         b.      Would appeal to nonanthropocentric values turn off policy makers?


25.    Took a pragmatic approach to env philosophy

         a.      Policy goals of env take center stage

         b.      Ethical theorizing goes to background


         c.      Additional pragmatic claim of Norton’s: Stop internal squabbling in environmental ethics over anthropocentrism and nonanthropocentrism and turn to environmental ethics that is more useful for policy

26.    NA think big policy differences hang on anthropocentrism versus nonanthropocentrism

         a.      They also think pragmatically appeal to NA will be practically important/useful (gives it “moral authority”)