Prompt 14: The End

 

After completing all of the assigned readings, I have come to the conclusion that my personal philosophy will be that of an ecological ethics position. I can clearly see now that ecological view is the right choice because it can better describe the environment and our role in that environment. After reading Callicott’s view of land ethics, I felt more discussion was needed on the topic, manly regarding human obligation and how to maintain the balance of the biotic community with humanity. Almost all of the group projects presented today are dependent on our role in the environment and subject to our actions. The two topics I chose to focus closely on were Wilderness Preservation and Climate Change. I found both topics extremely interesting because they are heavily dependent on maintaining balance between the biotic community and humanity.

My first instinct before researching the topic of wilderness preservation was that of excluding all human contact from the wilderness creating two separate entities; humanity and the environment. I soon realized that this was a foolish and impractical way of approaching the wilderness preservation. To cut natural resources abruptly would wreak economic havoc and would be to extreme of a change. This caused me to appreciate Mathew’s view of letting be. Mathew discussed that humanity needs to return to nature to preserve the wilderness. This would call for living in the wilderness and becoming part of the environment. Although this would be a violation of the definition of the environment according to Nelson, I thought it would align closely to my environmental beliefs. We would create a balance between the human community and the biotic community, thus becoming less removed from the ecosystem as we are today. Although I agreed with this view, I knew that this model was impractical for the reason of converting people to leave their current life style of consumerism to live off the land. This made me realize that although I personally believe in a balance between the environment and humanity, we must find this balance in a way that allows us to keep a similar life style to our current way of life in order for the preservation of the wilderness to be effective.

I found my solution while learning of Noss’s view of how to deal with wilderness preservation. Noss believes that society should maintain an ethical balance with the biotic community, while steadily decreasing our dependence off resources located in the wilderness. I believe this moderate view is the most logical way to effectively protect the wilderness because it does not rely on a drastic change on society’s part, which humans are notoriously resistant to change. This means developing renewable energy sources and focusing on decreasing our imprint on the environment. This would mean society would have to make ethical decisions to focus scientific research to rely less on the environment. Focusing on this research would mean more jobs and a growth of the economy which is part of the human community’s natural way. This means humanity can maintain a balance between humanity and the biotic community through scientific developments. After completing the group project, I could clearly see that I did not only look at environmental issues from an ecological standpoint, but from a practical view as well. With this new philosophy, I could now look at climate change issues in a new light from when I first started developing my environmental views.

Climate change held a close connection to the preservation of wilderness in my opinion because wilderness areas are extremely effective at converting CO2 into oxygen which is the leading cause of climate change. Another connection I felt when reading about climate change was that both the preservation of the wilderness and climate issues could be solved through ethical choices to focus on scientific research. ] Gardiner’s essay stated that his view of climate change was “in terms of it being as much a moral quandary as an economic and scientific problem.” I saw this view to be very practical and level headed, thus why I felt it was a great approach to climate change. Similar to Noss’s ethical balance theory, Gardiner see’s climate change as a moral issues that needs to be understood both economically and scientifically. When looking at Dawson, it is clear that not every philosopher would like to focus on these topics but rather on the discrimination and societal problems climate change causes. Although an important subject that should be looked into, I feel we need to understand climate change in scientific terms in order to combat the changes and then discuss the implications climate change can have on society. Thus if we approach our environment, encompassing climate change and wilderness preservation, in an ethically, scientifically and practically light, then I believe we have the best chance at halting the trauma humanity has already caused to the environment, allowing for an ethical balance between the biotic community and society.

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Prompt 13: The Big Picture

Post 4 

Post 10

When I first entered this course, did not have a sound environmental philosophy other than an idea that harming animals and the environment is bad. I did not know enough about the subject to make an informed conclusion on what methods and beliefs best align with my personal morals and ethics. After being first introduced to an environmental philosophy in post 4, to now looking over post 10 which covered my final view of environmental ethics, I can see a common theme. This theme is humanities role in the environment. I feel now after reading many different views on how to approach environmental ethics, that I agree with any form of respecting and protecting animals and the environment, but what I valued greatest is the philosophy that can best explain humanities role, which I found to be the ecological position of environmental ethics.

In post 4 I discussed vivisection in detail and Singers views on the matter. After reading Singer I felt a connection to the animal liberation view and utilitarian approach of reasoning. I ultimately agreed with Singer that the least amount of pain should be caused thus vivisection should be done away with, but I couldn’t help but feel that vivisection does some good for humanity. I agreed that vivisection should be band for non-lifesaving products but this feeling caused me to try and justify vivisection with a utilitarian eye, stating that by causing pain to an animal we are creating happiness in the form of cures that is greater than the pain caused to animals. I criticized my own view saying that I allowed for speciesism to cloud my judgment but I did not see this as foolish but more as a necessary evil.

Now looking back, my utilitarian view was not a great one because it lacked elements of how much pain is actually created and I would now agree that this concept is loosely defended.  But seeing the flaws of utilitarianism is not what contributed to my change in moral philosophy from animal rights position to ecological ethics position. My change in belief came from our role in the environment and how our actions affect it. Thus my moral stance resulted in a holistic view of ecological consideration because it best defined our role as humans as well as our place in the ecological system. In post, ten I am critical of land ethics but I over all agree with the concept. Callicott’s interpretation land ethics shows that humans are part of the biotic community thus we have to respect the environment, but we also have an obligation to our human community. This means that humans should be respecting nature and preserve it as best as possible, but while doing so we still have an obligation to the greater good of humanity. My criticism in post ten arises from there being a lack of a clear definition of what human obligations are but I acknowledge that land ethics is the right step for environmental ethics. It explains our roles as humans and does not consider the environment and humanity as two separate entities, thus I support the ecological position.

Although Land ethics and the ecological approach still needs further fine tuning, I can see now that this way of thinking can answer questions that my earlier utilitarian animal liberation could not. It cannot only fill holes regarding nature and the biotic community but it can account for humanities role as well. This shows me that my progression from my post four to post ten was not simply a radical change in belief but a progression of learning new ideas that filled voids my earlier beliefs could not fill. This shows the philosophical nature of my development through my posts and that as I learn even more about ecological ethics position, my views may still change.

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Prompt 12: Connecting the Parts

Post 6

Post 9

After reading through my five posts, I found post nine and post six to share an interesting concept that has been a staple of the animal liberation argument throughout environmental ethics. The concepts I speak of is intrinsic value. I have many mixed feelings on the subject, thus why I felt it would be a great topic to cover. When this concept was first introduced by Singer in the reading, I immediately though my views would align closest to this topic, resulting with me holding an animal liberation approach. But as we got further into the topic I started seeing the flaws in the intrinsic and animal liberation way of thinking. Animal liberation views were not able to provide a definition for what has intrinsic value and what does not, and if things that are not living do not have intrinsic value, how are we to protect the environment?

All of these holes became aware to me after reading Warrens critique of Regan which is the reason I chose post six, because it goes in depth about the flaws of Regan’s ideas. Although I was no longer a supporter of intrinsic value, I felt that this was a topic that needed to be further discussed, that needed a definition. This further discussion arose in my post nine with the introduction of Taylors essay Biocentric Egalitarianism. Taylor (as I discuss in post nine) stabs directly at the source of the problem of intrinsic value by saying “inherent worth is not some mysterious sort of objective property…not some entity described by citing features discernible by sense perception or inductive reasoning” (Taylor, 210). Taylor, with this quote and his theory of respecting nature, is able to tackle inherent value and look at the subject in a different light.

My main criticism of Regan’s ideas which are discussed in post six, revolved around the anthropocentric nature of intrinsic value. I state “(inherent value is) not awarded to the animals with the most qualities closest to humans” (Post Nine). Taylor argues this point by saying the humans need to be removed from the process of granting intrinsic value and realize that “inherent value is part of the center of life” (Post Nine). In post six I discussed that I was left wanting justification for intrinsic value where in post nine, I was able to then justify intrinsic value and fill the hole that was created by Regan’s definition. This justification allowed me to see how by looking at environmental ethics from a biotic view, we could provide justification for inherent value rather than leaving it hanging to be interpreted.

Although these posts both cover intrinsic value, post six discusses the topic from an animal liberation view (Warren and Regan) while Taylor’s holistic view (post nine) is able to provide justification behind inherent value and not leave it up to the subjectivity of humanity. These two posts show my development to supporting ecological ethics. I started by liking the idea of inherent value but the animal liberation approach was unable to fill the holes that surrounded inherent value. In post nine, the idea of a biotic community was able to justify inherent value and further the conversation of environmental ethics. This progression is why I believe that ecological solutions are able to provide more explanations then animal liberation views are, thus why ecological ethics in my opinion, is the best way to approach environmental ethics.

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Prompt 11: Resolving the Conflict Between Individualistic and Holistic Ethics

Prompt eleven requires me to choose a post ten from another student to compare my prompt ten, but before I can compare, we must understand my opinion on the topic and my reasoning behind that opinion.

I chose to follow a path that did not agree with the individualistic approach, but did not fully agree with Callicott’s land ethic approach either.  When I look back at this post and many other posts I have written, I can clearly see that I support the ecological ethicist position but I have issues with some of the solutions discussed for the support of the biotic community. I acknowledge Callicott’s approach and justification of land ethics, but I claim that it still leaves many holes that need to be plugged. In my post for prompt ten, I discussed that the problem with Callicott’s approach lacked the definition of when a person should put the rights of humanity before the biotic community. With the current definition of land ethics we could justify that we are currently respecting the environment and also looking out for the basic needs of humanity, but we can almost all agree that humanity today is not respecting nature. Thus, I argued that more duties needed to be placed on the responsibilities to humanity and the biotic community to have a fully functioning ecological ethicist position.

I chose to compare Nick Marshalls prompt ten to mine for his disbelief in the holistic approach as a solution to environmental ethics. Although both Nick and I agree that Callicott’s views are off, Nick sees this as a reason to think more about the individualistic utilitarian approach where I see it as a topic that needs further discussing.  After reading Marshalls post, I can see that he does not believe the holistic approach is the right solution for solving the overall environmental ethics conversation and supports this with evidence from Callicott’s essay. I acknowledge his points but I claim that these are not reasons to abandon the holistic approach but further discuss holistic ethics and make the necessary changes. Marshall references Callicot’s statement; “the duties correlative to the inner social circles to which we belong eclipse those correlative to the rings farther from the heartwood when conflicts arise” (Callicott, 243). He disagrees with this statement bringing up an example of your family obligation to wash the dishes compared to your obligation as a citizen to abide by the laws and not commit crimes. I would agree that by this logic, you obviously have a greater responsibility to not break laws then to do the dishes.  But think about this example; you have jury duty which is a responsibility to the state as a citizen but your immediate family member somehow ends up in the hospital and no one is able to go help other then you. Obviously the moral obligation is to go to the family member to assure his or her safety before even thinking about your responsibility of jury duty.  Thus, these two scenario’s show that there are moral obligations shared between both communities that have to be judged from time to time. For  this reason, I do not completely denounce Callicott’s ideas but rather argue that there must be duties and further explanations of when the needs of humanity take precedence over the biotic community and vice versa.

Although Marshall acknowledges and appreciates Callicott’s attempt, he still sees Callicott’s views as radical and unrealistic. Although Marshall disagreed with Callicott’s views I would not define his view on environmental ethics as a fully animal liberationist position, but more falling in the spectrum of a weak animal liberationist position thus falling having both holistic and individual values.  I would agree that if Callicott’s approach to land ethics was adopted the current way it is would be unrealistic. I reiterate as I discussed in post nine and ten and in this essay, that Callicott’s idea needs further refining, possibly with the definition of what humans basic needs are that allow humans to not take advantage of the biotic community. With this refining, I believe we will move forward in support of an ecological ethicist position.

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Prompt 10: The Land Ethic

Land ethics has often been tossed to the side in the greater discussion of environmental ethics. It has been criticized for the paradox it creates. The paradox is the conflict created between the moral obligation of the biotic community and the moral obligation of the human community. The moral obligation of the biotic community requires respect of the ecosystem which includes protecting living and non-living entities as well as controlling populations of species for the greater good of the biotic community. The moral obligation of the human community is to protect all living individuals no matter their class, race or nationality to protect humanity. When comparing these obligations the reader notices that a goal of the biotic community includes controlling a species for the greater good of the environmental community. Humanity in the pursuit of modernization has shifted the biotic community, causing harm to the ecosystem. By the morals established in the biotic community, humans should control their own species for the greater good of the biotic community. This stimulates the question, how could a human be part of the biotic community and not break moral obligations in his own community? Thus, Land ethics has received the label of inhuman and according to Regan “environmental fascism” (p.242).

Until I read Callicott’s passage The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic, I was convinced a biotic community was the best choice for the well-being of humanity as well as the environment, but this flaw surrounding land ethics makes me question the concept. Callicott acknowledges as I do, Land ethics as the next step in the conversation of environmental ethics, thus removing itself from the traditional ideas that have halted in a standstill of debate.  Callicott provides a solution to Land ethics which simply claims that land ethic is not inhuman but is given that label from philosophers that as he puts it have “their own theoretical presupposition” (Callicott, 243). Callicott validates this claim with the example of nationality verses community. As part of a society of many nations, we have a moral obligation to respect those countries, but as citizens of a nation we have a moral obligation to our country. He compares this too the problem of land ethics. We as a member of the biotic community, we have an obligation to respect the environment but as part of the human community, we have an overriding obligation to our species just as we have an overriding obligation to our country.

I am in full agreement with Callicott on the idea that Land ethics is then next step to break away from the institutionalized moral philosophy of environmental ethics, but I disagree that Callicott’s solution fixes the hole in Land ethics (Callicott, 243). Callicott’s example of nations and a citizen’s obligation to their country is flawed. It does not explain the wars nations face daily, and the disrespect we show other countries and other countries show us, thus how can humanity be trusted to respect the environment and not focus only on the needs of humanity. Thus his solution has not removed the inhumane nature surrounding Land ethics, but rather tried to justify the claims against land ethics (unsuccessfully). Although I disagree with Callicott’s solution and land ethics, I still feel that the biotic community is the right step for environmental ethics and requires further discussion. I argue that the biotic community and respecting nature has been the closest the discussion of environmental ethics has come to describing our moral obligations to nature as I discussed in my post nine. It has given us a starting point to justify inherent value as described by Taylor and has been able to provide reason for protecting non-humans as well as other not living entities. Land ethics is not a normative solution but it is part of the crumbling foundation environmental philosophy sits on, requiring further discussion to create a solid foundation.

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Prompt 09: Why It Matters

Ever since the introduction of inherent worth, I have felt a connection to this idea. My first encounter of the inherent worth with Regan’s rights view left me wanting more. I liked the idea but the justification of inherent worth was lacking, leaving too much room for debate as well as too much anthropocentrism. Taylor in his essay Biocentric Egalitarianism, confronts this hole inherent worth has faced head on stating “inherent worth is not some mysterious sort of objective property…not some entity described by citing features discernible by sense perception or inductive reasoning” (Taylor, 210). This statement stabs directly at root of the problem of Regan’s theories, showing that humans cannot assign inherent value, but it is already present as a part of life.

To understand how intrinsic value plays a role in our environment, we must first understand how the concept is related to Taylor’s ethical system. He refers to the system as the biocentric outlook on nature, which simply boils down to respecting nature. In the system, the earth is not looked at as a place where humans are the highest entity but rather looking at the earth in scientifically and rationally to see humans place in the overall ecosystem. From this view humans are part of the biosphere or community of life and must realize that this community of life also applies to non-humans. The study of ecology shows that all life is interconnected and that each entity is capable of “pursuing its own good in its own way” (Taylor, 212). This supports the idea that humans must be removed from their anthropocentric ways and as must realize that inherent value is part of the center of life (as Taylor calls it), not awarded to the animals with the most qualities closest to humans. Thus inherent worth is connected to the biocentric system Taylor establishes as a part of life and the biosphere.

I agree with Taylor’s claim of biocentric egalitarianism not only because I believe in respecting nature but because it attempts to justify inherent worth which has plagued the theory in environmental ethics time and time again. The main way Taylor does this is by removing humans’ anthropocentrism from the idea. Regan’s argument suffered because it implied that inherent value is something that can be given or taken away based on the features an animal possess. Warren saw this flaw and critiqued it by questioning where the line was drawn of which animals do or do not have intrinsic value. Taylor tackles anthropocentric undertone by comparing traits of animals to traits of humans. He contests that the speed of a cheetah and the vision of an eagle are greater than humans. But then states the values that humans hold higher; creativity, rational thought and self-awareness. This invokes Taylor’s question; “valuable to whom, and on what grounds?” (Taylor, 216).  I support Taylor’s implied claim that no one feature is better than another, they are all equal. Think of strength. An average human in the wild lacks the value of strength that is needed to survive in that domain, and say a money lacks the intelligence to survive (without human support) in our domain. This logic leads me to support that inherent value is not a result of human labeling but something centers of life already have in of themselves and would still have if humans were removed from the biosphere.

Growing up I was always taught to respect people, animals, and the environment, thus I support Taylors ethical system. Although his system gives a form of justification to inherent worth, I acknowledge his claim that it is just a jumping off point void of consequentialism and deontology, allowing for further discussions on the topic. I respect this notion but claim that this step in the grand scheme of environmental ethics was desperately needed.  After reading Regan’s, Warren’s and Nelson’s essay, I felt inherent worth needed more discussion and a step in the right direction, thus why I agreed with Taylor biocentric system and his removal of anthropocentrism from Inherent value.

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Prompt 08: Ecological Ethics

Lilly-Marlen Russow in her essay Why Do Species Matter introduces an idea that has plagued environmental ethics, causing great debate. The question that has yet to be fully answered is simply why one species should have precedent to be saved over another species. Russow highlights several case studies in which some species are saved while others are left to sufferer the fates of Darwinism. One example of this is the snail darter. This species was in danger of extinction due to the construction of a dam, yet no valiant attempts were made to preserve the species. On the other hand, we have the Pere David Deer which was considered near extinction and was thus preserved in Zoo’s bringing the population back to a safe level while having no intention of reintroducing it to the wild. These case studies exhibit the conflict in views of the differences in species.

Many answers to this conflict have lingered in environmental ethics and Russow refers to different arguments as traditional answers. Although Russow introduces three answers, I will focus on the one argument I agree with most and that resembles closely with holistic ethics. Russow categorized this group as “those that claim that species have some extrinsic value” (Russow, 193). This supports that the importance of any species is that of the value it hold in the ecosystem, that if one part of the chain is removed, it could affect the whole system. Russow argues that this is an anthropocentric view that we use to alert us of pollution or dangers that the environment can cause to humans. This argument focuses around the idea that every species holds important information as Donella Meadows describes in Biodiversity: The Key to Saving Life on Earth that could be beneficial to us in the future. But interestingly Russow goes on to claim that “most benefits could be derived from other varieties of the same species” (Russow, 194). This means that if there was some information that was lost due to a species becoming extinct, it could be recovered from a subspecies.  Russow’s argument against this holistic view is a paradox. If genetic information that is lost could be recovered elsewhere in a subspecies why take the risk of causing harm to the ecosystem as a whole? This unconvincing criticism strengthens my support of the holistic view as opposed to the individualist approach to judging which species should be protected.

Russow sums up her critique by providing a concern she has about this traditional answer. Her concern to the answer is that “these arguments presuppose that ‘the natural order of things’ is, in itself, good” (Russow, 195). Her statement implies that she does not believe that approach to the judgment of which species survive as something that should not be determined by the ecosystem. She claims that until humans can “ascribe value to (the) system, and the animals which actually fulfill a certain function of the system” the argument will not have any value (Russow, 195).  This claim is anthropocentric because it calls for humans to choose the value of species and what niche they fill in the ecosystem. Placing value on species does not need to occur for the continuing function of the ecosystem. Until very recently in the history of the world, humans have not been involved in preserving species that we to become extinct. Thus I claim as the Gaia Hypothesis does, that the ecosystem is capable of self-regulating itself and sustaining life without the involvement of humans. Thus, we as humans should allow the ecosystem to take its course and not pick and choose species for survival.

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