Refounding Environmental Ethics

Refounding Environmental Ethics: Pragmatism, Principle, and Practice

Ben A. Minteer
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    Refounding Environmental Ethics
    Book Description:

    Providing a bold and original rethinking of environmental ethics, Ben Minteer'sRefounding Environmental Ethicswill help ethicists and their allies resolve critical debates in environmental policy and conservation practice.

    Minteer considers the implications of John Dewey's pragmatist philosophy for environmental ethics, politics, and practice. He provides a new and compelling intellectual foundation for the field-one that supports a more activist, collaborative and problem-solving philosophical enterprise.

    Combining environmental ethics, democratic theory, philosophical pragmatism, and the environmental social sciences, Minteer makes the case for a more experimental, interdisciplinary, and democratic style of environmental ethics-one that stands as an alternative to the field's historically dominant "nature-centered" outlook.

    Minteer also provides examples of his pragmatic approach in action, considering a wide range of application and issues, including invasive species, ecological research, biodiversity loss, protected area management, and conservation under global climate change.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0085-7
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Foundations Old and New
    (pp. 1-15)

    On many, if not most, academic measures, the field of environmental ethics can be considered a great success. Today, courses in environmental ethics and philosophy are offered in the majority of college and university curricula; in many places, these are taught outside philosophy departments (e.g., in environmental studies programs; schools of public policy, forestry, and natural resources; and, in my own case, the life sciences). The field has produced a large and interesting literature, including major textbook anthologies, monographs, and a growing fleet of academic journals. Professional societies have been established, and dozens of national and international meetings focusing on...

  5. 2 Democracy and Environmental Ethics: A Justification
    (pp. 16-36)

    In Chapter 1, I describe the rise and development of academic environmental ethics in the 1970s and 1980s as a quest for a radically new environmental worldview and value framework that would be unequivocally nonanthropocentric, recognizing the intrinsic value of natural entities and processes and establishing direct duties to promote the good or interests of nature. The emergence of a pragmatist counterpoint to this nonanthropocentric project in the 1990s was driven by a deep dissatisfaction among some philosophers with the ethical and methodological bent of this form of theory in environmental ethics. These dissenting writers argued that the nonanthropocentric position,...

  6. 3 The Public and Its Environmental Problems
    (pp. 37-55)

    Although environmental ethics has (as I mention in Chapter 1) achieved significant academic success—at least, if we judge this by the number of courses offered, monographs published, and journals established—its standing within the discipline of philosophy has always been somewhat tenuous. Indeed, J. Baird Callicott once wrote that environmental philosophy was “something of a pariah” in the mainstream philosophical community (1999a, 1). Although the reputation of the field in conventional philosophy circles may be slowly changing, I believe Callicott’s observation remains largely accurate. For example, even though interest in environmental ethics is growing within interdisciplinary programs and departments—...

  7. 4 Intrinsic Value for Pragmatists
    (pp. 56-74)

    One summer, when I was about ten years old, I intentionally and maliciously killed a couple of garter snakes. Growing up in a rural area of New York State, I often encountered them while playing in my backyard, particularly near a rock wall at the edge of my mother’s tomato garden. The rocks were long, thin, and loosely stacked—the perfect place for the snakes to bide their time, waiting to terrify ten-year-olds stricken with an irrational, although nonetheless paralyzing, fear of them. One day, I decided that something had to be done. Because I could not bring myself to...

  8. 5 Natural Piety, Environmental Ethics, and Sustainability
    (pp. 75-90)

    In Chapter 4, I discuss how a pragmatic view of intrinsic or noninstrumental environmental value may be pursued within a situation-based or contextual framework, one that draws from John Dewey’s understanding of ethical inquiry and problem solving. The discussion there is largely methodological—that is, it focuses on theprocessrather than thecontentof environmental ethical claims and arguments within environmental management and policy problems. I now want to turn to a more substantive consideration of environmental values by recovering a neglected aspect of the pragmatist tradition: Dewey’s religious thought. It is a strain of pragmatist writing that has...

  9. 6 Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics: A Pragmatic Reconciliation
    (pp. 91-113)

    On Arrowhead Mountain Lake, in northwestern Vermont, a breeding pair of mute swans established itself in 1993. The species, which evolved elsewhere (primarily in Europe and Asia), arrived in the United States around 1920, when several birds escaped from a private estate overseas. Not surprisingly, the swans are remarkably beautiful creatures, with their white plumage and long, curved necks. But despite an aesthetic ideal that endows them with an almost fairy-tale tranquility, the birds are, according to many wildlife managers and environmentalists, little more than obnoxious avian thugs. In particular, the swans are fiercely, and often violently, territorial. A single...

  10. 7 Pluralism, Contextualism, and Natural Resource Management: Getting Empirical in Environmental Ethics
    (pp. 114-139)

    Given the public mission of environmental ethics—that is, to make compelling normative arguments justifying sound environmental policy and management decisions—it is surprising that the field has been so methodologically conservative over the years. One would think that this pragmatic charge would have spurred the development of a more interdisciplinary style of philosophical inquiry, especially studies that incorporate the analytical and experimental tools of the policy and management sciences. Yet, as I discuss in Chapter 3, the field has remained mostly insulated from the core discourses and methods that inform environmental public policy and management. It has emphasized instead...

  11. 8 A Practical Ethics for Ecologists and Biodiversity Managers
    (pp. 140-160)
    James P. Collins

    The previous chapter shows that environmental ethics has often neglected empirical methods of inquiry, featuring few projects that connect, in an effective way, the core methodologies of the humanities and the social sciences. This posture, as well as the ideological tendencies of much environmental ethics described in the first part of this book, has kept the field from reaching its full potential as branch of practical philosophy that can effectively inform sound environmental policy and management decisions. For the concepts and arguments of environmental ethics to gain greater traction in the realm of environmental policy and practice, it has been...

  12. 9 Conservation after Preservation
    (pp. 161-174)

    In December 2007, a couple in northern California were convicted of violating the “Solar Shade Control Act,” a little-known 1978 state law, because their trees were shading a neighbor’s rooftop solar panels. Although the offending flora were planted several years before the photovoltaic panels were installed, the judge in the case ordered the owners to ensure that no more than 10 percent of their neighbor’s solar panels was shaded, a decision that required either cutting down some of the illicit foliage or pruning extensively to put the trees back on the right side of the law. The case was drenched...

  13. References
    (pp. 175-194)
  14. Index
    (pp. 195-198)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)