Environmental Philosophy

Environmental Philosophy

Christopher Belshaw
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 337
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  • Book Info
    Environmental Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Beginning with an overview of current concerns, Belshaw locates our attitudes toward the environment within their cultural and historical milieu. He then examines the various positions in detail, ranging from the moderate view that we ought to consider not only ourselves but also other animals, to the seemingly more extravagant contention that non-sentient life, rocks, deserts B indeed all of the processes of nature B should be considered intrinsically valuable. In later chapters Belshaw explores the importance of an aesthetic response to the environment, opening the way for a human-centred position that is both more generous and more flexible than those often advanced elsewhere. In contrast to many of its competitors, Environmental Philosophy challenges accepted dichotomies B man/nature, instrumental/intrinsic, green/non-green B and advocates conciliation rather than confrontation. Although the arguments are rigorous, the writing is clear and non-technical, making Environmental Philosophy an excellent survey for those engaging with these issues for the first time, as well as offering much to challenge the more advanced student.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8083-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    In the second half of his long life the art critic, educator, failed husband and Utopian socialist John Ruskin became increasingly concerned about the state of nature:

    This first day of May, 1869, I am writing where my work was begun thirty-five years ago, within sight of the snows of the higher Alps. In that half of the permitted life of man, I have seen strange evil brought upon every scene that I best loved, or tried to make beloved by others. The light which once flushed those pale summits with its rose at dawn, and purple at sunset, is...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Problems
    (pp. 1-22)

    Concern for the environment is widespread. Politicians put it high on their agendas, businesses have environmental policies, thousands upon thousands of products are supposed to be environment friendly, green is a favourite colour and countless people describe themselves as environmentalists. But what is the environment with which all these are so much concerned? What makes an issue environmental, as opposed to political, biological or economic? What does someone need to do, believe or want in order to be an environmentalist? There is a need for answers to these questions, but there is a need also to indicate that the answers...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Causes
    (pp. 23-38)

    There are problems for the environment. We might argue about how many and how serious they are, but global warming, damage to the ozone layer, destruction of the rainforest, mass extinctions and running down of fish stocks in many of the world’s seas are incontrovertibly cause for concern. So, too, are a range of more local problems: tankers run aground; dangerous chemicals leach into the water supply; the countryside continues to fall to the bulldozer, giving way to yet more shops, houses, roads and storage depots; and sparrows, thrushes and skylarks disappear. There are vastly fewer butterflies. Almost no one...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Solutions I: Voting and Pricing
    (pp. 39-62)

    Suppose we agree that, even without a definition, and even without tidy margins, we have a reasonably secure grasp of what many environmental problems are like. Some of these problems are technical: we agree on the solution needed but so far lack the means for its implementation. Others involve disagreement either as to whether a problem exists or, if it does, the shape of its best solution. My focus is on problems of the latter kind, in which there is disagreement as to values. How are such problems to be solved? There have been a number of suggestions. I will...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Solutions II: Moral Theory
    (pp. 63-92)

    We want to know what to do. Should we save the tiger, permit more roads or believe in nuclear power? More exactly, we want to know what most to do when there is a range of options, all of them attractive to some, but not all of which can be satisfied: safer or cheaper power, easy access to the countryside or its preservation, tea or tigers. We want to know how policies should be arrived at, and how decisions should be made. Two procedures have been considered, but in their actual forms both democratic and market forces are imperfect mechanisms,...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Animals
    (pp. 93-120)

    We can justify a concern with the environment. Our getting pleasure depends on it. And, more important, our well-being depends on it. In so far as we are concerned with the long-term good of human beings, we have reason to care about the world around us, both instrumentally, in that it offers resources or commodities that we can use to further our good, and non-instrumentally, in that we can and should value certain of its aspects for their immediate relation to our well-being. The environment matters. Many environmental problems could be solved and its overall quality much improved if, for...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Life
    (pp. 121-146)

    Many people are concerned about our treatment of animals. And many people are concerned, too, about our treatment of other living things, most notably and most often plants, and particularly trees, but also embryos, cells, bacteria and viruses.¹ Perhaps this second concern is less widespread. And, more important, perhaps it has, for most people, a different character. Other living things matter, but perhaps they matter in a different way.

    A large part of our concern for animals is a concern for creatures very many of which, like us, can enjoy pleasures and suffer pain. Because of this, what happens to...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Rivers, Species, Land
    (pp. 147-178)

    I have wanted to argue that there are no compelling grounds for supposing that plants, like animals, are of direct moral concern. If there were no grounds at all, and sentience were a condition of something’s being directly morally considerable, then it would follow that other non-sentient things were similarly not of such concern. But what I wanted to suggest towards the close of Chapter 6 is that there might still be some reasons, even if these be less than irresistible, for thinking that certain sorts of wrongs, under certain sorts of conditions, can be delivered to a wide range...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Deep Ecology
    (pp. 179-204)

    My major concern has been with thinking straight. But for many, when faced with our current range of environmental problems, this is hardly enough. And deep ecologists, in particular, are committed not only to reflecting on what ought to be done, but to going ahead and doing it. They aim to change the world. While many are philosophers,¹ others² bring a range of different and sometimes competing influences. Diverging views are not unwelcome, with deep ecologists insisting not on a rigid programme but rather on an attitude or approach, which then expresses itself in various writings and in various ways....

  12. CHAPTER 9 Value
    (pp. 205-228)

    Even if thought about the environment does involve various areas of philosophical inquiry, moral questions remain in many ways central. But answers to such questions can only be given, and decisions about what we ought to do only be made, against a wider and more general background concerning the relative values of certain situations or states of affairs as against others. Even if morality is not simply about producing the best outcomes, any plausible view will at least take those outcomes into account. So there is a need to engage with ethical matters more widely construed, deciding what sorts of...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Beauty
    (pp. 229-252)

    There are several reasons to consider beauty in more detail. First, it surfaces often in connection with intrinsic value, and relates to that notion, I have suggested, in ways importantly different from other of the environmentalist’s concerns. Secondly, beauty in nature ties in, evidently, with beauty in art, and reflection on the one both illuminates and is illuminated by reflection on the other. Here, then, thinking about the environment ties up with other areas of philosophical inquiry. Thirdly, and most obviously, it figures large in our reactions to the environment. We think of nature, or of parts of nature, as...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Human Beings
    (pp. 253-276)

    An argument of this book has been that our concern for the environment, even if not straightforwardly a concern for human beings, is nevertheless a concern expressed by human beings, and one that appropriately takes the welfare of human beings as among its central focuses. This leaves several questions unanswered. Some can be addressed here.

    Could there be reason to destroy, or wish for the destruction of, the human race? Many environmentalists believe that there could. We consign animals to lives of misery, cut down ancient forests, exterminate species on a massive scale and generally trash the planet. It would...

  15. Afterword
    (pp. 277-278)

    Raskin’s fears for the polluted and darkening skies over Cumbria have proved strangely prescient. A full century after his death, thousands of animal carcasses are burned in open pyres, black smoke covering the same fells. For as I make the final changes to this book, Britain is in the grip of its first foot and mouth outbreak for over thirty years. The government seems impotent, hemmed in by legislation, bureaucratic bumbling, and its obsessive concern, particularly in an election year, to do nothing until certain that its decision will command widespread support. And so, as the science is too little...

  16. APPENDIX A: Deep Ecology: Central Texts
    (pp. 279-282)
  17. APPENDIX B: The Axiarchical View
    (pp. 283-284)
  18. APPENDIX C: Gaia
    (pp. 285-288)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 289-312)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 313-318)
  21. Index
    (pp. 319-322)