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The Value of Species

The Value of Species

Edward L. McCord
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    The Value of Species
    Book Description:

    In the face of accelerating extinctions across the globe, what ought we to do? Amid this sea of losses, what is our responsibility? How do we assess the value of nonhuman species? In this clear-spoken, passionate book, naturalist and philosopher Edward L. McCord explores urgent questions about the destruction of species and provides a new framework for appreciating and defending every form of life.

    The book draws insights from philosophy, ethics, law, and biology to arrive at a new way of thinking about the value of each species on earth. With meticulous reasoning, McCord demonstrates that the inherent value of species to humanity is intellectual: individual species are phenomena of such intellectual moment-so interesting in their own right-that they rise above other values and merit enduring human embrace. The author discusses the threats other species confront and delineates the challenges involved in creating any kind of public instrument to protect species. No other scholar has advocated on behalf of biodiversity with such eloquence and passion, and none provides greater inspiration to defend nonhuman forms of life.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18348-1
    Subjects: Zoology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  5. ONE To an Inquisitive Mind Open to Honest Reflection, the Value of Every Species Is Incalculable
    (pp. 1-20)

    It may be only we ourselves, humans, who have the cognitive grasp to see other species for what they are. So it is ironic that of all living beings we would be the ones extinguishing other species from the earth. But that is what we are doing. Many experts believe that as a consequence of human activities countless species alive today will be gone by the end of this century. Estimates vary widely, both about the number of species on earth and about the number lost in recent decades, yet even with this uncertainty, there is reason to believe that...

  6. TWO The Intellectual Value of Species to Humans Stems from Our Unique Character
    (pp. 21-34)

    What do we gain by recognizing the full intellectual value of species? The attraction we find in this discovery is not one of practical values. Indeed, the breadth and depth of the forces that make up living things characterize rats, mosquitoes, and poisonous plants no less than cows, timber, and corn. Our appreciation of these amazing dimensions is not predicated on a service that is performed for our practical needs. There is a value that we find in living things simply when we understand what they are in themselves, with all the relations to other life that their beings entail....

  7. THREE The Fate of Life on Earth Hinges on Property Values
    (pp. 35-54)

    The value of the earth’s living heritage to our humanity is incalculable. No honest and reflective person could deny this. There may be no avoiding our destruction of some forms of life. But if we are to find a way to at least diminish that destruction, it will most likely emerge only from a recognition of the limitations of reasoning and the self-constructed boundaries that place us in jeopardy of losing so much.

    In this chapter I turn to examples of these limitations and boundaries as they appear in competing values in land. Threats to species often arise in the...

  8. FOUR Humans Are Poised to Destroy the Resources of a World of Bountiful Interest
    (pp. 55-64)

    Rational self-interest is a defining condition of human nature. Rationality and self-interest are inseparable in the realm of practical “reasoning about what one should do in any given situation. Consider a simple test.

    Imagine that you place your hand on a hot stove and pull it away, and I ask you why you pulled your hand away. You’ll respond that the stove was “hot.” If I then ask you why the fact that the stove was hot is a reason to pull your hand away, you’ll respond that hot stoves “hurt” you when you touch them. If I now ask...

  9. FIVE Property Ownership and the Desire for Money Work Against the Interests of Species
    (pp. 65-80)

    However superior its inherent merit may be, the value of another living thing may stand at great disadvantage against other values, especially the value of money. This can follow from the very nature of our practical reasoning and motivations.

    A sack of money is not a perishable value of single dimension, like a sack of grain. Instead, money represents an enduring power to acquire innumerable values of all levels and kinds—from survival and sustenance to pleasures of every variety, quality of life, and social status. One might even say that accepting a monetary bribe in exchange for destroying a...

  10. SIX Free Market Environmentalism Places Profits Above the Public Interest
    (pp. 81-98)

    It may be tempting to conclude that the only way to rescue the earth’s living heritage from competition with money is to coopt money and the free market into its service. Proposals to do just that under the rubric of “free market environmentalism” have gained a following among varied constituencies in recent years. These constituencies include individuals at opposite poles of the values spectrum, which may not augur well for the integrity of markets as arbiters of the public interest. As the economist Thomas Power has explained, at issue is the world of difference between having marketsdeterminethe values...

  11. SEVEN Species Have No Direct Claim for Consideration in an Ethical Community
    (pp. 99-110)

    We do not let markets determine ethics. Associating ethical judgments with monetary rewards would obscure and even contradict the authority of ethics. It would create an expectation of a monetary reward for ethical behavior and then a sense of a right to that reward. This would weaken the authority of ethics and raise the absurd specter of an ethics of the highest bidder. Our reward for being ethical is usually the return favor of ethical behavior directed toward us in our ethical community. To suggest by a monetary reward that this may not be enough would call into question the...

  12. EIGHT What Kind of Humanity Do We Embrace?
    (pp. 111-130)

    Imagine a society unaffected by the inherent interest of other forms of life. This society watches indifferently as human activities extinguish species after species. Should we consider this society wrong?

    To find fault presumes that survival of other species represents a greater value than a “matter of taste.” But that value is exactly what this society denies. So if we want to protect species within this society, we are at a stand-off. Is there anything we can do?

    Perhaps we could suggest an exchange: if the society will support species, we will support its own matters of taste. We make...

    (pp. 131-134)

    The loss of frontiers on earth, the pressures on its carrying capacities—these present us with a dilemma of proportions never before faced in human history. It was only in the eighteenth century that Linnaeus replaced the chaos of using myriad languages and locally varying common names to identify living things with a uniform classification that could be understood throughout the world. Before everyone had a consistent name to call a particular species there was in many instances no way to know that it was disappearing, because we could not have counted its population. It was not until Charles Darwin...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 135-152)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 153-160)