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18. Environmental Ethics


Subject Philosophy » Ethics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631219088.2002.00023.x


Humans are the only self-reflective, deliberative moral agents. Ethics is for people. But are humans the only valuable, valuing agents in an otherwise value-free world? Humans co-inhabit Earth with five to ten million species. Nature has equipped Homo sapiens , the wise species, with a conscience. Perhaps conscience is less wisely used than it ought to be when, as in classical Enlightenment ethics, it excludes the global community of life from consideration, with the resulting paradox that the self-consciously moral species acts only in its collective self-interest toward all the rest. Environmental ethics claims that we humans are not so ‘enlightened’ as once supposed, not until we reach a more considerate ethic. If someone had been attempting to foresee the future of philosophy at the middle of the twentieth century, one of the most surprising developments would have been the rise of environmental philosophy. Environmental ethics remained unknown until the mid-1970s. That was to change rapidly. Philosophers have published dozens of anthologies and systematic works in the field, and courses are taught in several hundred universities and colleges on many continents. There are four professional journals. The International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE) has 400 members in 20 countries. The World Congress of Philosophy (1998) devoted four sections to environmental philosophy, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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