Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics

By Holmes Rolston III | Go to book overview

3
Philosophical Aspects of the Environment

"Philosophy bakes no bread," runs an old lament. Yet the hand is joined to the mind; action rises from belief. Ecology, when it becomes human ecology, thrusts humans into a logic of their oikos, their home; ultimately it turns on a state of mind. The activist will soon become impatient with just "thinking." We concede that we often must act with unclear heads and, sometimes, understanding comes after action. But "Act now, think later" is a slogan the inadequacy of which has been amply demonstrated in environmental transactions. Granted that, untranslated into pragmatic proposals, even the soundest eco-logic is useless; ponder, on the other hand, the mischief done by a faulty one. Environ mental competence presupposes a mindset.

Nature is perhaps the most ancient philosophic category, yet the genius of many centuries has, ultimately, hardly left nature less enigmatic. We begin in one discipline, whether philosophy or physics, or biology or geology, only to find interfaces with many, whether geography, or economics, or politics, or art, or religion. We know, only to find the unknown vaster. We search, to find that the search returns upon ourselves, for the measure of nature requires the measure of man. Of late, this perennial quest has been thrown into fresh ferment. What is the temper of this ecological reevaluation?


ECOLOGY, THE ULTIMATE SCIENCE

Ecosystem science is being often offered as an ultimate science that synthesizes even the arts and the humanities. "Although ecology may be treated as a science, its greater and overriding wisdom is universal," claims Paul Shepard, introducing an influential anthology, The Subversive Science. 1 Its first law and commandment is the dynamic steady state requisite between organism and environment, homeostasis. Popularly, this yields needed recycling. Pragmatically, few

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Reprinted by permission from Phillip O. Foss, ed., Environment and Colorado: A Handbook (Fort Collins, Colorado: Environmental Resources Center, Colorado State University, 1974).

-53-

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Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • I. Ethics and Nature 11
  • 1: Is There an Ecological Ethic? 12
  • Notes 28
  • 2: Can and Ought We to Follow Nature? 30
  • 3: Philosophical Aspects of the Environment 53
  • 4: The River of Life 61
  • Ii. Values in Nature 73
  • 5: Values in Nature 74
  • Notes 89
  • 6: Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective? 91
  • 7: Values Gone Wild 118
  • Iii. Environmental Philosophy in Practice 143
  • 8: Just Environmental Business 144
  • Introduction 144
  • References 177
  • 9: Valuing Wildlands 180
  • Iv. Nature in Experience 221
  • 11: Lake Solitude 223
  • 12: Meditation at the Precambrian Contact 233
  • 13: Farewell, Washington County 241
  • 14: Nature and Human Emotions 248
  • Subject Index 263
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