Ethics and the Built Environment

Ethics and the Built Environment

Ethics and the Built Environment

Ethics and the Built Environment

Synopsis

Much has been written in recent years on environmental ethics relating to the more general 'natural' environment but little specifically written about ethics of the built environment. Ethics and the Built Environment responds to this need and offers a debate on the ethical dimension of building in all its forms from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and approaches.This book should be of interest to architects, students of building and building design, environmentalists, politicians and general readers with an interest in ethics.

Excerpt

Major theoretical and practical developments dating back variously over the last century, and in some cases longer, have contributed to a revolution in ethics in the last two to three decades. On the theoretical side, I have in mind developments as significant as those of post-Big Bang physics, post-Darwinian evolutionary biology and ecology, the emerging cognitive sciences and the emerging study of complex adaptive systems - in short, the sciences of matter, life, mind and complexity-in-general. These sciences have collectively fuelled the development of a naturalistic, evolutionary understanding of the universe and all that it contains, which, in turn, has stimulated (at least for many) a fundamental rethinking of humanity’s place in the larger scheme of things. On the practical side, the emerging anthropogenic (i.e. humanly caused) ecological crisis has been leading us to question the ways in which we dwell upon the Earth. Taken together, these major theoretical and practical challenges to our previous self-understandings and ways of living have led, just since the 1970s, to the development of an emerging field of philosophy known as ‘environmental philosophy’ or, more particularly, ‘environmental ethics’.

As its name suggests, environmental ethics is, or at least ought to be, concerned with examining any and all ethical questions that arise with respect to a moral agent’s interactions with any and all aspects of the world around her or him. This includes other humans, since environmental ethics typically begins with an analysis of the reasons why we believe humans to be deserving of moral consideration and why we have, until quite recently, denied such consideration to the non-human world. Thus, if its full implications are grasped, environmental ethics represents the most general form of ethics we have. Far from being a minor, ‘applied ethics’ offshoot of the field of enquiry hitherto known simply as ethics, environmental ethics actually represents a vast enlargement of that field of enquiry. This is because, as just implied, the field of ethics to date has been profoundly human-centred in its range of concerns and therefore effectively constitutes a subset- albeit an astonishingly elaborated subset - of the range of concerns addressed by environmental ethics (see, for example, Fox 1995 and 1996; Zimmerman 1998). There is therefore a strong case for referring to environmental ethics as ‘general ethics’ and referring to traditional human-centred ethics as ‘anthropocentric ethics’, that is, as that subset of general ethics that deals with human-centred ethical concerns.

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