The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics

The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics

The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics

The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics

Synopsis

The Spirit of the Soil challenges environmentalists to think more deeply and creatively about agriculture. Paul B. Thompson identifies four 'worldviews' which tackle agricultural ethics according to different philosophical priorities; productionism, stewardship, economics and holism. He examines current issues such as the use of pesticides and biotechnology from these ethical perspectives. This book achieves an open-ended account of sustainability designed to minimise hubris and help us to recapture the spirit of the soil.

Excerpt

The publisher created the mandate that this book should constitute an "advanced introduction" to its subject matter, meaning that while it should not shy away from difficult intellectual issues, and should, when appropriate, break new ground, it should not presume an audience familiar with the scholarly literature in any particular field, nor should it utilize technical concepts without clarification. This is a mandate that I have accepted happily, for the subject of this book, agriculture and environmental ethics, is one that needs attention from agricultural scientists, policy makers, and philosophers alike. As an occasional participant in the circles frequented by these three groups, I am keenly aware of the exceedingly slim margin of overlap among them. As such, I have judged it necessary to include at least one section that will insult the preparation, if not the intelligence, of every reader. I can only ask that readers bear with the simplifications that have been offered, and not judge me too harshly when their favorite nuance has been neglected.

At the same time, in the spirit of an advanced introduction, I have included many passing references that will be meaningful to a minority of readers. I beg forgiveness from those who are made to feel ignorant by these side comments; it is a feeling that I have shared many times in my philosophical education and in the subsequent decade I have spent on agricultural issues. These references are intended to anchor the text in a broader literature for those who are familiar with the individuals and concepts cited, and to point directions toward further reading for those who wish to delve more deeply into the links between agriculture and philosophy. For the majority, my advice is to ignore these allusions, and to recognize that there is bound to be more to agriculture and environmental ethics than can be collected in the covers of such a slim volume.

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