Preservation versus the People? Nature, Humanity, and Political Philosophy

Preservation versus the People? Nature, Humanity, and Political Philosophy

Preservation versus the People? Nature, Humanity, and Political Philosophy

Preservation versus the People? Nature, Humanity, and Political Philosophy

Synopsis

This book looks anew at the question of nature preservation as public policy. The philosophy of nature preservation has to date focused on whether arguments for nature preservation should be centred on the value of nature itself (ecocentrism) or derived human benefits (anthropocentrism). This book argues that this way of thinking about the problem of preservation has been counter-productive for environmental ethics. Instead we need to unite both views around a concern for the irreplaceability of natural objects.

Excerpt

In the last chapter we analysed ecocentric conceptions of human need, flourishing, and desirable forms of interaction between humanity and non-human nature. From this analysis it was apparent that there is a strong 'humanist' element to ecocentrism, in that it has a partially developed conception of human need and human flourishing, and an account of how these are best fulfilled. This conception of human need satisfaction and human good is strongly coloured by ecocentrism's ontological picture, and these conceptions are grounded in the alleged existential unity of human and non-human nature.

I want, now, to concentrate on the criticisms of these ideas generated from within the political-philosophical ecology movement. We are thus dealing with a related set of ideas, generated by thinkers who themselves share certain motivations grounded in ecological concerns. the ideas these theorists have developed are intended to articulate a system of beliefs and an ethics by which human beings could both exist in 'harmony' with non-human nature and also live a life that is rich in terms of the development of human potential or the satisfaction of human needs. At a very general level, this is the aim of all political-ecological thinkers, yet ecocentrism and deep ecology have been trenchantly criticized from within the ecology movement. Why so? As we shall see, such criticism has focused upon a range of specific points, but the unifying idea behind the majority of this criticism has been concern over the apparent turn away from humanism, which is held to be (by both proponents and critics) at the heart of ecocentrism. Coupled with this critique have been attempts on the part of these thinkers to generate a humanist (sometimes labelled 'new humanist') alternative to

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