In Nature's Interests?: Interests, Animal Rights, and Environmental Ethics

In Nature's Interests?: Interests, Animal Rights, and Environmental Ethics

In Nature's Interests?: Interests, Animal Rights, and Environmental Ethics

In Nature's Interests?: Interests, Animal Rights, and Environmental Ethics

Synopsis

This book offers a powerful response to what Varner calls the "two dogmas of environmental ethics"--the assumptions that animal rights philosophies and anthropocentric views are each antithetical to sound environmental policy. Allowing that every living organism has interests which ought, other things being equal, to be protected, Varner contends that some interests take priority over others. He defends both a sentientist principle giving priority to the lives of organisms with conscious desires and an anthropocentric principle giving priority to certain very inclusive interests which only humans have. He then shows that these principles not only comport with but provide significant support for environmental goals.

Excerpt

As I conceive of it, ethical behavior produces and preserves value in the world. a morally good person knows what has value and acts to produce and preserve it. This book articulates and defends a particular vision of what has value and therefore of the morally good life: the view that the satisfaction of interests is of primary and overriding moral value.

In the 1990s, it has become common to make appeals to what is in nature's interests. in 1990, the editors of Audubon magazine began describing it on its masthead as "Speaking for Nature." On the twentieth anniversary of the original Earth Day, David Brower's autobiography was published with the title For Earth's Sake. a book called Fifty Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth went to the top of the nonfiction bestseller list. and in the wake of Earth Day 1990, a surprising range of companies began describing themselves or their products as "Environment Friendly" (President's Choice), "Kind to the Earth" (K-Mart), or "Taking Bold Steps for Earth" (Turner Broadcasting System). the language of both environmentalists and businesses in the 1990s suggests that both human beings and nature have interests in some literal sense, interests that can come to loggerheads.

Appeals to what is in nature's interests certainly have achieved a kind of rhetorical hegemony, but sometimes the rhetoric is metaphorical. a popular poster displays a photograph of the earth taken from one of the Apollo moon shots and urges you to "Love Your Mother." One is unsure how literally to take this admonition. the paradigm case of love, that between adult human beings, involves recognition of and concern for the interests of the object of one's love. One does not really love one's spouse unless one is committed to advancing his or her interests. But one can "love" something, in a looser and more metaphorical sense, without thinking that the object of one's "love" has interests. I use this looser sense of the term when I say that I love a good strong cup of coffee first thing in the morning or that I love an old photograph of my friends. I can love coffee and a photograph in this weaker, more metaphorical sense, without think-

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