Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics

By Holmes Rolston III | Go to book overview

I. ETHICS AND NATURE

No one will deny that we have duties to others that may involve natural things. Persons are greatly helped or hurt by the condition of their environment, and this in complex ways. Thus, the extinction of the grizzly bear would impoverish the wilderness experiences of numerous vacationers, now and for generations to come. But this involves an environmental ethic in a secondary, humanistic sense. Can there be an environmental ethic in a primary, naturalistic sense, one where natural things are morally considerable in their own right? How is such an ethic to divide or integrate its concern between individual organisms and the ecosystems out of which they evolved and in which they still flourish? How far is such an ethic divided between the prosperity of humans and the prosperity of the ecosystem and its other natural members? We seem to need an ethic for partners with entwined destinies.

No one will deny that we can and ought to be prudent in our use of natural resources. But when philosophy takes this wild turn, ought nature in some sense to be followed? Can it be a tutor of human conduct? What, if anything, do we learn in nature that forms character? The mainstream Western paradigm, characterized a century ago by John Stuart Mill, urges us to study nature and finds this the first principle of intelligent action. But humans so study nature in order to amend and repair it. They seek to use it resourcefully. Is there any further studying of nature that appreciates its wildness, its spontaneous generative powers, its beauty? Is there a nature that we can and ought to love?

Such questions in the essays that follow open out to wider horizons, and we conclude this section asking how to form a worldview of this earthen ecosystem that has borne and that continues to bear up the natural and human histories. Perhaps the most basic duty of all is to the great river of life, past, present, and future.

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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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