Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics

By Holmes Rolston III | Go to book overview

7
Values Gone Wild

For the trip you are about to take I offer myself as a wilderness guide. Nowadays it is easier to get lost conceptually in wildlands than physically. A century ago the challenge was to know where you were geographically in a blank spot on the map, but today we are bewildered philosophically in what has long been mapped as a moral blank space. Despite our scientific and cultural taming of wildness we still wander, confused over how to value it. Values run off our maps. In journeys there, "value" changes its meaning, as does the word "wild." Travelers need pathfinding through strange places.


VALUING OUR SOURCES AND RESOURCES

Before I can lead you into the deep wilderness of values, we will have to make our way past a misguided route. It may seem to keep us oriented to value wildlands as resources. With soil, timber, or game the meaning of "resource" is clear enough. Humans tap into spontaneous nature, dam water, smelt ores, domesticate, manage, and harvest, redirecting natural courses to become resources. No longer wild, they come under our control. But when we try to speak of wilderness as a "resource" the term soon goes kerflooey. Notice the oddity of this resource relationship, which will prove a key for unlocking anthropocentric presumptions about value.

A park ranger may interpret the Tetons as a scientific, recreational, or aesthetic resource, but by the time she calls it a philosophical or religious resource, the term is eating up everything, as if humans have no other operating modes vis-à-vis wilderness. Have her notice that resources come in two kinds: the ordinary kind that are rearranged into artifacts, and the extraordinary, wild type that we impact as little as possible. The botanist in Cascade Canyon or the mountaineer atop the Grand Teton find both places important precisely as not

____________________
Reprinted by permission from Inquiry, An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy and the Social Sciences 26 ( 1983): 181-207.

-118-

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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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