The Anthropocentric Advantage
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2010, 00:00 by Nicole Hassoun
Environmental ethicists often criticize liberalism. For, many liberals embrace anthropocentric theories on which only humans have non-instrumental value. Environmental ethicists argue that such liberals fail to account for many things that matter or provide an ethic sufficient for addressing climate change. These critics suggest that many parts of nature -- non-human individuals, other species, ecosystems and the biosphere have a kind of value beyond what they contribute to human freedom (or other things of value). This article suggests, however, that if environmental ethics are inclusive and also entail that concern for some parts of nature does not always trump concern for others, they have a different problem. For, when there are many things of value, figuring out what to do can be extremely difficult. Even though climate change is likely to cause problems for many parts of nature it will probably be good for some other parts. Inclusive environmental ethicists need a theory taking all of the things they care about into account to provide definitive reason even to address climate change. Without this theory, anthropocentric liberals might argue that we should not accept an inclusive environmental ethic. Although there may be something wrong with this line of thought, it at least raises a puzzle for those inclined to accept these ethics.