Three Challenges For Environmental Philosophy


The recent development of the branch of philosophy called ‘environmental philosophy’, or as it is sometimes referred to, ‘environmental ethics’, has been characterized by a variety of theoretical disputes about the best way to provide a philosophical basis for engagement with the environmental problems facing us, now and in the future. Many of the early writers hoped that a new environmental ethics would emerge, embodying a set of principles that could help us deal with our relation to animals and the natural world in a way that traditional ethical theories seemed to have overlooked. One of the early contributors to this project was Aldo Leopold, who was not a philosopher but a professor of forestry and land management. His famous essay ‘The Land Ethic’, found in his 1949 book The Sand County Almanac, has stimulated a great deal of discussion about the kind of principles we need to guide us on environmental issues. Leopold argued for the extension of what we see as worthy of our respect from the human community to include animals and the natural world, or what he referred to as ‘the biotic community’. His famous principle, briefly expressed, was, ‘A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise’.

more from Jim Moran at Philosophy Now here.