This article defines biocentrism. Note the key points of this approach and compare it with the others in this unit.

The essay "The Ethics of Respect for Nature" by Paul W. Taylor argues for an environmental ethic known as Biocentrism - a system of ethics that attempts to protect all life in nature. Under Biocentrism, all life - not just human life - should be protected for the organism's sake, regardless of the good it does humans. Taylor strongly holds that humans cannot let selfish desire get in the way of moral decisions about the environment.

Biocentrism works under the assumption that all life is interdependent. For example, if the deer population are over-hunted then the coyote and wolf will be affected as well.

Taylor lays out his ideas for Biocentrism in four main components:

  1. Humans are thought of as members of the Earth's community of life, holding that membership on the same terms apply to all non-human members (i.e. humans share the same value as all other living beings).
  2. The Earth's natural ecosystem as a totality are seen as a complex web of interconnected elements
  3. Each individual organism is conceived of as a teleological center of life, pursuing its own good in its own way
  4. The idea that humans are superior to other species is a groundless claim, and must be rejected as an irrational bias

Basically, biocentrism argues that humans should extend the moral duties they feel towards other humans to other species with the understanding that the planet's ecosystems are interconnected. Taylor argues that all organisms are unified systems of goal-oriented activities directed at self-preservation. He continues to say that we need to realize how affecting one part of that web can dramatically affect the others. He argues that the well being of humans relies on the soundness of that web. For example, if grain goes extinct, we have no grain, nor do we have the animals that eat it, nor do we have the animals that eat those animals. Our food supply will be cut dramatically shorter. Taylor's biocentrism argues that we need to put limits on human population, and technology so that people can properly share the earth with other beings. biocentrism attempts to make humans a part of nature, rather than the masters of nature. We can still eat other beings, however, we cannot do it at a rate that harms the natural ecosystems. An important element in Taylor's argument is the fact that humans share the same value as animals. While it's true humans are rational this survival skill is not different than claws on a tiger. Having a rational mind does not elevate us over nature.

This view conflicts drastically with the anthropocentric view.

Source: Environmental Ethics @ Rhodes,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

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Last modified: Monday, January 11, 2021, 6:35 PM