Environmental Ethics @ Rhodes: "Ecocentrism"

Read this text. Note the key points of the approach so you can compare it with the others presented in this unit.

Aldo Leopold's "Land Ethic"

In "The Land Ethic" Aldo Leopold’s main position removes the athrocentric tendency of the human race. Instead of thinking that we as human beings are superior or the “conqueror” over the land-community, Leopold insists we are plain members and citizens of the Earth. As such we are required to respect Earth's members and it's communities. Though this does not mean the land ethic prevents the utilization of resources, just assures the right for these members to continue existence and in their natural habitat. He uses the example of historical events. It is told in terms of “human enterprise”, yet the characteristics of land can also relay a historical message about the men who lived on it. Historically there are many points of view or ways to analyze history it is just necessary to be aware of other s (all living not just a reference to other creatures).


The economic influence behind the conservation effort plays a big role. Education is slowly developing but no one looks at the big picture. We take a stance on our immediate surroundings and feel the government will take care of the rest, yet the government needs an economic or political basis to create legislation and draw attention to the problem. Furthermore, most members of the land community, as well as, some ecosystems have no economic value so they are ignore and even destroyed. Aldo draws for these points in hope that people will listen and the conservation effort which is a big factor of the land ethic.


The land pyramid needs to be incorporated into the pyramid of life. Food Chains are living channels of energy but so is soil. Humans need to realize:

1. “That land is not merely soil”

2. “That the native plants and animals kept the energy circuit open; others may not”

3. “That man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes , and have effects more comprehensive than is intended or forseen”

A land ethic mirrors an ecological conscience and in turn leaves us with the responsibility of the health of the land.
Awareness and taking responsibility of our actions is nothing that can be disagreed with. More people need this sense of respect and the conservation movement could blossom.


Beyond "The Land Ethic"

In this essay, the author discusses whether or not it is appropriate to allow personal emotions to interfere with our rational judgement when it comes to making ethical decisions in regards to the environment. Callicott focuses on the idea of ecocentrism in this piece, meaning that entire ecological communities should be part of the moral equation. He references Leopold’s “land ethic” and discusses how Hume has provided inspiration. Hume’s ethical system is based more so on feelings as a basis for motivation as opposed to Kant who is based entirely in the rational as opposed to the emotional. While Callicott agrees that we should feel compassionate and sympathetic to other members of our biotic community, we should not let our emotions direct us so far as to change the natural order and focus of the community. Callicott basically thinks that our ethical system as it deals with the environment, should focus on how to preserve it as it is and maintain the natural order and rhythm of things. Even though some may assume the best thing to do would be to interfere with nature in an effort to preserve or promote its welfare, Callicott argues that by interfering, the entire ecosystem becomes thrown somewhat off balance. He says that how things work in the ecosystem naturally is good and that we should not do anything to change that, even if it means stepping in to better the futures of species within said ecosystem. It is with this opinion that he finds himself agreeing with Leopold’s “land ethic”. Callicott agrees that if humans are indeed “along with plants and animals, coevolved, distantly kin members of a biotic community” then we should work to preserve the natural state of the community. That is the way it was created and that is the way we should keep it. He says that “we ought to feel sympathy and benevolence toward our fellow members and loyalty and respect to the community as such.”


Critiques of Callicott's "Beyond the Land Ethic"


Rolstons "The Value In Nature and the Nature of Value"

Human Value:
All humans have the ability to put a value on something whether it be intrinsically or instrumentally. As Wilhelm Windleband says "Value…is never found in the object itself as a property. It consists in a relation to an appreciating mind…take away will and there is no such thing as value." So, since all humans have free will, we all have the inherent ability to value.


Taking an interest in an object gives humans a value-ability and what is valued is what humans behold. Value therefore requires subjectivity to coagulate with the world as Rolston points out. There is also no value to anything until consciousness comes on scene. Intrinsic value in the realized sense emerges rationally with the appearance of the subject-generator according to Rolston.


Saying that value is intrinsic is misleading and therefore should be seen as extrinsic because “ex” indicates that it is external. Man is the measure of things according to Protagoras. As Rolston concludes by saying “ Humans are the measures, the valuers of things, even when we measure what they are in themselves.”

Valuable animals:
Animals are valuable and are able to value things. They maintain a supposed valued self-identity as they cope with living in this world. It is intrinsic to animals and it non-anthropogenic. There is no better evidence of non-human values and valuers than spontaneous wildlife because it is born free and on it’s on into the wild.

Valuable organisms:
A valuer is an entity able to defend value. Things don’t matter to plants, but they do matter for them and that’s where we run into the word benefit that is a value based word. Plants take advantage of their environment and that’s plants are a nominative set that distinguishes between what is and what ought to be. An organism usually defends and can therefore be considered to be in a valued state.


Last modified: Friday, September 7, 2018, 11:37 AM