Ethics and the Environment 25 (2):45 (2020)

Brendan Cline
California State University, Channel Islands
The protection of species ranks highly among environmentalist priorities, and many environmentalists expect the public to respect and support efforts to protect and rehabilitate endangered species. There are a range of instrumental and anthropocentric justifications for these attitudes, yet some environmentalists want more. It is unclear that more is to be had. In particular, it is challenging to justify some environmentalist attitudes without appealing to some version of the claim that species are intrinsically valuable. However, this has been a notoriously difficult thesis to defend, and it is clearly not available to those who doubt the existence of species. In this paper, I show how a number of environmentalist commitments that appear to be about the value of species can be interpreted and defended in a way that is compatible with antirealism about species. According to my proposal, the proper target of environmentalists’ evaluative concern is the irreplaceable design that is embodied by the individuals that make up a (putative) species. This approach can capture and justify many environmentalist attitudes about the value of biological variety without attributing intrinsic value to species, or even requiring a place for species in our ontology. This enables environmentalists to effectively sidestep a number of puzzling issues surrounding the nature and value of species.
Keywords Species  Environmental Ethics  Intrinsic Value  Instrumental Value  Biodiversity
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DOI 10.2979/ethicsenviro.25.2.03
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