Weak Anthropocentric Intrinsic Value

The Monist 75 (2):183-207 (1992)
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Professional environmental ethics arose directly out of the interest in the environment created by Earth Day in 1970. At that time many environmentalists, primarily because they had read Aldo Leopold’s essay, “The Land Ethic,” were convinced that the foundations of environmental problems were philosophical. Moreover, these environmentalists were dissatisfied with the instrumental arguments based on human use and benefit—which they felt compelled to invoke in defense of nature—because they thought these arguments were part of the problem. Wanting to counter instrumental arguments in some way with non- or even anti-instrumental arguments, and unable to think of anything else to say, they began wistfully suggesting that perhaps nature had or ought to have rights. When professional environmental ethics came into its own in the early 1980s, rights for nature were one of the first subjects to be debated in detail. Unfortunately, however, no one could come up with a theory to support such rights attributions. Nevertheless, because rights had been invoked by environmentalists to challenge the preeminent role of instrumental value arguments, and because the field of environmental ethics developed in support of environmental concerns and arguments, environmental ethicists turned to an examination of noninstrumental or intrinsic value arguments for the preservation of nature.



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