The anthropocentric advantage? Environmental ethics and climate change policy

Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 14 (2):235-257 (2011)
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Environmental ethicists often criticize liberalism. For many liberals embrace anthropocentric theories on which only humans have non‐instrumental value. Environmental ethicists argue that such liberals fail to account for many things that matter or provide an ethic sufficient for addressing climate change. These critics suggest that many parts of nature – e.g. non‐human individuals, other species, ecosystems and the biosphere ‐ often these critics also hold that concern for some parts of nature does not always trump concern for others. This article suggests, however, that such inclusive environmental ethicists have a different problem. For when there are many things of value, figuring out what to do can be extremely difficult. Even though climate change is likely to cause problems for many parts of nature, it will probably be good for some other parts. Inclusive environmental ethicists need a theory taking all of the things they care about into account. Otherwise they cannot provide definitive reason even to address climate change. Without this theory, anthropocentric liberals might argue that we should not accept an inclusive environmental ethic. Although there may be something wrong with this line of thought, it at least raises a puzzle for those inclined to accept these ethics.



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Nicole Hassoun
State University of New York at Binghamton

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Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
A Theory of Justice.John Rawls - 1971 - Oxford,: Harvard University Press. Edited by Steven M. Cahn.
Practical Ethics.Peter Singer - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Susan J. Armstrong & Richard George Botzler.

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