A Counterfactual Argument for Environmentalists to Endorse Non-Instrumental Value in Nature


Environmentalists care about nature. Often, they reason and act as if they consider nature to be valuable for its own sake, i.e., to have non-instrumental value. Yet, there is a rather widespread reluctance, even among environmentalists, to explicitly ascribe such value to nature. One important explanation of this is probably the thought that it would be mysterious in one way or another if nature possessed such value. In addition, Bryan Norton’s influential convergence hypothesis states that, from a practical point of view, it makes no or little difference whether we ascribe non-instrumental value to nature, given the depth and variety of instrumental value that it possesses. In this paper we provide a counterfactual argument, applying to anyone who genuinely cares about nature, for endorsing non-instrumental value in it. Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, something like the convergence hypothesis, relying on nature’s instrumental value for preservational purposes is risky business for environmentalists. We also briefly consider the mysteriousness-objection to non-instrumental value in nature. We show that with respect to most accounts of non-instrumental value, there is nothing particularly mysterious about nature possessing such value.



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Lars Samuelsson
Umeå University

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