Two Arguments against Biological Interests

Environmental Ethics 32 (3):229-245 (2010)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In both environmental ethics and bioethics, one central issue is the range of entities that are morally considerable. According to one view on this issue, we ought to extend consideration to any entity that possesses interests. But what kinds of entities possess interests? Some philosophers have argued that only sentient beings can have interests, while others have held that all living organisms possess interests in the fulfillment of their biological functions. Is it true that all living organisms have biological interests? The standard arguments made against biological interests are unsatisfactory. There are two central reasons why we ought to reject the idea of biological interests: a metaphysical reason and a normative reason. First, the idea of biological interests implies a metaphysically mysterious account of the nature of how things come to have value for an entity. Second, as normative interests, the idea of biological interests implies that what is good for human beings is at least partly determined by things that are external to themselves, completely independent of their capacities for desires, conflicting with the individual ideal of self-direction, according to which it is fundamentally desirable that how we ought to live (or what is good for one) is grounded in one’s own capacities for desires. It is still an open possibility that nonsentient entities may be morally considerable in the sense of having intrinsic value.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,349

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Machines, Sentience, and the Scope of Morality.Frederik Kaufman - 1994 - Environmental Ethics 16 (1):57-70.
An Emotocentric Theory of Interests.Warren Neill - 1998 - Environmental Ethics 20 (2):163-182.
Against the moral considerability of ecosystems.Harley Cahen - 1988 - Environmental Ethics 10 (3):195-216.
Ethics and the generous ontology.Eric T. Olson - 2010 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 31 (4):259-270.
Is equal moral consideration really compatible with unequal moral status?John Rossi - 2010 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 20 (3):251-276.
Sentientism, wellbeing, and environmentalism.Raffaele Rodogno - 2010 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 27 (1):84-99.
Humanity, holism, and environmental ethics.Lawrence E. Johnson - 1983 - Environmental Ethics 5 (4):345-354.
To Swat or Not to Swat.Mark A. Michael - 1996 - Environmental Ethics 18 (2):165-180.


Added to PP

86 (#192,854)

6 months
8 (#342,364)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Aaron Simmons
Marywood University

Citations of this work

Aesthetic Animism.Ryan P. Doran - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (11):3365-3400.
The good of non-sentient entities: Organisms, artifacts, and synthetic biology.John Basl & Ronald Sandler - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):697-705.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references