There is no such thing as environmental ethics

Science and Engineering Ethics 2 (3):307-318 (1996)
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Abstract

Engineers and scientists, whose professional responsibilities often influence the natural environment, have sought to develop an environmental ethic that will be in tune with their attitudes toward the non-human environment, and that will assist them in decision making regarding questions of environmental quality. In this paper the classical traditions in normative ethics are explored in an attempt to formulate such an environmental ethic. I conclude, however, that because the discipline of ethics is directed at person-person interactions, ethics as a scholarly discipline does not help us understand how we ought to treat non-human nature. We therefore cannot look to ethics as a source for understanding our attitudes and for providing guidance to our actions with regard to the environment. To do so is to ask too much of ethics. If we are to find an acceptable environmental morality, it must come from a new paradigm. One approach might be to understand our attitudes on the basis of spirituality, modeled after animistic religions.

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