Some brief observations about environmental ethics and bioethics

Some brief observations about environmental ethics and bioethics

Anthropocentricism, Intrinsic Value, Instrumental Value

Anthropocentric Environmental Ethics

Three Forms of Non-Anthropocentric Environmental Ethics: Biocentric Individualism versus A Land Ethic
A large number of alternative views have evolved regarding what if any moral respect may be due to non-human organisms. Three views stand out as most influential and also as most remarkably distinct.
  1. Animal Rights
    • Although animal rights theorists have different value theories, they then to agree that some fauna, particularly large mammals, have intrinsic value.
    • A good example is Thomas Regan. He argues that if an organism has the ability to be "the subject of a life", then it deserves moral respect. From his book Animal Rights, he argued:
      want and prefer things, believe and feel things, recall and expect things. And all these dimensions of our life, including our pleasure and pain, our enjoyment and suffering, our satisfaction and frustration, our continued existence or our untimely deathall make a difference to the quality of our life as lived, as experienced, by us as individuals. As the same is true of animals they too must be viewed as the experiencing subjects of a life, with inherent value of their own. (Regan, 1985)
    • Animal rights theorists tend to focus on individual animals and human uses of them.

  2. Biocentric Individualism
    • Biocentrism is the value theory that life is intrinsically value. One defender has been Varner (and a reviser has been DeLancey), arguing that having purposes deserves moral respect, and that all organisms have some purposes.
    • The challenge for biocentricism is to rank values. Everyone agrees that we should give more consideration to a human than a cat, and many feel we should give more to a cat than a bacterium. One approach is to rank organisms by their complexity, but this is difficult. Another is to give special privilege to humans for some other reason, such as language or planning ability.
    • Biocentrism will place the welfare of individuals first, and so it could in principle allow for changes of an ecosystem, or some other conflict with a land ethic.

  3. Land Ethic
    • The land ethicists are largely inspired by the work of Aldo Leopold, a biologist who wrote about ecology in the mid-twentieth century.
    • The basic tenet of land ethics is the idea that what (other than human beings -- typically the land ethicist reserves some other ethic for human interrelations ) deserves moral consideration is whole ecosystems, and perhaps even more broadly, whole regions of land.
    • This requires a notion of "health" or "integrity" for an ecosystem. The land ethicist holds that actions are good (in relation to things other than human, at least) to the degree that they support or promote the health or integrity of an ecosystem.
    • Land Ethics can conflict notably with an animal rights ethic, when the integrity of an ecosystem is in conflict with the interests of some large animals.

A Problem for Bioethics: the Ethics of Cloning