Kant's Principle And Environmental Ethics Essay

2096 words - 8 pages

Kant's Principle and Environmental Ethics

1. All of the three approaches to environmental ethics use Kant's principle to various extents. The differences between them lie in their individual definitions of moral categories. It's like looking at the same slide under three different powers on a microscope. Each approach relies on Kant's principle to protect the interest of that which they deem worthy.
Baxter's anthropocentric approach clearly states that our obligations regarding the environment are to be determined solely on the basis of human interests. Our welfare depends on breathable air, drinkable water and edible food. Thus, polluting the environment to the extent that it damages the air, water and land is unacceptable because it damages public welfare. Animals and plants are considered non-rational beings and are therefore not considered in the same moral category as humans. However, Baxter does not approve of mass destruction of these objects because people do depend on them in many ways and they should be preserved to the degree that humans depend on them. Clean air and water are good for plants and animals, too, so they will benefit from humankind's attention to environmental ethics, but their preservation will in no way take precedence over any human interests.
We change the power on the microscope to look at Rollin's argument for a sentientist approach. With this view, the moral category includes all sentient beings, not just human beings. Rollins believes that any being possessing an awareness of the senses that does not involve thought or perception has intrinsic value and is an end-in-themselves. He contends that animal interests must also be considered when determining our environmental obligations. Thus, we might have a moral obligation to preserve some natural habitat that is of no value to human beings if its destruction would harm some non-human beings.
Another adjustment to the microscope, and we can examine Leopold's biocentric opinion of how environmental ethics should be governed. His approach enlarges the moral category to include soils, waters, plants and animals and claims our obligation is to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. Philosophers Devall and Sessions further define the biocentric view with the concept of deep ecology. Devall and Sessions argue that "the well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life have value in themselves. These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes." (503)
2. Autonomy and liberty have almost the same definitions and I believe that both Nielson and Hospers were trying to convey the same point, but at the same time have different views of the two shown by the context they used them in. Nielson states, "An autonomous person is a person who is able to set her ends for herself and in optimal circumstances is able to pursue those ends". (359) In Hospers explanation of his second...

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