Volume 6, Issue 2, Summer 1984
Bryan G. Norton
Environmental Ethics and Weak Anthropocentrism
The assumption that environmental ethics must be nonanthropocentric in order to be adequate is mistaken. There are two forms of anthropocentrism, weak and strong, and weak anthropocentrism is adequate to support an environmental ethic. Environmental ethics is, however, distinctive vis-a-vis standard British and American ethical systems because, in order to be adequate, it must be nonindividualistic.
Environmental ethics involves decisions on two levels, one kind of which differs from usual decisions affecting individual fairness while the other does not. The latter, called allocational decisions, are not reducible to the former and govern the use of resources across extended time. Weak anthropocentrism provides a basis for criticizing individual, consumptive needs and can provide the basis for adjudicating
between these levels, thereby providing an adequate basis for environmental ethics without the questionable ontological commitments made by nonanthropocentrists in attributing intrinsie value to nature.