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Environmental Ethics

Volume 1, Issue 3, Fall 1979

Eugene C. Hargrove
Pages 209-240
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics19791314

The Historical Foundations of American Environmental Attitudes

John Passmore has claimed that American environmental attitudes are incompatible with Western traditions and Western civilization: they arose out of a Romantic transvaluation of values in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and today are defensible only in terms of antiscientific nature mysticism and Oriental religions. I argue that these attitudes developed out of an intricate interplay between Western science and art over the last three centuries, and are, therefore, of Western, not Eastern, origin. Moreover, they are apart of scientific and aesthetic changes so broad and fundamental that, despite Passmore’s prediction that they are unlikely to survive into the twenty-first century, they cannot be regarded lightly as a passing fad, and probably have already found a permanent place in Western thought and values.

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