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Environmental Ethics

Volume 1, Issue 4, Winter 1979

Eric Katz
Pages 357-364

Utilitarianism and Preservation

In “The Concept of the Irreplaceable,” John N. Martin claims that utilitarian arguments can explain the environmentalist position concerning the preservation of natural objects as long as human attitudes toward preservation are considered along with the direct benefits of environmental preservation. But this type of utilitarian justification is biased in favor of the satisfaction of human preferences. No ethical theory which calculates goodness in terms of the amount of human satisfaction can present an adequate justification of environmental preservation. Since human interests must be considered primary, natural objects will only be preserved when their preservation is in accord with human preferences.

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