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Environmental Ethics

Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 1984

Andrew Brennan
Pages 35-56
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics19846118

The Moral Standing of Natural Objects

Human beings are, as far as we know, the only animals to have moral concerns and to adopt moralities, but it would be a mistake to be misled by this fact into thinking that humans are also the only proper objects of moral consideration. I argue that we ought to allow even nonliving things a significant moral status, thus denying the condusion of much contemporary moral thinking. First, I consider the possibility of giving moral consideration to nonliving things. Second, I put forward grounds which justify this extension of morality beyond its conventional boundarles. Third, I argue that natural objects have a status different from a special dass of artifacts -works of art. Fourth, I discuss the notion of interest, and fifth I look brietly at the status of natural systems and at ways we might link the proposed extension of moral considerability with the rest of our moral thinking.