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Environmental Ethics

Volume 7, Issue 3, Fall 1985

J. Baird Callicott
Pages 257-275

Intrinsic Value, Quantum Theory, and Environmental Ethics

The central and most recalcitrant problem for environmental ethics is the problem of constructing an adequate theory of intrinsic value for nonhuman natural entities and for nature as a whole. In part one, I retrospectively survey the problem, review certain classical approaches to it, and recommend one as an adequate, albeit only partial, solution. In part two, I show that the classical theory of inherent value for nonhuman entities and nature as a whole outlined in part one is inconsistent with a contemporary scientific world view because it assumes the validity of the classical Cartesian partition between subject and object which has been overturned by quantum theory. Based upon the minimalistic Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum theory, I then develop a theory of inherent value which does not repose upon the obsolete subject/object and ancillary fact/value dichotomies. In part three, I suggest that a more speculative metaphysical interpretation of quantum theory--one involving the notion ofreal internal relations and a holistic picture of nature-permits a principle of “axiological complementary,” a theory of “intrinsic”-as opposed to “inherent”-value in nature as a simple extension of ego.

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