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Environmental Ethics

Volume 10, Issue 4, Winter 1988

James F. O’Brien
Pages 329-346

Teilhard’s View of Nature and Some Implications for Environmental Ethics

Teilhard’s cosmological speculation is a valuable basis for an environmental ethics that perceives individual natural objects as good in themselves and the world as good in itself. Teilhard perceives man as fundamentally part of a cosmic environmental whole that is greater than mankind taken individually or collectively. His holistic views on human biological and psychological and social evolution are, I argue, compatible with a biocentric environmental ethics. I discuss some similarities and differences with the views of the deep ecology movement. I show that Teilhard’s hierarchical system is not humanistically oriented in a way that need be interpreted by Teilhardians as contrary to environmental well-being. I argue that Teilhard’s sympathies toward transportation technology, including the automobile, can be interpreted in his holistic manner. I conclude that Teilhard’s theocentric views are also a basis for supporting an environmental ethics which is both optimistic and not anthropocentric.

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