Environmental Ethics

Volume 11, Issue 2, Summer 1989

Robyn Eckersley
Pages 99-116

Diving Evolution
The Ecological Ethics of Murray Bookchin

I provide an exposition and critique of the ecological ethics of Murray Bookchin. First, I show how Bookchin draws on ecology and evolutionary biology to produce a mutually constraining cluster of ethical guidelines to underpin and justify his vision of a nonhierarchical, ecological society. I then critically examine Bookchin’s method of justification and the normative consequences that flow from his position. I argue that Bookchin’s enticing promise that his ecological ethics offers the widest realm of freedom to all life forms is undermined by the way in which he distinguishes and privileges second nature (the human realm) over first nature (the nonhuman realm). I conclude that Bookchin’s promise can only be delivered by a biocentric philosophy (which he rejects) rather than by his own ecological ethics.