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Environmental Ethics

Volume 11, Issue 3, Fall 1989

Laura Westra
Pages 215-230
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics19891137

Ecology and Animals
Is There a Joint Ethic of Respect?

Recent work in animal ethics has advanced principles that are too individualistic to be compatible with a holistic environmental ethic such as the land ethic proposed by Aldo Leopold. J. Baird Callicott, on the other hand, has attempted to reconcile the two ethics by suggesting that sympathy, natural among humanity, as he claims on Humean grounds, does not necessarily terminate at the species barrier. His argument shows minimally that it is not necessary that we abandon ecological ethics in order to view nonhuman animals as morally considerable. I argue instead that it is not sympathy, but hostility/indifference that manifests the reality of life in wild nature, and as such forms a better basis for an all-encompassing ethic. If one accepts that the factual realm suggests the limits of norms and establishes the background and context of normative judgments in this context (as Holmes Roiston, III, for instance, does), then a different line of argument can be developed. I argue that intraspecies and interspecies ethics ought to be different for us because behavior in the wild is different within and without a species. Further, I argue that hostility/indifference coupled with respect form the basis of an approach which embraces a holistic environmental ethic as weil as one concemed with nonhuman animals.

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