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Environmental Ethics

Volume 11, Issue 3, Fall 1989

Frederick Ferré
Pages 231-241

Obstacles on the Path to Organismic Ethics:
Some Second Thoughts

An organismic viewpoint is a welcome alternative to modern mechanistic consciousness, with the latter’s excessive epistemic reliance on analysis, its ontological presumption of atomism, and its value commitments to competition, quantification, reduction, and predictability. These ideas have had negative social and environmental consequences and require replacement. Organismic ethics, grounded in the “wisdom of life”--especially the dialectical triad of creativity, homeostasis, and holism-is far healthier. But organicism alone has serious defects sometimes overlooked by environmental enthusiasts (earlier including this author): life’s creativity wastes individual organisms, and life’s holism neglects the unique value of parts in favor of larger unities. Is it possible to work out a genuinely personalistic organicism? Traditional personalistic idealism will not do, but insights into essential personal qualities may enrich the concepts of creativity, homeostasis, and holism enough to offer a start toward a more adequate ethic.

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