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Environmental Ethics

Volume 12, Issue 2, Summer 1990

J. Baird Callicott
Pages 99-124

The Case against Moral Pluralism

Despite Christopher Stone’s recent argument on behalf of moral pluralism, the principal architects of environmental ethics remain committed to moral monism. Moral pluralism fails to specify what to do when two or more of its theories indicate inconsistent practical imperatives. More deeply, ethical theories are embedded in moral philosophies and moral pluralism requires us to shift between mutually inconsistent metaphysics of morals, most of which are no Ionger tenable in light of postmodern science. A univocal moral philosophy-traceable to David Hume’s and Adam Smith’s theory of moral sentiments, grounded in evolutionary biology by Charles Darwin, and latterly extended to the environment by Aldo Leopold-provides a unified, scientifically supported world view and portrait of human nature in which multiple, lexically ordered ethics are generated by multiple human, “mixed,” and “biotic” community memberships.

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