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Environmental Ethics

Volume 13, Issue 1, Spring 1991

James C. Anderson
Pages 49-58

Moral Planes and Intrinsic Values

In his book, Earth and Other Ethics, Christopher Stone attempts to account for the moral dimension of our lives insofar as it extends to nonhuman animals, plants, species, ecosystems, and even inanimate objects. In his effort to do this, he introduces a technical notion, the moral plane. Moral planes are defined both by the ontological commitments they make and by the governance mIes (moral maxims) that pertain to the sorts of entities included in the plane. By introducing these planes, Stone is left with a set of problems. (1) Do the planes provide anything more objective than a set of alternative ways of looking at moral problems? (2) How can one resolve apparent conflicts between the recommendations forthcoming from distinct planes? (3) Why do certain entities constitute moral planes; and how do we decide which planes to “buy into?” Stone’s answers to these questions endorse aseries of concessions to moral relativism. In this paper I outline an alternative to Stone’s moral planes which, while sympathetic to his ethical concerns, comes down squarelyon the side of moral realism.

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