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Environmental Ethics

Volume 13, Issue 4, Winter 1991

Jim Cheney
Pages 311-325

Callicott’s “Metaphysics of Morals”

In his campaign against moral pluralism, J. Baird Callicott has attempted to bring “theoretical unity and closure” to environmental ethics by providing a “metaphysics of morals” encompassing environmental, interpersonal, and social concems, as weIl as concems for domesticated animals. The central notion in this metaphysics is the community concept. I discuss two quite different, and separable, aspects of Callicott’s project. First, I argue that his metaphysics of morals does not provide ethical unity and closure. Second, and less specifically focused on Callicott, I discuss the thesis that we can derive ethical obligations from descriptions of the structures of the various communities to which we belong.