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Environmental Ethics

Volume 14, Issue 2, Summer 1992

Lawrence E. Johnson
Pages 145-157
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics199214231

Toward the Moral Considerability of Species and Ecosystems

I develop the thesis that species and ecosystems are living entities with morally significant interests in their own right and defend it against leading objections. Contrary to certain claims, it is possible to individuate such entities sufficiently well. Indeed, there is a sense in which such entities define their own nature. I also consider and reject the argument that species and ecosystems cannot have interests or even traits in their own right because evolution does not proceed on that level. Although evolution proceeds on the level of the genotype, those selected are able to cooperate in entities of various higher orders—including species and ecosystems. Having their own nature and interests, species and ecosystems can meaningfully be said to have moral standing.

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