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Environmental Ethics

Volume 17, Issue 1, Spring 1995

Daniel P. Thero
Pages 93-106
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics199517138

Rawls and Environmental Ethics

The original position contractarian model of ethical reasoning put forth by John Rawls has been examined as a basis for an environmental ethic on three previous occasions in this journal and in Peter Wenz’s Environmental Justice. In this article, I critically examine each of these treatments, analyzing the proposals offered and identifying their shortcomings. I find a total of seven different proposals in this literature for modifying Rawls’ theory to augment its adequacy or as a ground environmental ethics. The diverse difficulties that arise in attempting to apply Rawls suggest the conclusion that Rawlsian ethics may not be a suitable foundation for an adequate long-term environmental ethics.

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