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Environmental Ethics

Volume 17, Issue 2, Summer 1995

Leslie Paul Thiele
Pages 171-190

Nature and Freedom
A Heideggerian Critique of Biocentric and Sociocentric Environmentalism

A reformulation of our understanding of freedom is required if we are adequately to confront the environmental crisis. Engaging the debate between biocentric ecologists and sociocentric ecologists, I argue that the biocentric effort to ascribe rights (negative liberty) to nature is misbegotten. In turn, I suggest that the sociocentric effort to seek ecological realignment through the extension of human reason (positive liberty) is equally problematic. Martin Heidegger, who rejects both “negative” and “positive” notions of liberty, offers an understanding of human freedom that constitutes an ecologically attuned alternative.