Environmental Ethics

Volume 19, Issue 1, Spring 1997

Rick O’Neil
Pages 45-52

Intrinsic Value, Moral Standing, and Species

Environmental philosophers often conflate the concepts of intrinsic value and moral standing. As a result, individualists needlessly deny intrinsic value to species, while holists falsely attribute moral standing to species. Conceived either as classes or as historical individuals, at least some species possess intrinsic value. Nevertheless, even if a species has interests or a good of its own, it cannot have moral standing because species lack sentience. Although there is a basis for duties toward some species (in terms of their intrinsic value), it is not the one that the holists claim.