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Environmental Ethics

Volume 23, Issue 4, Winter 2001

Hugh McDonald
Pages 411-430

Toward a Deontological Environmental Ethics

In this paper, I outline both a nonanthropocentric and non-subjective theory of intrinsic value which incorporates pragmatism in environmental ethics in a novel way. The theory, which I call creative actualization, is a non-hierarchical, nonsubjective theory of value which includes the value of nonhuman species and the biosphere. I argue that there are conditions to such values. These limitations include evaluations of actual improvement (meliorism) and reciprocity as conditions. These conditions are necessary limitations upon actions, i.e., duties. I incorporate a deontological ethic thereby as an alternative to utilitarian and other ethical theories in environmental ethics. Duties are to species and to habitats, not to individuals. I conclude that the distinction between ethics and ecological ethics is no longer tenable, given a theory of obligation which is truly universal rather than speciesist. Ecological ethics is the ethics of the future, embracing a way of life, duty, and questions of ultimate worth.

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