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Environmental Ethics

Volume 24, Issue 4, Winter 2002

Peter Lucas
Pages 353-369

Environmental Ethics
Between Inconsequential Philosophy and Unphilosophical Consequentialism

Andrew Light and Eric Katz commend environmental pragmatism as a framework of choice for a more pluralistic, and (consequently) more practically effective environmental ethics. There is however a prima facie conflict between the promotion of pluralism and the promotion of pragmatism. I consider two different routes by which Light has attempted to resolve this conflict. Light’s first strategy involves distinguishing philosophical from metaphilosophical forms of pragmatism, locating its “metatheoretically pluralist” potential in the latter. I argue that the distinction collapses, leaving the conflict unresolved. Light’s second strategy involves interpreting metatheoretical pluralism as a form of practical compatibilism. I argue that metatheoretical pluralism, thus interpreted, holds no remedy for the perceived practical ineffectiveness of the field. Not only would it fail to qualify as a viable form of pluralism, but its widespread adoption would actively undermine the real work of environmental ethics: that of fostering a sense of the special significance of enlightened and principled action in defense of environmentalist ideals, in the face of the consequentialism which dominates global environmental decision making.

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