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Environmental Ethics

Volume 25, Issue 2, Summer 2003

Jennifer Bates
Pages 183-197

An Inquiry into the Nature of Environmentally Sound Thinking

Many philosophers advocate a change in our thinking in order to move beyond an anthropocentric view of the environment. In order to achieve the kind of thinking that makes for sound environmental thinking, we have to look more deeply into the nature of thought and to revise the relation between thought directed outward to the world and thought directed inwardly to thought itself. Only with such insight can we begin to think soundly about the environment. Thought exhibits a characteristic that makes it hard to think environmentally soundly. This characteristic is the inability to think of something without at the same time making it one’s property. In other words, if sound environmental thinking means moving beyond anthropocentric attitudes and, for example, extending moral categories to creatures other than humans, then we need to address how our thinking turns everything into “mine” before we go about establishing a theory about how that extension should take shape. Hegel is the philosopher who most deeply analyses the inevitable, yet dangerous role of “mining”—in the sense of “making mine,” in the act of thinking. This potentially problematic character of thought risks making a number of otherwise sound environmental ways of thinking, unsound. However, we can provide a balance for this problematic characteristic in our thinking.

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