Volume 26, Issue 1, Spring 2004
St. Francis, Paul Taylor, and Franciscan Biocentrism
The biocentric outlook on nature affirms our fellowship with other living creatures and portrays human beings as members of the Earth’s community who have equal moral standing with other living members of the community. A comparison of Paul Taylor’s biocentric theory of environmental ethics and the life and writings of St. Francis of Assisi reveals that Francis maintained a biocentric environmental ethic. This individualistc environmental ethic is grounded in biology and is unaffected by the paradigm shift in ecology in which nature is regarded as in flux rather than tending toward equilibrium. A holistic environmental ethic that accords moral standing to holistic entities (species, ecosytems, biotic communities) is more vulnerable to these changes in ecology than an environmental ethic that accords moral standing to individuals. Another strength of biocentrism is its potential to provide a unified front across religious and scientific lines.