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Environmental Ethics

Volume 26, Issue 3, Fall 2004

Katie McShane
Pages 227-245

Ecosystem Health

On most understandings of what an ecosystem is, it is a kind of thing that can be literally, not just metaphorically, healthy or unhealthy. Health is best understood as a kind of well-being; a thing’s health is a matter of retaining those structures and functions that are good for it. While it is true both that what’s good for an ecosystem depends on how we define the system and that how we define the system depends on our interests, these facts do not force us to the conclusion that an ecosystem has no good of its own. Ecosystems and persons can have goods of their own in spite of the fact that the schemes we use to categorize them are matters that we decide upon.

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