Environmental Ethics

Volume 30, Issue 4, Winter 2008

Karánn Durland
Pages 401-416

The Prospects of a Viable Biocentric Egalitarianism

At a minimum, a satisfactory biocentric egalitarianism must satisfy three constraints: (1) it must demand enough to deserve the name biocentric; (2) it must not require so much that it makes a worthwhile or at least a recognizably human life impossible; and (3) it must not be incoherent or internally inconsistent. Neither rule-based forms of biocentric egalitarianism nor virtue theory versions meet all three requirements. The rule-based accounts that Paul Taylor and James Sterba introduce contain serious defects, and many of these problems appear in any rule-based biocentric egalitarianism, making all such approaches untenable. The egalitarian virtue theories suggested by Albert Schweitzer, Kenneth Goodpaster, and Jason Kawall are too promissory to be useful or fully assessed, but an overlooked virtue-based account that Taylor defends is more detailed and fatally flawed. Since its difficulties appear in any fully developed virtue-ethic version of biocentric egalitarianism, virtue-based approaches fare no better than rule-based ones. Given the problems that both rule-based and virtue theory forms of biocentric egalitarianism face, the prospects for a viable biocentric egalitarianism are bleak.