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Environmental Ethics

Volume 31, Issue 3, Fall 2009

Adam Konopka
Pages 245-262
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics200931329

Ecological Goods that Obligate
A Husserlian Approach

Phenomenological resources can be used to develop a nonanthropocentric theory of ecological values that gives rise to an obligation for moral agents. There is logical space in Edmund Husserl’s early theory of value that is inclusive of nonhuman animals and vegetation as members of a life community (Lebensgemeinschaft) possessing ecological characteristics. Within this legal space is a characterization of ecological obligation that is not tied to any single moral law, as it is in deontological ethics and utilitarianism, but founded on the complex value nexus of a given ecological community. Rather than judging the “rightness” or “wrongness” of actions on the law-based and single-rule philosophical theories of normativity found in modern humanism, this Husserlian inspired account locates a conception of ecological obligation that is immanent to the values operative in a given environing world. This particular experience of ecological obligation arises when the valuation of the goods of individual members of the ecological community conflict with one another and the weighing of these competing goods is appropriately accomplished in light of a communal good.