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Environmental Ethics

Volume 33, Issue 3, Fall 2011

Robin Attfield
Pages 307-316

Sober, Environmentalists, Species, and Ignorance

In an influential paper, Elliott Sober raises philosophical problems for environmentalism, and proposes a basis for being an environmentalist without discarding familiar, traditional ethical theories, a basis consisting in the aesthetic value of nature and natural entities. Two of his themes are problematic. One is his objection to arguments from the unknown value of endangered species, which he designates “the argument from ignorance,” but which should instead be understood as arguments from probability. The other concerns his attempt to avoid holistic value theories by appealing to aesthetic value. If one invokes Derek Parfit’s response to the non-identity problem, one can appeal to another tradition-related approach that Sober neglects, which can readily be employed in support of species preservation without disparaging aesthetic value or endorsing holistic theories.

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