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Environmental Ethics

Volume 34, Issue 3, Fall 2012

Neil A. Manson
Pages 275-290

Anthropocentrism, Exoplanets, and the Cosmic Perspective

Nonanthropocentric environmental philosophy is a response to two kinds of anthropocentrism: personal anthropocentrism, according to which being human involves the possession of some or all of a set of properties typical of persons, and biological anthropocentrism, according to which being a human involves being a member of the species Homo sapiens. Nonanthropocentric environmental philosophy itself becomes problematic when it is viewed in terms of two arguments that it often seems to imply: the “Planetary Perspective Argument,” which rejects both forms of anthropocentrism and seeks to maximize good outcomes and minimize bad outcomes in terms of life’s point of view, the land’s point of view, or the global ecosystem’s point of view, and the “Cosmic Perspective Argument,” which is structurally analagous to the planetary perspective argument but has much more sweeping empirical premises driven by recent work in cosmology, astrobiology, and exoplanet science. The ultimate problem for environmental philosophers is to find a way to remain nonanthropocentric without succumbing to the indifference of the cosmic perspective.

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