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Environmental Ethics

Volume 38, Issue 4, Winter 2016

Tom Dedeurwaerdere, Benjamin Six
Pages 387-402

Toward a Broadened Ethical Pluralism in Environmental Ethics
From Bryan Norton’s Discursive Ethics to William James’ Experiential Pluralism

Recent work by Piers Stephens has established axiological pluralism as the common element between various strands of theorizing in environmental ethics. However, a tension still exists in contemporary theories between the need for practical convergence among the values through rational argumentation and the experience of the motivational power of the value orientations in living human experience. The pragmatist phenomenological foundation for a pluralist environmental ethics developed in the philosophy of William James is consistent with the contemporary theories, while potentially solving some of their tensions. In particular, the proposed approach of James adds a deeper layer of experiential values, which are not always considered in the public discursive practices and which often mobilize non‐scientific and not explicitly rational motivations and beliefs (including the environmental as well as the psychological, social, and cultural). In doing so, the phenomenological pragmatism of William James opens up an avenue for integrating experiential values into a broadened pluralist environmental ethics.

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