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Environmental Ethics

Volume 38, Issue 4, Winter 2016

Lawrence E. Cahoone
Pages 421-439

Is Stellar Nucleosynthesis a Good Thing?

Environmental ethicists typically find value in living things or their local environments: (1) anthropocentists insofar as they have value for human beings; (2) biocentrists in all organisms; and (3) ecocentrists in all ecosystems. But does the rest of nature have value? If so, is it merely as instrument or stage setting for life? A fanciful thought experiment focuses the point: is stellar nucleosynthesis a good thing? There are reasons to believe that it is intrinsically good, that even before life evolved, stellar nucleosynthesis was a good. If so, then the three views above are incomplete as accounts of natural value. It further implies that some non-biological criterion can serve as a rational standard of value: namely, complexity. The attempt to answer the question of the value of stellar nucleosynthesis leads to a clarification of the meaning of intrinsic value, which also has implications for more local questions of environmental values.

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