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Environmental Ethics

Volume 40, Issue 3, Fall 2018

Brendan Cline
Pages 241-260

Do Species Really Matter?
The Case of “The” Galápagos Giant Tortoise

Many environmentalists hold that the loss of a species is intrinsically bad, and many also think that we have moral obligations to species as such. In an attempt to capture these thoughts, some philosophers have suggested that species are bearers of intrinsic value. This approach works well in paradigmatic cases. However, it begins to break down in more difficult scenarios, such as when species boundaries are unclear or when resources are scarce. The case study of the Galápagos giant tortoises in this essay illustrates the limitations of traditional accounts of the non-instrumental value of species. Careful attention to this case indicates how species-centric accounts diverge from the evaluative attitudes of environmentalists, and suggests new directions for theoretical replacements.

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