Environmental Ethics

Volume 43, Issue 4, Winter 2021

Espen D. Stabell
Pages 339-354

Why Environmental Philosophers Should Be "Buck-Passers" about Value

The value of nature has been extensively debated in environmental ethics. There has been less discussion, however, about how one should understand the relation between this value and normativity, or reasons: if something in nature is seen as valuable, how should we understand the relation between this fact and claims about reasons to, for example, protect it or promote its existence? The “commonsense” view is that value gives rise to reasons. The buck-passing account of value (BPA), on the other hand, implies that for an entity or state of affairs in nature to be valuable just is for it to have properties (other than that of being valuable) that provide reasons to promote or have a pro-attitude towards it. BPA has been extensively debated, but has received little attention in environmental philosophy. In this paper, it is argued that the view suggests a “reasons first” approach to environmental ethics, and that it should be preferred to competing accounts of value in the context of environmental ethics.