Environmental Ethics

Volume 46, Issue 2, Summer 2024

Katie McShaneOrcid-ID
Pages 131-148

A Basis for Biocentric Equality?

Biocentric egalitarianism is the view that all living things share an equal fundamental moral status qua living things. In light of the well-known problems with past philosophical attempts to argue for this position, this paper proposes a way biocentric egalitarian claims might be understood and possibly vindicated. Relying on frameworks developed in recent discussions of the “basis of equality” in human-centered ethics, the paper argues that thinking of egalitarian claims as justified by (rather than as justifying) social ideals provides the best way of understanding the basis of biocentric egalitarian claims in environmental ethics. The paper first reviews arguments for biocentric egalitarianism and their central flaws and proceeds to survey different models for justifying egalitarian claims among humans. The paper argues the Social Ideal approach to justification is the one most likely to be helpful to biocentric egalitarians.