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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 8, Issue 2, Fall 2011

Luke Roelofs
Pages 69-94
DOI: 10.5840/envirophil20118215

There is No Biotic Community

It has been suggested that the biosphere and its component ecological systems be thought of as “communities”; this is often invoked as a reason to attribute it moral significance. I first disambiguate this claim, distinguishing the purely moral, social-factual, and biological-factual senses of this term, as well as distinguishing primary from derived meanings, drawing on material from philosophy, sociology, psychology, and ecology. I then argue that the ethically important sense of the term is one that does not apply to ecological systems, though it could in the future, and that it is misleading to base ethical arguments on claims about “biotic communities.”

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