The Harvard Review of Philosophy

Volume 29, 2022

Philosophy and the Environment

Daniel M. HaybronOrcid-ID
Pages 89-120

In Lieu of an Environmental Ethic
Beauty, Good Lives, and the Preservation of Nature

This paper argues that a specifically environmental ethic is neither needed nor perhaps desirable for effecting the change in values for which many environmentalists have rightly called. Rather, familiar values such as beauty and excellence, and especially an outlook that regards those values as central aspects of a good life, may be all that is needed. The requisite ethic of appreciation is already embedded to some degree in a wide range of cultures, so no radical shift in values is called for, nor convergence on a tendentious moral framework. But this outlook meets with skepticism from the dominant public ethos, as embodied for instance in mainstream economics. While this paper does not offer a full-blooded defense of an aesthetic grounding for environmental concern, it does suggest that the skepticism about such a grounding is considerably overblown.