Volume 8, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2001
Environmental Virtue Ethics
An Aristotelian Approach
This paper articulates a framework, “E,” for developing ethical claims about environmental issues. E is a general framework for constructing arguments and working out disputes, rather than a particular theory. It may be deployed in various ways by writers with quite different views to generate diverse arguments applying to a broad panoply of issues. E can serve as a common language between those who adopt anthropocentric and nonanthropocentric standpoints. E is anthropocentric in the sense that it begins with ideas about human excellence and human interests. Arguments employing E suggest that we, as human beings, have certain duties regarding the environment. Since it may also be true that various duties attach to being an organism of any stripe, that nature has intrinsic value, and so forth, arguments employing E can be seen as supplementing, rather than replacing, nonanthropocentric moral arguments. Moreover, E is anthropocentric in its methodology but not necessarily in its results. Some accounts of human excellence yield the sorts of obligations that biocentrists advocate. As a result, arguments employing E can have force with both those who adopt and those who reject non-anthropocentric standpoints.