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Environmental Ethics

Volume 4, Issue 1, Spring 1982

Dieter Birnbacher
Pages 3-16

A Priority Rule for Environmental Ethics

Adapting a terminology introduced by Brian Barry, I make a distinction between want-regarding and ideal-regarding principles and apply it to the norms and criteria put forward in environmental ethics. I argue that priority should be given to want-regarding principles over ideal-regarding ones because the former are universalizable while the latter are not, universalizable being understood in the sense of appealing to value premises for which universal assent can be secured. This sense is different both from R. M. Hare’s metaethical concept of universalizability and J. L. Mackie’s “three stages of universalisation.”

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