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Environmental Ethics

Volume 24, Issue 4, Winter 2002

Susanne E. Foster
Pages 409-428

Aristotle and the Environment

There are three potential problems with using virtue theory to develop an environmental ethic. First, Aristotelian virtue theory is ratiocentric. Later philosophers have objected that Aristotle’s preference for reason creates a distorted picture of the human good. Overvaluing reason might well bias virtue theory against the value of non-rational beings. Second, virtue theory is egocentric. Hence, it is suited to developing a conception of the good life, but it is not suited to considering obligations to others. Third, virtue theory is notoriously bad at providing rules and procedures for resolving ethical questions about particular circumstances. But environmentalists need procedures for determining which of several conflicting values is most important. Virtue theory is not action guiding. I respond to each of these problems. I show that virtue theory is uniquely suited to answering ethical questions about nonhuman animals and the environment.

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