Volume 19, Issue 2, Summer 1997
On the Value of Natural Relations
In “A Refutation of Environmental Ethics” Janna Thompson argues that by assigning intrinsic value to nonhuman elements of nature either our evaluations become (1) arbitrary, and therefore unjustified, or (2) impractical, or (3) justified and practical, but only by reflecting human interest, thus failing to be truly intrinsic to nonhuman nature. There are a number of possible responses to her argument, some of which have been made explicitly in reply to Thompson and others which are implicit in the literature. In this discussion I describe still another response, one which takes Thompson’s concerns about value seriously, but does not assign nature intrinsic or nonanthropocentric value. I suggest a relational environmental ethic as the basis for a genuinely ethical stance toward nature in which our relations to nature are a principal object of ethical concern.