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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 18, 2002

Truth and Objectivity in Social Ethics

Sharon Anderson-Gold
Pages 111-124

Objective Value in Environmental Ethics
Towards a Reconstituted Anthropocentric Ethic

In this paper I explore and reject the claim that an anthropocentric ethic necessarily excludes recognition of the intrinsic value of nature. Part One reviews the reasons for attributing intrinsic value to nature and considers how a teleological view of nature can transform the role of the moral subject and the nature of moral judgment. Following Tim Hayward, I argue that anthropocentrism does not entail “speciesism” and can accommodate the extension of moral consideration to non-human nature, thus reconstituting an anthropocentric ethic. In Part Two, I apply these principles to Kant’s notion of natural purposiveness. I argue that Kantian ethics, a paradigm of anthropocentric ethics, cannot be considered speciesist because nature must be evaluated from the perspective of the highest good. I conclude that the highest good requires the promotion of a form of sustainable development that includes strong ecological values.

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