Volume 23, 2008
Philosophy of Environment
Toward an Imagination-based Environmental Ethics
The aim of this paper is to examine the role of imagination in environmental ethics and introduce an imaginative dimension as an essential part of environmental ethics. Imagination constitutes a basic condition for ethical thinking and action. Matters of environmental ethics have revealed the indispensable role of imagination in ethics. I’ll advance an imagination-based environmental ethics by developing Hans Jonas’ ethical thought. From his viewpoint, various effects of our action on nature and future generations, generally out of our sight, have become an ethical concern. This necessitates the exercise of imagination because we must “imagine” those distant effects to act in an environmentally responsible way. Jonas’ “heuristics of fear” is an imaginative approach necessary for responsible action. Further, I reinterpret the role of imagination as motivating our “will to know.” In conclusion, I suggest the importance of environmental education as cultivating ecological imagination from the standpoint of environmental ethics.