Class Note for PHIL 160 at UMass(7)
Class Note for PHIL 160 at UMass(7)
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Date Created: 02/06/15
Philosophy 1600 Fall 2008 jayme johnson Unit 3 Handout 3 DesJardin s Environmental Ethics Chapter 8 The Land Ethic Aldo Leopold 0 Leopold began his career as a conservationistiwith a Lockean understanding of the wilderness He was an avid hunter and believed in the thinning of predator populations that competed with humans for food 0 As a result of his research and eld experience Leopold began to become critical of the conservationist approach to nature 0 He found problematic the conservationist tendency to view nature mechanically which 1 seriously underestimates the interconnectedness of nature and 2 treats the earth as dead Leopold s Land Ethic 0 Leopold ends up giving up on the Lockean understanding ofland as mere property though he never gives up the belief that individual members ofa natural community can be treated like resources 0 Such a view disregards the fact that in many ways the land should be viewed as a living organism itself capable ofbeing injured harmed or killed or be healthyl 0 Leopold puts together the idea that we have a moral obligation to natural objects with the idea that they can sometimes be used as resources 0 This is not inconsistent if we think of the land ethic bolz39xtz39ml individual members of the community can still be treated as resources so long as the community itselfis respected 0 The Land Ethic summarized in Leopold s own words 0 A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity smbility and beauty of the biotic community It is wrong when it tends otherwise then combined with some basic ecological observations this principle can be used to generate speci c normative conclusions Some Ecological Observations 0 The biotic pyramid or land pyramid a highly organized structure ofbiotic and abiotic elements through which solar energy ows 0 the species are arranged in layerstrophic levels according to what they eat 0 following a path ofwhat eats what is a food chain 0 the pyramid is a tangle of chains so complex as to seem disorderly yet the stability of the system proves it to be a highly organized structure 0 Thus Leopold thinks there is at least one normative conclusion that can be drawn from ecological facts preservation oflife forms in all their diversity is the first rule we ought to follow because not even ecologists understand how this complex system works So we should tread lightly Aspects of the Land Ethic that make it an attractive philosophical option 0 its fairly comprehensive 0 it avoids the problems raised against the individualistic biocentric approach 0 its thoroughly nonianthropocentric Leopold s Holism 0 Ethical Holism right and wrong are a function of the wellibeing of the community not of its constituent members 0 Three ofLeopold s reasons for being a holist O a practical reason we have more than ample evidence for the abuse and destruction that follow from ignoring the interdependencies within an ecosystem 0 Ethical holism follows from the epistemological holism that is implicit in ecology 0 Ethical holism acknowledges the memphysical reality of ecological wholes Criticisms of the Land Ethic Facts and Values 0 A central challenge to any attempt to ground ethical values in natural facts is the claim that a logical gap eXists between smtements of fact and judgments ofvalueibetween is and ought This move of arguing from how natural it is for something to be a certain to claiming that it should be that way is the natura xtit llag 0 Even with all the ecological facts in the world the question would still remain Why should we value the overall integrity or stability of the system itself 0 Leopold s normative conclusion the land ethic seems to be derived in some way from the facts of ecology Even assuming that a factual and meaningful basis eXists for attributing integrity stability and beauty to ecosystems which is in the air how these facts are connected to the value conclusion remains an open question 0 A possible response natural facts lead to a change in attitude which in turn leads to ethical conclusions so it is not that normative claims are being derived solely or directly from ecological facts Criticisms of the Land Ethic Holistic Ethics 0 Holism condones mm ng the individual for the good of the community as a whole this is a kind of environmental fascism Discussion Marietta and Moline both try to provide interpremtions of Leopold s work that can 1 preserve its holism and 2 avoid the charges of environmenml fascism What are some of their suggested approaches Are they successful hint look at pp1907192 0 Another criticism of holistic ethics is a meaningful account of ecological wholes even defensible Some say its not 0 there are a number of different ways in which ecologists model ecosystems and while they may seem relatively similar they have quite different moral implications 0 Examples the organic model the community model and the energy model 0 No matter which one Leopold meant serious problems arise for the View see in particular pp 1937194 Callicott s Revisions 0 Callicott seeks to bridge the logical gap between the ecological facts is and value claims ought by appealing to our human sentiments 0 Sentiments of affection and sympathy bridge the gap between facts and values and can be extended from the individual to include a wider social universe Objection sentiments are notoriously unstable foundations for ethics to be built upon it brings the naturalistic fallacy back into play why should we want to develop positive sentiments toward the environment rather than negative ones 0 Callicott also offers an interpretation of Leopold that responds to the challenge raised against holism 0 Using the functional energy language of ecosystems ecology to explain Leopold s food pyraInid Callicott argues for the metaphysical primacy of relations and wholes over the parts of the whole the objects standing in those relations Discussion What exactly is Callicott s argument that the whole is more metaphysically important than the parts As an exercise extract and present Callicotfs argument Is it sound
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