A good ethical theory requires both logical rigor and intuitive appeal to provide an effective tool for understanding what is right and what is wrong. In the field of environmental ethics, there has been significant scholarship in developing a duty ethics based on the inherent value of nature, most notably by Paul Taylor.
Taylor indeed provides a logically clear argument for protecting the environment by building on the principles he calls the biocentric outlook (Taylor, 99). While this scholarship has been helpful in offering an explanation for what those who value the environment intuitively recognize, some have noticed that it does not provide positive answers to how we should live (Cafaro, 31). Virtue ethicists, on the other hand, have specifically addressed this question (Sandler, 6), and the result is a very accessible theory that harks back to the classic naturalists like Thoreau (Cafaro). Environmental virtue ethics has its own problems, however; sometimes seems that virtue ethicists are valuing human “flourishing” or “experiences of wonder” before the natural environment they’re claiming to uphold (Rolston, 70). This paper attempts to provide a framework for addressing this critique of environmental virtue ethics by defining the limitations of normative ethical systems and outlining guidelines for environmental virtues as well as some of the advantages a system of virtue ethics has over other ethical approaches.
Ethical SystemsIn order to discuss a system of environmental virtue ethics, it is necessary to determine what we mean when we speak of an ethical system. Ethics is a “branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of ultimate value and the standards by which human actions can be judged right or wrong. ” (Britan. .
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1-12 (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005)Ronald Sandler, “A Virtue Ethics Perspective on Genetically Modified Crops”, Environmental Virtue Ethics, pp. 215-242 (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005)Paul W. Taylor, Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986)Peter Wenz, “Synergistic Environmental Virtues: Consumerism and Human Flourishing”, Environmental Virtue Ethics, pp. 197-213, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005)