Three approaches to environmental ethics - 3

Thus far we have two conflicting views: the view that individual rights can lead to the extinction of a species, and the view that super entities like species cannot have rights (therefore we have no means to address the problem of extinction). Russow raises some viewpoints which conflict with her own view regarding valuing species. The only ones that merit mention in this exam are the extrinsic and intrinsic value arguments she mentions in pages 123-24.

First, I find Russow's argument in general to be a very poor 'straw-person' argument. What she is really criticizing is our use of the 'term' species. When she argues against various ethical theories she does not make it clear that, with few exceptions, what she is really criticizing is the use of a single term. I find Russow's critique of the extrinsic value argument to be valid. Species which are not a major part of the ecosystem (eg. sub-species) would not be protected by this argument (see p123). In dealing with the intrinsic value argument, Russow explains that we have no non-arbitrary basis on which to place intrinsic value regarding species and sub-species. This is where the major problem with the term 'species' comes into play: without a non-arbitrary process that organizes individuals into groups, we cannot give intrinsic value to these species. Russow's solution is to place value solely on individuals, thus avoiding the quagmire of species (as she sees it). What Russow is doing though is replacing an arbitrary method (species valuation) with an equally arbitrary method, individual aesthetic valuation (what could be more arbitrary?). Russow is basically grouping together all individuals which have the characteristics that make them aesthetically valuable. Russow is merely replacing the concept of a 'species' with the concept of a 'group of individuals with certain characteristics.' She is not actually making any real change of value. This is a "straw-person" argument. A species is basically a group of individuals that have certain characteristics such that we classify them together. It is true that this classification process can at sometimes be arbitrary, but it is not clear that the arguments Russow was dealing with were actually valuing super entities like species, or just groups of individuals much like she did herself.

On the charge of speciesism toward any movement that values vanishing 'species' differently than plentiful species, what Russow has here is a 'red-herring' -- not a general argument. A species can easily be considered merely a group of individuals that share certain characteristics. A vanishing species is a group of individuals which is dying out. If we treat all vanishing species in a like manner and all non- vanishing species in a like manner, we cannot be considered speciesist. To rephrase what Russow suggests in a more revealing light consider: an individual is sickly and its strength is vanishing, while another individual is healthy and strong. Would it be an arbitrary choice to aid the sickly, individual, while leaving the healthy individual alone? Conceivably not, and the same argument holds true for groups of individuals like species. Even though each individual within a vanishing species is perfectly healthy, all of the individuals taken as a whole could be considered less healthy than a like species that is not vanishing: this then is our justification for treating endangered species differently than a normal healthy species.

To deal with the arguments involving granting moral standing to wholes, it is sufficient merely to suggest that, within the Myers, Regan, and Russow trio, no argument against granting moral standing to wholes projects beyond the very limited concept of 'rights.' Certainly it is true that a group of beings cannot be considered to have rights per se; only individuals can have rights as we perceive them in our atomistic society. But what is debatable is that granting only individual rights is sufficient to deal with the needs of the whole. The trio mentioned above (with the exception of Myers, who barely mentions rights at all) seems to believe that individual rights (or valuations) can take care of all possible needs of the whole. Holistic theorists clearly seem to believe the opposite, however, and this is the nature of the long-standing debate between society and the individual. Which side is correct? Perhaps neither is correct taken in isolation.

Some examples of dualisms as found in the Ecofeminism article by Judith Plant

are: woman-man, nature-culture, self-other, mechanistic-organic, mind-body, private sphere-public sphere, rational-emotional, and domination-submission. Dualism is the oppositional ordering of two things such that they are considered to be on opposite ends of an extreme. The importance of recognizing the way we think in dualisms is the fact that dualisms basically form a belief system: the oppositional model they provide is constructed and has no corner on the truth market. The dualism that was the focus of the greater part of this course material was that between the individual and the whole, as represented by Regan and Leopold respectively.

The hierarchies which are represented within Social Ecology are: human and nature, man and woman, and perhaps rich and poor. Social Ecology claims that the hierarchies within society are the root of our present ecological conflicts. Hierarchy is the differential ordering of groups or entities in a stratified manner. According to Social Ecology, hierarchies are forms of inequality that are unjust. Within the broader context of our course, anthropocentric as well as extensionist ethical theories organize the creatures of the Earth into a hierarchy of moral standing. Anthropocentric theorists place humans at the top, while Singer's extensionist theory places sentient beings at the top.

A presumptive duty is best understood in opposition to an absolute duty. In our society today I have a presumptive duty not to kill any human being. This duty is not absolute because in a time of war or in a case of self-defense individuals lose their right to life. This distinction is important to keep in mind when dealing with rights-based ethical theories.

Deep Ecology, according to Arne Neass (the founder), is an ecological ethical

approach that asks deeper questions than both shallow ecology, and ecology from a purely scientific perspective. Deep Ecology is deeper than shallow ecology, which Arne Neass describes as an anthropocentric ecological perspective. Deep Ecology is also deeper than scientific ecology because it asks ethical questions, like 'what should we do,' and 'how can we change our society to better maintain the ecosystem' (Simple in Means ... p 183). Deep ecology promotes respect and valuation for 'every life form.' It also promotes an understanding and spiritual acceptance of the interconnectedness of the world ecosystem. Deep ecology also promotes a rejection of hierarchies (p185). Shallow ecology is basically the anthropocentric ethical approach, as outlined above.

The 'good of a being' as dealt with in this course has been described in class as interests. To explore what is in the interests of a being one must look to the good of that being. Two distinctions of interests have been outlined within our course: a being has a well being to which good health is conducive, and a being wants good health. This exploration of interests is fundamentally important to both the anthropocentric and the extensionist theories (and also in some cases to holistic theories). This exploration of interests helps the theorist to establish moral relevance for various beings and situations.

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