This week, after solidifying my ethical position, I presented various positions and arguments to many of my followers on twitter. Although I do not follow or am I followed by anyone from the course, I was able to read perspectives of students from very different scholarly backgrounds who provided interesting views on environmental ethics One of my followers stated that they would not consider to stop eating meat because of the ability of a tasty meal to brings people together and promote familial bonds. Another student, mistakenly of course, presented the misconception that meat provides more nutrients and is better for the development and substance of the human anatomy. Students that have graduated and entered the business world stated that vegan clothes do not offer appropriate dress clothes for interviews, professional jobs or environments where fine leather products are informally deemed necessary.
These series of adamant rejections to even consider developing an environmental ethic led me to believe that awareness is vital to the future of the existence of the biotic community. I also realized that, before this course, I would be one these people providing arbitrary and extremely selfish reasons to not challenge my environmental position. Although extremes of any kind, even extremist who have developed an environmental ethic, are bad it is important to have some stance on the issues of wilderness preservation, pollution, climate change etc. and how human interference in nature is simultaneously responsible for these effects and the prevention or fixing of their consequent problems.
In the very first post for the class, we were presented with some sentences that contained a position on something and a supporting reason. The purpose of this prompt was for us to disagree or agree with the sentence and provide reasons why. The sentence I chose was “Eating animals is wrong because they feel pain.” I ultimately disagreed with the sentence and stated as my reasoning, that the animal is already dead so it cannot feel pain. Before coming to this conclusion, I admit that the only morally valuable actions were that of taking a life or infringing on its ability to continue living. I further supported my conclusion by arguing my belief that moral value is something that should be ascribed to entities that are actively conscious and capable of rational thought. Along with the fact that they are dead already upon consumption, I also state that the action has no moral value if the consumer did not conduct the killing of the animal.
In my response to prompt 4, I disagree with Singer’s formulation of an animal liberationist ethic. In the particular paragraph that I chose to discuss, Singer explicitly claims that complete restraint should be implemented when it comes to eating meat. Not only is eating meat against his ethic, supporting the industries that perpetuate the eating of meat. This is not Singer’s only argument but it stands as his only practical solution to the problem of enabling the suffering of animals. I agree that we share the capacity for suffering with animals but then what about other life that exist within the biotic community? Eating them and supporting industries that use them as tools would be wrong also if we combine the notion of a biotic community with his notion of the equality of suffering between animals and humans.
While evaluating and rereading these two prompts, I realize that my initial environmental ethic was extremely flawed, biased and contradictory. Singer brings up that rationality and active conscious are not what morality should be based on because there exist humans who lack both these qualities such as the permanently retarded or infants. With this in mind, I think that it was ridiculous for me to make such outrageous claims about actions and their moral standard. My opposition to Singer’s solution is not for the same reasons as in my first post and after making such progress, I can now see that the balance with I fervently speak of now was not present in my first post at all. The response to prompt 4 and Singer’s arguments reflect a deeper consideration for animal liberation while still admitting some of the human interest that was present in the first post. Critiquing Singer’s arguments led me to discard the selfish tone from my very first post and embrace a more moderate ethical view but Singer and the other animal liberationists provided no pragmatic solution to prevent animal suffering.
This is in response to Prompt 13
In my response to Prompt 9, I evaluate the concept of an attitude of respect for nature proposed by Paul Taylor in Biocentric Egalitarianism. I ultimately agree that an attitude of respect for nature is necessary for maintaining an essential balance between satisfying self interests, conserving natural resources, and using animals for sustenance, clothes etc. Taylor suggests that three conditions can be met if the human population ultimately reflects the prevailing notion that they are superior to the rest of the biotic community in that their self-interests matter more than the intrinsic value of these other members.
I stay consistent in my dedication to an environmental ethic based on balance when I respond to Prompt 11. I disagreed with a student who identified with having an ecological ethical position based on the arguments presented by J. Baird Callicott in The Conceptual Foundations of a Land Ethic. The student agrees with the “land ethic” or a holistic view in regards to the environment because we have a greater obligation, that supersedes those we have to other humans, to preserve the integrity, stability, and complexity of the biotic community. By this standard, the students concludes her post with solutions involving an environmental ethic that include legislation on family size and an increased dissemination of birth control propaganda.
In preparing for Prompt 9, I was introduced to the intriguing concept of an attitude of respect for nature. Respecting nature stipulates that inherent woth exists within the structural complexity of the biotic community and acknowledgement of this intrinsic value is essential to any formulation of an environmental ethic. It is odd, then, that I opt to identify a weak animal liberationist perspective as my ethical position. It intuitively follows that if I admit that nature has intrinsic value and that the human population is obligated to respect it, then a holistic view should be my primary approach to an environmental ethic. The aspect of the holistic view, however, that forces me not to accept it fully is because admitting the intrinsic value not only equalizes community interests with that of self interests, but it overrides obligations to the human population and any other interests that are detrimental to the integrity, stability and complexity of the biotic community. So in Prompt 11, I reaffirm my belief in an attitude of respect for nature but also admit that humanitarian obligations and satisfying self-interests are paramount in terms of satisfying the interests of any other member of the external community.
Prompt 11 is a further development of Prompt 9 and after the realization that the arguments of philosophers collapse in application and practice, I decided to combine the consistent aspects of the prevailing and opposing positions. We have a duty to treat each other with respect and consider everyone to be equal regardless of any discernable or indistinguishable attributes. This cannot be superseded by the desire to preserve nature. Rather, respecting nature should be described as compromising with nature and applying moderation when consuming resources and interfering with the order of the biotic community. If the decision is made to consume resources and eat meat, e.g., a conscious effort must also be made to conserve aspects of nature not needed for immediate survival, ensure the humane treatment of animals both wild and domestic and create cultures plans that limit pollution and energy consumption etc. Finding sources of renewable energy is also among the top priorities in my learning development.
This is in response to Prompt 12
Over the course of this week, I have moved from a desire to explore a vegan lifestyle to an environmental ethic with a foundation in moderation and an attitude for a respect for nature. The vegan lifestyle appealed to me after the readings this week. I was intrigued by the vegan lifestyle because of its attempt to coexist with other members of the biotic community while still acquiring sustenance for survival by eating vegetables and using man made and environmentally friendly alternatives to resources like leather and feathers. I came to this conclusion that a vegan lifestyle is ideal because of the notions of intrinsic value and instrumental value. I did not want to maintain the perspective that animals and natural resources are only for the benefit of the human population. The altruistic acts out of love and respect for nature and the seemingly incessant selfish nature of the human population contrast because of these two inherently different perspectives of how to view the rest of the biotic community. The trend that I have noticed in regards to my ethical development is that I like to combine the aspects of opposing views and make up for the inconsistencies they both lack when taken and practiced on their own.
The important thing to consider is that every individual has inherent worth or intrinsic value because they exist, and contribute in there own way to the complexity of the biotic community. Another realization is that although ever member of the community posses an inherent worth, each member has instrumental value to each other and because of the simple fact they are able to contribute to the biotic community. In a sense, every member exists as a tool to bring the future of the biotic community to fruition. The members are reciprocally and ultimately useful to themselves in a constant process of sustenance, life and death. Understanding or formulating the concepts of inherent worth and instrumental value has enabled me to mold the further opposing ethical positions to my ideal environmental ethic. On the spectrum that consists of an ecological ethical position on one end and an animals liberationist position at the other, I find myself identifying a weak animals liberationist position while still accepting some of the components of the ecological position.
I cannot accept the ecological ethical position as it is because, as Nick Marshall as also pointed out, there are severe inconsistencies. The inconsistent features I do not agree with is that this view essentially leads to the overriding of human rights for the adherence to obligations to the greater biotic community of the planet. This type of holistic view denies the very notion that human beings have self-interests that sometimes necessarily conflict with interests of other members of the community. At least, even with a strong animal liberationist position, these sorts of conflicts only arise in a trivial matter in regards to the other end of the spectrum. And individual rights do matter even with a weak animal liberationist because self interest vary with each situation and with each individual involved. A respect for nature is essential but not paramount. The feature that I would hold on a pedestal is moderation. This way, compromise determines the rate at which natural resources are consumed and the way in which other members of the biota are treated even if they are used to satisfy human interest.
Prompt used for Compare and Contrast: http://environmentalethics.tumblr.com/post/16237473021/writing-prompt-10
In this post, the student explicitly takes an ecological ethical position. In support of her argument, she opposes Callicott’s attempt to explain the stratifying aspect of obligation extending outward from the human being to the bigger biotic community witch includes the environment. According to this post, human obligations should not come before that of the environment because we are a part of the community and should, therefore, equalize interests. Not only is the equality of interests ideal for this student, but complete preservation of the beauty, integrity and complexity of the natural world. The student lists the abandonment of modern transportation in an attempt to stop the emission of greenhouse gases. While I agree that modern forms of transportation are extremely harmful to the environment, completely abandoning the idea is completely counterproductive and incoherent in relation to the nature of our humanity. Modern transportation one of the many reasons civilizations is even able to exist. The student then suggests that the common conclusion or criticism that is always made about an environmental ethic is wrong because it does not illustrate fascism. But by the theories expressed within environmental ethics, population control and noninvolvement with the biotic community is ideal. The student even concludes with solutions such as “legislation on family size” and the increased spreading of birth control.
In my prompt, I basically proposed an idea of balance while still respecting nature but valuing the individual inherent worth of individuals as opposed to the whole biotic community. I agree with the student only that an attitude of respect for nature is essential to a moral philosophy concerning the environment. I always mistakenly refer to my position as an approach to environmental ethics because I only use “environmental” as a descriptive term and not the view that ethics concerning the environment should be holistic. Rather, I think that my stance is closer to animal liberation due to my view that each individual in the biotic community posses inherent worth and interests that might override an obligation to preserve the stability, integrity and complexity of the biotic community as a whole. But the defining difference that I think is important, and as Sagoff illustrates, to consider is that those interests are not necessarily and laterally equal. Humanitarian obligations, such as nondiscriminatory attitudes and practices matter more than not stepping on a bug or swatting a fly. By the environmental holistic ethic, we are to equate the moral value of these two instances and attribute the same obligation to both which is inherently conflicting at the least and contradictory at the most.
The stark differences between the student and I embody the basis for the prevailing disputes between ecological ethical positions and animal liberation positions. The interests of the community cannot be achieved while still valuing he interest of the individual simultaneously. Like the Algonquin society as Callicott illustrates, a relationship consisting of compromises is ideal. Satisfying self interests and needs then becomes the paramount obligation. What follows is an outward extension of obligatory moral considerations that are comprehensive. The next logical obligation is the human species and then to the resources and animals that co-exist in the biotic community. Adhering to these obligations is clear until there is a conflict of interest between human beings and another member (or group of members) of the planetary biota. Once there is a conflict of interests, then a balanced compromise is necessary providing incentives or compensations for damage to the environment or exploitation of other animals. While observing a respect for nature, one should only commit these actions if it is necessary to survival, relatively truncated in causing damage to the environment, or possible to prevent the future need for such activities. Ignoring the fact that we need to use the planet for its resources is not problematic because it denies one of the most basic aspects of human nature. We are social and civilization and social behavior is natural and not immoral. Moderation is key and due to the fact that we have produced technology that harms the environment, we can also produce technology to tend to fixable problems and prevent the perpetuation of future ones. Maybe this is too much of an optimistic view, but moderation is not a lesser of other evils.
This is in response to Prompt 11
After reading Callicott’s “The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic”, I have finally agreed with a philosopher’s formulation of a moral philosophy concerning environmental ethics. This is the first reading to explicitly suggests solutions and provide an explanation that does not lead me to think that the only solution is to exterminate all humans or die of starvation anyway out of a misguided respect for nature. Balance is something that is rarely discussed in the readings for this class and it is refreshing to see that balance can be an acceptable method to practice a sound moral philosophy regarding environmental ethics. Initially, I saw nothing wrong with eating meat or using animals and natural resources to benefit human interest. Truthfully, before this class, I thought that having a sound environmental ethic included being aware of certain issues, educating others and promoting activities such as recycling, restraint from littering and energy conservation. Because I eat meat, it never occurred to me that this too was an essential aspect to a more enlightened environmental ethic. After the first reading in the Animal Rights portion of this course, I immediately considered becoming completely vegan but found no substantial basis or offered solutions in the arguments that initially changed my mind. I then shifted towards a mind frame that veganism is ideal and that I would convert upon being moved by some strong arguments. But there was no monumental reason I could find to not eat meat. Especially after reading Russow’s critique of Regan and applying that to Singer’s formulations, I concluded that balance and conservation is the answer, not total constraint and preservation. Callicott realizes this and illustrates this notion with the fact that the Algonquian society lived harmoniously with nature while simultaneously and necessarily, but respectfully, exploiting it. He further states that we do belong to the overarching biotic community but the needs of the biotic community, although inherently affecting us, do not supersede our own. We ought to respect nature but not in the same fashion that we respect human beings. In terms of racial equality for example, we should not tolerate those of other races, we should accept in and of themselves as a members of the human community. But this type of respect is appropriate because they are human. Special relationships exist on the innards of the biotic community that other holistic formulations of environmental ethics ignore or completely reject. The humane nature of this particular ethic is evident in the fact that it is deontological, prudent and practical. The practicality of an ethic is what resonates with me because if it is not pragmatic then it does not deserve any further consideration for adoption.
Interest should not be the guiding principle of an ethic regarding the environment but realizing that those interests still exist and that they matter is critical. Appeasing to our interests is not wrong but when our interests conflict with the welfare another member of the biotic community, we should practice respect and moderation. The fact that our interest sometimes conflict with the interests of other biotic members is not the problem because this would occur in nature regardless. Callicotts solutions have not changed my answers to previous ethical questions but have only coincided with them. Affirming that a sound environmental ethic is prudent as well as deontological emphasizes both holistic and anthropocentric aspects of that ethic while still allowing it to be respectful to nature, practical in application, and applicable to moderation. Realizing that our actions have moral value is more important than ascribing this value to other biota. A sort of give and take relationship is the only one that can exist in contemporary times, acquiesce to everyone’s preference and still be respectful and harmless to nature. For example, providing better opportunities for other biota to achieve their inherent good and being mindful of how and to what extent we interact with them and the biotic community makes up for the fact that we sometimes need to kill and eat them.
This is in response to Prompt 10
Respect for nature is the conscious value the phenomenal world because of its inherent value as an end itself and not as a tool, resources, or means to an end that coincides with human self-interest. Respect for nature is an attitude formed “when rational, autonomous agents subscribe to the principles of moral consideration and intrinsic value and so conceive of wild living things as having that kind of worth” (Taylor 142). This means that the way in which an agent of morality views the world cannot be inherently biased to other life in a biotic community nor can assumptions be made on the basis that humans are superior in nature to other animals. Essentially, by committing to this attitude of respect for nature, one also has to simultaneously commit to “normative principles.” Therefore, an attitude of respect for nature needs to be, from a Kantian perspective, a duty that one can will to be universal law. Paul Taylor’s environmental ethics stipulates that humans have a bio-centric outlook on nature emphasizing 3 concepts that are grounded on one other central concept. So for Taylor, since humans exist as members of a larger intricate community of life, which is a part of an even larger and complex ecosystem of sound biological functions that are all interdependent and each life has a purpose to pursue the fruition of their welfare, they (humans) must reject the prevailing idea that they are superior to other forms of life and exhibit a respect for nature based on the fact that entities have inherent worth.
I think that Paul Taylor formulates his arguments for a bio-centric outlook on nature in a highly sophisticated and well thought out manner, but I find some of his arguments flawed and extremely biased. Even though he explicitly outlines why we should adopt this moral philosophy, he never even attempts to explicate how we are supposed to act in accordance with this perspective. I am left with a guilt ridden conscious and a strong urge to consider this lifestyle but no lifestyle is presented or even offered implicitly. Neither from the arguments or their formulations can I derive a solid action that I am supposed to take in relation to my position in the biotic community and the larger ecological system that encompasses it. Furthermore, claims that assert the superiority of humanity only fail if you accept Taylor’s biased assumptions. According to Taylor, “we… see ourselves as bearing a certain moral relation to nonhuman forms of life. Our ethical role in nature takes on a new significance. We begin to look at other animals as we look at ourselves” (Taylor 152). Apparently humans are supposed to put into perspective the interests of other species on the same level as ours. According to this maxim, how are humans supposed to eat? If humans are to become herbivores, obviously, by this model, and there already exists animals that consume plants, then our interests would become identical and conflict would arise. We would all be vying to consume the same resource and survival would follow as a similar interest. The outcome would either be control of how all species consume the resource or opting to eat the animals threating the abundance of the resource. Even eating plants would interfere with the natural occurrence of the ecological system so this would violate Taylor’s moral philosophy because we would be obstructing the plants ability to pursue its own good, which is its intrinsic value in and of itself irrespective of our relevance as humans. Furthermore, the very capacity for rational thought and subsequently moral obligation that does not differentiate us from other species according to Taylor, should not be taken into account to assume that we are, in any way, superior to other species. This is a circular argument that criticizes other arguments for having no ground but having, itself, grounds for the argument in the very argument.
Although I ultimate disagree with Taylor’s claims because of its biased and somewhat inconsistent nature, I agree that respect for nature is an attitude that is vital to a broader debate involving environmental ethics. Regardless if one decides to eat meat, adopts a vegan lifestyle, or considers their effect on the environment respect for nature is essential if one wishes to act morally in regards to the environment. An attitude exhibiting a respect for nature logically asserts that moderation, at the very least, is key if complete non-interference is unrealistic or otherwise not desired. A respect for nature can exist harmoniously with an anthropocentric perspective without utilitarian application.
This is in response to Prompt 9