The Value of Nonhuman Nature: A Constitutive View

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (3):469-485 (2014)
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A central question of environmental ethics remains one of how best to account for the intuitions generated by the Last Man scenarios; that is, it is a question of how to explain our experience of value in nature and, more importantly, whether that experience is justified. Seeking an alternative to extrinsic views, according to which nonhuman entities possess normative features that obligate us, I turn to constitutive views, which make value or whatever other limits nonhuman nature places on action dependent on features intrinsic to human beings and constitutive of them or their obligations. After examining two kinds of constitutive views—environmental virtue ethics and Korsgaard’s Kantianism—I suggest an alternative that takes up the strengths of both while avoiding their shortcomings. On this view, we have an indirect obligation to experience nature as obligating us, although we have direct obligations only to human beings.

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Roman Altshuler
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania


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