Pragmatist Ethics and Climate Change [preprint]

In Dale Miller & Ben Eggleston (eds.), Moral Theory and Climate Change: Ethical Perspectives on a Warming Planet. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. Ch. 11 (2020)
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This chapter explores some features of pragmatic pluralism as an ethical perspective on climate change. It is inspired in part by Andrew Light’s work on climate diplomacy as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs, and by Bryan Norton’s environmental pragmatism, while drawing more explicitly than Light or Norton from classical pragmatist sources such as John Dewey. The primary aim of the chapter is to characterize, differentiate, and advance a general pragmatist approach to climate ethics. The main line of argument is that we are suffering culturally from a sort of “moral jetlag” due in part to “moral fundamentalist” habits, and that a critical focus on pragmatic pluralism—in moral theory generally and climate ethics particularly—would be salutary for our recovery if philosophers are to speak more effectively to “wicked problems” in a way that aids public deliberation and social learning. Moral fundamentalist habits, and the monistic one-way assumption that unintentionally—but not blamelessly—exercises and unduly reinforces them, are obstacles to fostering habits of moral and political inquiry better suited to dealing with predicaments rapidly transforming our warming planet.

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Steven Fesmire
Radford University


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