The epistemic demands of environmental virtue

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23 (1-2):109-28 (2009)
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To lead an environmentally virtuous life requires information—about morality, environmental issues, the impacts of our actions and commitments, our options for alternatives, and so on. On the other hand, we are finite beings with limited time and resources. We cannot feasibly investigate all of our options, and all environmental issues (let alone moral issues, more broadly). In this paper I attempt to provide initial steps towards addressing the epistemic demands of environmental virtue. In the first half of the paper I provide rules of thumb with respect to (1) how to prioritize our investigations into various issues, and (2) what kinds of information we should seek with respect to these issues, and the levels of epistemic justification we ought to attain. In the second half of the paper, I turn to a modified virtue ethics, appealing to the attitudes of virtuous ideal observers to provide characterizations of morally justified and morally non-culpable actions. I then apply these latter concepts in assessing agents, their actions and projects (with respect to environmental virtue), in light of their investigative efforts, and given their particular circumstances.

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Jason Kawall
Colgate University


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