On the Possibility of a Problem-Free Environmental Ethical Theory

In Hasan Arslan, Mehmet Ali Icbay & Sorin Mihai Stanciu (eds.), VI. European Conference on Social and Behavioral Sciences. pp. 324-337 (2015)
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The main subject of this paper is the two significant problems of environmental ethics which are ecofascism and speciesism. This scrutiny offers an evaluative perspective on the main problems of environmental ethics and is conducted with this aim. Most of the environmental philosophers, all the difficulties notwithstanding, try to find a middle way in the ecofascism-speciesism continuum and their theories get closer to one or the other edge of this continuum. John Baird Callicott is one of the environmental philosophers who struggle with this issue when his theory indicates one of the problems or gets closer to one of the edges, he tries to find a new way to go. There are six turns in Callicott's philosophy starting with strong holism due to accepting Leopold's land ethic as a basis. Then, he constructed a theory that pushes him closer to the speciesist edge, and finally, he found a way out from these fatal consequences. However, all the environmental philosophers face the same problems in their journey although they are either holists or individualists in the end. In constructing a holistic environmental ethical theory, for instance, they may be in ecofascism difficulty because holism requires man to be an ordinary member of the biotic community as seen in the first turn. Or, establishing a special place for humankind to ditch the ecofascism crisis may cause another equally important crisis, namely, speciesism (see the third turn). Some philosophers prefer to be closer to one of the edges always being on guard against the other. Some others, like Callicott, try to find a middle way equally far from the edges. However, this choice is no easier. Selecting to be a member of both the human community and biotic community brings different problems, such as ranking problems between the duties and obligations toward the communities and their members, i.e. a challenge to decision-making processes. For such problems, they come up with some principles or rules like second-order principles (SOPs) as Callicott did (in the fifth turn). But, these rules or principles are not sufficient enough to solve the ranking problems of setting priorities among our duties to members of both communities, either. Thus, either there is a need for more regulations and rules, or these two communities should be separated in a different dimension and gathered at another level. The second choice is preferred by Callicott and used as a solution to the main problem: constructing an environmental ethical theory that involves whole nature with its members and which is free from two essential problems (see the sixth turn). As a final point, Callicott's last theory seems to point to the conclusion that an environmental ethical theory is possible without falling into the ecofascism and speciesism traps, i.e. his last stand can facilitate the attainment of the main subject of this essay.

Author Profiles

Songul Kose
Hacettepe University (PhD)


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