Why Should We Try to be Sustainable? Expected Consequences and the Ethics of Making an Indeterminate Difference

In Chelsea Miya, Oliver Rossier & Geoffrey Rockwell (eds.), Right Research: Modelling Sustainable Research Practices in the Anthropocene. Open Book Publishers. pp. 3-35 (2021)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Abstract
Why should we refrain from doing things that, taken collectively, are environmentally destructive, if our individual acts seem almost certain to make no difference? According to the expected consequences approach, we should refrain from doing these things because our individual acts have small risks of causing great harm, which outweigh the expected benefits of performing them. Several authors have argued convincingly that this provides a plausible account of our moral reasons to do things like vote for policies that will reduce our countries’ greenhouse gas emissions, adopt plant-based diets, and otherwise reduce our individual emissions. But this approach has recently been challenged by authors like Bernward Gesang and Julia Nefsky. Gesang contends that it may be genuinely impossible for our individual emissions to make a morally relevant difference. Nefsky argues more generally that the expected consequences approach cannot adequately explain our reasons not to do things if there is no precise fact of the matter about whether their outcomes are harmful. In the following chapter, author Howard Nye defends the expected consequences approach against these objections. Nye contends that Gesang has shown at most that our emissions could have metaphysically indeterministic effects that lack precise objective chances. He argues, moreover, that the expected consequences approach can draw upon existing extensions to cases of indeterminism and imprecise probabilities to deliver the result that we have the same moral reasons to reduce our emissions in Gesang’s scenario as in deterministic scenarios. Nye also shows how the expected consequences approach can draw upon these extensions to handle Nefsky’s concern about the absence of precise facts concerning whether the outcomes of certain acts are harmful. The author concludes that the expected consequences approach provides a fully adequate account of our moral reasons to take both political and personal action to reduce our ecological footprints.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
NYENWS
Upload history
Archival date: 2021-07-21
View other versions
Added to PP index
2021-07-21

Total views
16 ( #60,696 of 2,439,322 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
16 ( #38,110 of 2,439,322 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.