Should Environmental Ethicists Fear Moral Anti-Realism?

Environmental Values 28 (4):405-427 (2019)
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Environmental ethicists have been arguing for decades that swift action to protect our natural environment is morally paramount, and that our concern for the environment should go beyond its importance for human welfare. It might be thought that the widespread acceptance of moral anti-realism would undermine the aims of environmental ethicists. One reason is that recent empirical studies purport to show that moral realists are more likely to act on the basis of their ethical convictions than anti-realists. In addition, it is sometimes argued that only moral realists can countenance the claim that nature is intrinsically valuable. Against this, we argue that the acceptance of moral anti-realism is no threat to the environmentalist cause. We argue, further, that the acceptance of moral realism is potentially an obstacle to delivering on a third core environmental ethicist demand: namely, that successful action on climate change and environmental destruction requires us to change some of our commonly-held ethical views and to achieve a workable consensus.

Author Profiles

Michael Rubin
University of Western Australia
Anne Schwenkenbecher
Murdoch University


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