AldoLeopoldEthicsLecture

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					English 104:6: Composition and Literature
Spring 2011
Grant T. Smith, Ph.D.

Sand County Almanac – Environmental Ethics
Sources: What Are They Saying about Environmental Ethics? By Paula Smith and
Environmental Ethics edited by Robert Elliot and A Sand County Almanac by Aldo
Leopold

John 3: 16 – ―For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.‖

    The telos of the human is a final union with God in eternity. How will being an
    environmentalist help you to achieve this purpose for being? What is the telos of
    non-human creatures?

―A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic
community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.‖ —Aldo Leopold (262)

―All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a
community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in
the community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate (perhaps in order that there
may be a place to compete for). The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the
community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.‖
        —Aldo Leopold (239)

―It is inconceivable to me that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect,
and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value. By value, I of course mean
something far broader than mere economic value; I mean value in the philosophical
sense.‖ —Aldo Leopold (261)

Plato’s Value Theory – According to Plato, body, soul, and society have similar organic
structures and corresponding virtues. The goodness of each is a function of its
structure or organization and the relative value of the parts (or constituents of each) is
calculated according to the contribution made to the integrity, stability, and beauty of
each whole.

Critical Environmental Ethical Issues:

   What overall vision of the natural world is the most fitting and salutary:
   Anthropocentrism? Biocentrism? Ecocentrism? For Leopold, a land ethic changes
   the role of Homosapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and
   citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the
   community as such. To Leopold, the keys to an environmental ethics are: Quit
   thinking about decent land-use as solely an economic problem. Examine each
   question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is
   economically expedient.‖ (262)

   Do beings and things other than humans have ―intrinsic value,‖ or are they more
   properly assigned ―instrumental value‖? Ethical humanists argue that only human
   beings are rational, or capable of having interests, or possess self-awareness, or
   have linguistic abilities, or can represent the future. Thus humans have a higher
   moral standing than non-humans, and humans thus deserve higher moral
   consideration. A conservation system based wholly on economic motives is flawed
   because most members of the land community have no economic value. For
   example, what commercial value do wild flowers and songbirds have? A
   conservation system based on economics also falsely assumes that the economic
   parts of the biotic clock will function without the uneconomic parts.
   Can animals, plant life, land, seas, ecosystems, or nature in general—some of
   these, or all of these—be said to have ―rights‖? Do endangered species have more
   rights than species that are not endangered?
   Do humans have moral obligations to any beings other than persons now existent?
   That is, can there be obligations to the not yet born or the not yet apparent beings?
   What is the proper telos of human interaction with other living species and nonliving
   world? Teleology is the doctrine that the existence of everything in nature can be
   explained in terms of purpose.
   What specific moral choices concerning the Earth environment and its various living
   beings can be prescribed and proscribed?

Land Ethic and the Ecological Point of View

   What is your vision of the world? Holistic or Atomistic?
   What is your duty as a moral agent?
   Do we have any obligations to the land over and above our self interests?

Aldo Leopold

   How do you view disposal of property? Is it a matter of expediency or morality?
   (237)
   Can a limitation of our freedom of action be a part of our ethics?
   What metaphor do you use to imagine the environment? Is it a ―balance of nature‖
   or a ―biotic pyramid?‖
   Can the land adjust to the changes that humans make to the ―order of the universe?‖
   (255)
Eco-Ethics and the Catholic Magisterium

Gaudium et Spes (from Vatican II)

   The human is by his or her innermost nature a social being made in God’s image
   (imago Dei), given dominion over all earthly creatures with a right to subdue them
   and use them to God’s Glory. In Centesimus Annus, John Paul II asserts that
   humans should ―dominate the earth‖ equitably. Dominion is being a cooperator with
   God in the work of creation.
   Because of the ―Fall,‖ man has fallen out of harmony with himself, with others, and
   with all created things.
   We are called to attend to and advance the universal common good.
   Humans need to be reminded that caring for and cultivating the Earth is a human
   obligation. This is a part of God’s design.
   Modern warfare is seen as a crime and an abomination. In Evangelium Vitae, John
   Paul II states that murderous violence profoundly changes the environment. The
   land itself becomes desolate and fruitless as a result of human violence.
   Actions which smack of deliberate Earth-devastation are seen as ungodly and anti-
   human.

Themes of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

   A vision of the natural world that is theocentric and anthropocentric—but there is a
   reverence for all of God’s creations. Man is the primary route that the Church must
   travel in fulfilling her mission: he is the primary and fundamental way for the Church.
   A sense that non-human creatures have an intrinsic value even while they have
   instrumental value (source of food, clothing, and work) to humans. Inflicting pain on
   animals or causing their deaths needlessly is an affront to human dignity. The Earth
   has its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose.
   An understanding that humans area obligated to use and care for animals and the
   Earth respectfully. In Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, John Paul II includes the world of
   nature in his respect for life.
   A Morality which implicates human agency in consequences not only to present but
   to future generations. There is a caution against over-consumption. We should
   simplify our lifestyle, participate in efforts to protect ecosystems and preserve
   endangered species, and advance more just distribution of the world’s goods and
   resources.
   A view of the human telos as not only God-driven but intertwined with other living
   beings, the planet, and the cosmos.
   A life-ethic that prescribes care, prudent use, the exercise of foresight and restraint
   in environmentally impacting actions and that locates responsibility in the church,
   community, business, school, professional organizations, individuals, economic
   systems, and land managers. Pope John Paul II admonishes humans not to
   exhaust nonrenewable resources and refrain from activities which pollute the
   environment.

				
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