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6.7.04

Non-Anthropocentric Intuitionism

Systems of environmental ethics are typically classified into two camps -- the anthropocentric and the non-anthropocentric, depending on whether they attribute intrinsic value to non-humans. In theory, one would establish a correct ethical system, then derive prescriptions for action from that system. But arguments for non-anthropocentric ethics tend to take an intuitionist path. Proponents take as given a certain level of desire to protect the environment. They then claim that that level of protection can't be justified on anthropocentric principles. In this they agree with anti-environmentalists. The difference is that anti-environmentalists conclude that therefore the desire is misplaced, and ought to be abandoned in light of a more rigorous calculation of human interests. Non-anthropocentrists, on the other hand, conclude that therefore the anthropocentric theory is wrong -- it stands refuted by its inability to justify wide-ranging environmental protections. It's supposed inability, anyway -- non-anthropocentrists seem at times to have a remarkably rosy view of how degraded a landscape humans could live comfortably in. Non-anthropocentrists then turn around and challenge our intuitions as not being radical enough. Having appealed to our desires to get us to accept non-anthropocentrism, we then find that non-anthropocentrism demands we go beyond our initial desires in terms of how much we protect nature. Indeed, this radicalism is often cited as non-anthropocentrism's greatest virtue.

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