Approaches To Environmental Ethics And Kant?S Principle Essay, Research Paper
1. All of the three approaches to environmental ethics use Kant’s principle to various extents. The differences between them lie in their individual definitions of moral categories. It’s like looking at the same slide under three different powers on a microscope. Each approach relies on Kant’s principle to protect the interest of that which they deem worthy.
Baxter’s anthropocentric approach clearly states that our obligations regarding the environment are to be determined solely on the basis of human interests. Our welfare depends on breathable air, drinkable water and edible food. Thus, polluting the environment to the extent that it damages the air, water and land is unacceptable because it damages public welfare. Animals and plants are considered non-rational beings and are therefore not considered in the same moral category as humans. However, Baxter does not approve of mass destruction of these objects because people do depend on them in many ways and they should be preserved to the degree that humans depend on them. Clean air and water are good for plants and animals, too, so they will benefit from humankind’s attention to environmental ethics, but their preservation will in no way take precedence over any human interests.
We change the power on the microscope to look at Rollin’s argument for a sentientist approach. With this view, the moral category includes all sentient beings, not just human beings. Rollins believes that any being possessing an awareness of the senses that does not involve thought or perception has intrinsic value and is an end-in-themselves. He contends that animal interests must also be considered when determining our environmental obligations. Thus, we might have a moral obligation to preserve some natural habitat that is of no value to human beings if its destruction would harm some non-human beings.
Another adjustment to the microscope, and we can examine Leopold’s biocentric opinion of how environmental ethics should be governed. His approach enlarges the moral category to include soils, waters, plants and animals and claims our obligation is to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. Philosophers Devall and Sessions further define the biocentric view with the concept of deep ecology. Devall and Sessions argue that “the well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life have value in themselves. These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.” (503)
2. Autonomy and liberty have almost the same definitions and I believe that both Nielson and Hospers were trying to convey the same point, but at the same time have different views of the two shown by the context they used them in. Nielson states, “An autonomous person is a person who is able to set her ends for herself and in optimal circumstances is able to pursue those ends”. (359) In Hospers explanation of his second classification of human rights, the right to liberty, he states “there should be no laws compromising in any way freedom of speech…There should be no censorship…by government”. (353) Comparing these two interpretations, we see that both are essentially stating that a person has the right to do anything they please, and in the case of liberty, the right not to have interference by the community or the government. The difference can be seen clearly by using the employee example. Nielson claims that workers have the right to do what they want and Hospers declares that they have the privilege to work and the owners have the final say about what the workers do. Hence, in the eyes of these two authors, autonomy is inherent whereas liberty is earned. Anyone can be autonomous whereas if a person doesn’t respect other people’s rights then they will not earn the right to liberty and freedom.
The idea of freedom and liberty seem to embody the same principal. Nielson declares “Freedom does not only mean being autonomous; it also means the absence of unjustified political and social interference in the pursuit of one’s ends”. (359) Therefore, if one is autonomous they have the rights to live their lives to their accordance. To have liberty and freedom, however, one can live their life to their choosing, but must not negatively infringe on another person’s life.
3. “A Libertarian’s or individualist conception of justice holds liberty to be the ultimate moral ideal” (346). In regards to libertarianism, “The sole function of the government is to protect the individual’s life, liberty and property against force and fraud.” (347) Hospers categorizes the rights of society into three groups: the right to life, the right to liberty and the right to property. These are three rights society has that should not be able to be taken away. Libertarians assume that government’s responsibility is to protect human rights and penalize those that infringe on those rights. Principal of Liberty – people should be allowed to do what they wish as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s right to do the same.
Government laws for society can be classified into three categories. “Laws protecting individuals against themselves, Laws protecting individuals against aggressions by other individuals and Laws requiring people to help one another.” (354) Within these laws, libertarians reject the first law altogether. They feel that this is a paternalistic law and all people should assume responsibility for themselves. Libertarians also reject the third law because no one in society should be forced to help another. According to Libertarians the second law is the only law that should exist. “I may do anything I wish with my own life, liberty and property without your consent; but I may do nothing with your life, liberty and property without your consent”. (351) “All that which an individual possesses by right (including his life and property) are morally his to use, dispose of and even destroy, as he sees fit.” (351)
4. The Commission’s recommendations sited three reasons why the US should be concerned with the present state of world hunger. First, the Commission claims there is a “moral obligation to overcome hunger, based on two universal values – respect for human dignity and social justice.” (396) In the hierarchy of human needs, food is one of the most basic of all, along with air, water and shelter. If these fundamental requirements for life are not met, then higher level needs seem almost to be luxuries and unimportant. Unless all governments of the world actively strive to see that hunger is a tragedy of the past, “the principle that human life is sacred, which forms the very basis of human society, will gradually but relentlessly erode.” (397) The Commission believes the US would be the strongest leader in such a social reform “because of its agricultural productivity, its advanced food technology, and its market power.” (397) They state further that unless the US steps up to this challenge, there is no hope in the foreseeable future for an effective program to eliminate world hunger.
Also, the Commission claims that “coordinated international progress toward social justice” is the only way to global security. Huge armies and advanced warfare technology are only the tip of the iceberg when describing national security. All nations need to work together and help each other to achieve an equality of the most fundamental human rights for life, which should eventually lead to economic development and stability. With such a concerted effort, the security of our nation and, in fact, the world could be a reality.
Finally, when the people of the world are not spending all their energy merely to survive, there becomes an opportunity to focus their efforts on becoming “more productive, more equitable and more internationally competitive.” (398) This fact is vitally important to the stability of the US economy. Allowing developing nations to starve to death is like cutting off our nose to spite our face. We’re only hurting ourselves in the long run because we are allowing potential trade markets to wither on the vine.
5. Garret Hardin is opposed to the creation of a World Food Bank, labeling it the new commons. The tragedy of the commons is an ethical theory that inevitably leads to a “mutual ruin.” In the analogy of the commons, “the right of each to use it is not matched by an operational responsibility to take care of it” (409). It is certain that there would be nothing to protect the commons if it is used by all of society. “If everyone would only restrain himself, all would be well; but it takes only one less than everyone to ruin a system of voluntary restraint” (409) That is, if one person does something different than is expected, the whole system will be undermined. This supports Hardin’s view on the World Food Bank.
In his article, Hardin describes the World Food Bank as an “international deposition of food reserves to which nations can contribute according to their abilities, and from which nations may draw according to their needs” (409) Hardin gives a couple of negative consequences of this concept. He feels that each organization should be responsible for its own well being. He goes on to say that some may endure suffering but they will learn from these experiences. A wise country should save production in good years to be used in those less plentiful. However, the majority of governments do not attempt this and they will suffer. With a food bank, these countries will never be motivated to take on responsibility because others will bail them out whenever they are in trouble. The dependence that is obtained from the bank brings the thought that there is no reason to produce food if people will give it away. This ties into the tragedy of the commons. Some countries won’t contribute as much as they are able and some will take too much and destroy it for everyone.
Hardin goes on to describe the ratchet effect that would occur with the implementation of the World Food Bank. He believes that instead of each nation going through a natural cycle of overpopulation followed by an emergency, the population would be pushed upwards with the “inputs of food from the World Food Bank preventing [the population] from moving down” (411). It is this demographic cycle that keeps the population under control. Without the emergency portion, allowing a decrease, the population would continue to grow, leading to different sorts of astronomical problems. After a while, a lack of food will reoccur and again the food bank will provide. However, this time the supply of resources will have to be larger. Overall, the problem of hunger will not be solved; a Band-Aid will just be applied until the wound resurfaces again. “The process is brought to an end only by the collapse of the whole system” (411). Once the mistake of the food bank is realized, the normal pattern will return.
Kai Nielsen, however, doesn’t quite share Hardin’s view. Nielsen is in favor of democratic socialism and would side for a World Food Bank. He feels that everyone has a right to freedom and autonomy, equality, democracy and justice. A World Food Bank would aim to supply those without these rights, the ability to obtain them. I believe Nielsen would argue that the World Food Bank moves toward more public ownership and control over the means of production. He would take a communal standpoint on this issue and declare that the control of the food would come from the masses and not only a select few.
Furthermore, Kai Nielsen would believe that a World Food Bank would distribute freedom. He describes freedom as being autonomous and “the absence of unjustified political and social interference in the pursuit of one’s ends” (359). He would argue that there are those who unjustly lack that freedom without interference and are denied “an equal right to the means of life” (360) Also, he would defend that there should be a movement toward equality of condition. He states in his article that democratic socialism would move to approximate this equality. I believe he would view the World Food Bank of a step in achieving these rights that some currently don’t have.
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