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J. Baird Callicott

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Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology
coverBeyond the Land Ethic : More Essays in Environmental Philosophy (Suny Series in Philosophy and Biology) by J. Baird Callicott.  

A sequel to Callicott's pioneering work, In Defense of the Land Ethic, Beyond the Land Ethic engages a wide spectrum of topics central to the field, including the troubled relationship of environmental philosophy to current mainstream academic philosophy; the relationship of recent developments in evolutionary and ecological sciences to the Leopold land ethic long championed by the author; the perennial debates in environmental ethics about the ontological status of intrinsic value and the necessity of moral pluralism; the metaphysical implications of ecology and the New Physics as manifest in agriculture, medicine, and industrial technology; and the philosophical dimensions of conservation biology and "clinical ecology."  

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The Ethical View
Essay by Callicott from DEFENDERS Magazine, November / December 1992 issue

Excerpt:

Why has Aldo Leopold had so much influence on the environmental movement, and why has his slender book of essays, A Sand County Almanac, become, in the words of Wallace Stegner, "almost a holy book in conservation circles"?

Perhaps because Leopold was a scientist, poet and philosopher, three gifts rarely found in one individual. As a scientist, he spoke with experience and authority. His way with words enabled him to communicate memorably with nonscientists. And he could not help but consider the philosophical and ethical implications of ecology.

In Leopold's integrative thinking, ecology was never just another arcane science. Nor was it simply a fund of information useful for more efficient exploitation of natural resources. To him, ecology offered a new way to perceive and order the natural world. Moreover, Leopold found his values changing as his ecological understanding deepened. Ecology, he realized, was also pregnant with revolutionary ethical precepts, and these he deftly brought to light in the Almanac. Of all his contributions to modern conservation, the fathering of environmental ethics was perhaps his greatest.

The last of Sand County's three parts is entitled "The Upshot," and the last piece in that part is "The Land Ethic." There Leopold sketched out in broad strokes the moral implications of ecology. He called for a wholesale change in the "current philosophy of values," which continues to this day to be based largely on utilitarianism, as articulated by 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham. According to Bentham, human happiness is the greatest good and all other living things are mere means to that end. Human beings have "intrinsic value" (we are valuable in and of ourselves) and everything else has "instrumental value" (or value because of its utility or use)...

 

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