Approaches To Environmental Ethics And KantS Principle 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 pre …