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John Dewey and Environmental Philosophy

Hugh P. McDonald

Publication Year: 2004

Hugh P. McDonald’s John Dewey and Environmental Philosophy breaks new ground by applying Dewey’s insights to a new approach to philosophy of the environment; the concern for the rights of animals; the preservation of rare species, habitats, and landscapes; and the health of the whole ecology. The book summarizes much of the current literature on environmental ethics, concentrating on the writings of major figures in the movement: Tom Regan, J. Baird Callicott, Holmes Rolston, and Bryan Norton. The heart of the book consists of a detailed analysis of Dewey’s ethics, his theory of intrinsic value, and his holistic approach to moral justification. Arguing against the idea that Dewey’s philosophy is anthropocentric, McDonald makes a strong case that using Dewey’s philosophy will result in a superior framework for environmental ethics.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-ii


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p. vii

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p. xi

My thanks to Professor Richard Bernstein, who patiently read the initial drafts of this work and provided many helpful comments and criticisms. In particular, his suggestion that pragmatism might provide an alternative approach to environmental ethics, apart from intrinsic value, proved fruitful and changed the direction of the book. ...

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pp. xiii-xix

Environmental ethics has recently developed as a separate field within philosophy and has a large and growing literature of its own. This field involves ethical studies of the rights of other species, of ecosystems, and of the environment of all living things as a whole. Much of the internal debate within the field has concerned issues of value and moral considerability. ...

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1. Environmental Ethics and Intrinsic Value

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pp. 1-56

In this chapter, different philosophies containing models of environmental ethics, which are based on some form of the intrinsic value of the nonhuman, will be examined. The authors discussed are three of the more prominent environmental ethicists1 who base their approach on the intrinsic value of the nonhuman realm to various degrees. These authors will be presented in increasing order of radicalism. ...

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PROLOGUE TO CHAPTER TWO - The Setting of the Problem of Pragmatism and the Environment: The Critique of Pragmatism as an Environmental Ethics in Taylor, Bowers, Katz, and Weston

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pp. 57-65

In this section, critics of pragmatism from within the literature of environmental ethics will be discussed and analyzed. I will discuss the figures who originated the controversy surrounding whether pragmatism can be used as an environmental ethic. Bob Taylor argues that John Dewey’s naturalism is anthropocentric, not ecocentric, and thus cannot provide a sufficient model for environmental ethics...

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2. Dewey Naturalism

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pp. 67-89

In the recent literature of environmental ethics, certain criticisms of pragmatism in general and Dewey in particular have been made. The argument has been that certain features of pragmatism make it unsuitable as an environmental ethic. Bob Taylor argued that Dewey’s naturalism in particular is anthropocentric because it concentrates on human nature.1

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3. Dewey's Instrumentalism

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pp. 91-108

Dewey’s philosophy has often been interpreted as undermining or eliminating intrinsic value. This issue has been raised in the context of environmental ethics by a critic of pragmatism.1 In this chapter, I will argue that this is a misinterpretation. However, this misreading may be based on Dewey’s Instrumental approach to value. I will examine Dewey’s Instrumentalism, and his critical scrutiny of the means-end relation in detail. ...

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4. Dewey's (Moral) Holism

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pp. 109-122

Dewey believed that changing conditions in the modern world called for a new approach to morality.1 His project was to direct moral thought away from an individualistic basis. The exclusive concentration on individuals isolated humans from each other,2 to speak nothing of nature. Morals have an affect on the individual of course, reflecting social forces, or what he called the social environment. ...

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5. Dewey's Ethics as a Basis for Environmental Issues

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pp. 123-141

Dewey was environmentally conscious before the issues of the environment received that wider attention that they have in more recent times. He was acutely aware that humans, despite their advances, live in an environment that has limits to abuse. His philosophy could be used as the basis for an environmental ethic with very little modification, since it already places humans in nature, avoids foundational models based on a detached subject...

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Epilogue: Pragmatism and Environmental Ethics

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pp. 143-157

The basic reason an environmental ethic is needed for our age is the threat to future human survival posed by the poisoning of the human environment itself by industrial and other processes. However, the massive destruction of habitats, whose root cause is human population growth, has evoked a radical response from environmentally minded philosophers. They have raised the question of the value of nonhuman life and whether treating animals and other living things as mere resources is justified. ...


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pp. 159-206


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pp. 207-214


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pp. 215-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486214
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791458730
Print-ISBN-10: 0791458733

Page Count: 247
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 62365212
MUSE Marc Record: Download for John Dewey and Environmental Philosophy

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Subject Headings

  • Dewey, John, 1859-1952.
  • Environmental sciences -- Philosophy.
  • Pragmatism
  • Environmental ethics.
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