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The Environment

Philosophy, Science, and Ethics

Edited by William P. Kabasenche, Michael O'Rourke, and Matthew H. Slater

Publication Year: 2012

Original essays by leading scholars consider the environment from biological and ethical perspectives.

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Topics in Contemporary Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

Earlier versions of the essays in this volume were presented at the twelfth annual Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference (INPC), held in May of 2009 in Pullman, Washington and in Moscow, Idaho. For their financial and administrative support of the conference, we thank the philosophy departments at Washington...

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1. The Environment: How to Understand It and What to Do about It

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pp. 1-17

If we take the dictionary definition of ‘environment’ at face value, a thing’s environment is just that thing’s surroundings. The term ‘environment’ gets used this way in biology, for example, when we talk about the interaction between an organism and its environment. (For examples, see the chapters by Brandon and...

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2. The Concept of the Environment in Evolutionary Theory

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pp. 19-35

One of the central explanatory projects of evolutionary biology is adaptation — the marvelous fit between organism and environment. Adaptation is always adaptation to an environment. An anteater’s tongue works well to extract ants from their colony, but would serve a grass-eating ungulate poorly. Adaptation in the...

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3. What If Ecological Communities Are Not Wholes?

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pp. 37-56

There seems to be an assumption that ecological communities are wholes. The assumption is that networks of or ecological interactions among populations and among individual organisms arrange themselves into what Odenbaugh (2007) calls “Hutchinsonian Communities”: “group[s] of species that at least weakly interact...

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4. The Environment, from a Behavioral Perspective

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pp. 57-72

Behavior as conceived of in a variety of biological disciplines is a kind of interaction between a system of a certain sort (such as an animal) and its environment (the containing system in which it is situated) — but what kind of interaction? Behavior involves responding to environmental events or conditions, and behaviors...

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5. Systems Theory and the New Ecophilosophy

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pp. 73-87

After two and a half decades of development, the pronouncement came in the mid 1990s that work in environmental philosophy up to that time, though it may have been philosophically entertaining for those academics involved in it, had been a practical failure. Andrew Light and Eric Katz, editors of the first volume...

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6. Situated Adaptationism

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pp. 89-116

Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin’s paper “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme” appeared in 1979. Since then it has become a staple of evolutionary biology and its philosophy. It is a classic. To read it is to marvel at its intellectual breadth, to delight...

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7. Thinking Ecologically: The Legacy of Rachel Carson

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pp. 117-135

In my 2006 book Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location, I read between the lines of Rachel Carson’s texts — especially Silent Spring (Carson 1962) — in order to develop an epistemological approach I call ecological naturalism. I begin by showing how the dominant theories of knowledge of affluent post-Industrial...

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8. Climate, Consensus, and Contrarians

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pp. 137-150

In debates over global climate change, much is made over the consensus concerning the effects of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions on the Earth’s temperature. Contrarians correctly note that science is partially structured around dissent and criticism. Thus, they charge scientific consensus is irrelevant and even...

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9. Nature as the School of the Moral World: Kant on Taking an Interest in Natural Beauty

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pp. 151-169

Kant is rarely considered fertile ground for ethical thought about nature. He escapes the scorn reserved for Descartes, as he recognizes, for example, that animals are living beings capable of suffering and that we should not be cruel to them. But he doesn’t appear to go much beyond that. He argues that cruelty is wrong not because...

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10. Precaution Has Its Reasons

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pp. 171-184

Today precaution is not only a watchword; it is a booming industry. On an unprecedented scale, governments are incentivizing investment in risk reductions vis-à-vis planetary climate change, biosphere degradation, and massive losses of biodiversity. Indeed, precaution rhetoric is increasingly displacing cool-headed assessment...

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11. Add to Cart? Environmental “Amenities” and Cost-Benefit Analysis

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pp. 185-200

This chapter focuses on the use of cost-benefit analysis in decision making, particularly environmental decision making. The sort of cost-benefit analysis at issue incorporates two very controversial features: the assumption of comparability and the willingness-to-pay measure. I show how debates about such cost-benefit analysis can...

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12. Can We—and Should We—Make Reparation to “Nature”?

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pp. 201-221

This chapter considers whether any form of reparation can be extended beyond the human sphere, and, if so, when and in what form. The idea is not new. President Richard Nixon called for reparation to nature in his 1970 State of the Union speech, and several environmental ethicists, including Paul Taylor (1986) and Peter Wenz...

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13. Getting the Bad Out: Remediation Technologies and Respect for Others

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pp. 223-243

Arguments for and against environmental remediation have tended to emphasize mitigation of harms while turning a blind eye to other moral considerations that inform our views on environmental wrongdoing (Nelson 2008; Singer 2006). In this chapter, I focus the discussion much more narrowly. I inquire into the conditions...

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14. Emissions, Economics, and Equity: Problems with Nuclear Solutions to Climate Change

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pp. 245-275

Philosophical analyses of anthropogenic climate change often focus on ethics and values (Singer 2002; Garvey 2008; Crist and Rinker 2009; Harris 2009). Philosophers often argue that because developed nations (especially the United States) have used disproportionate and inequitable shares of global resources, and thus have caused..

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15. On the Need for Front-Line Climate Ethics

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pp. 277-292

In its nearly 40 year history, environmental ethics has been more a theoretical than a practical discipline, largely standing on the sidelines of actual environmental disputes. For those who may have entered the field because they were attracted to the idea of making a meaningful contribution to the resolution of environmental problems...


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pp. 293


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pp. 295-307

E-ISBN-13: 9780262301770
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262017404

Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Topics in Contemporary Philosophy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Philosophy of nature -- Congresses.
  • Nature -- Congresses.
  • Ecology -- Philosophy -- Congresses.
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