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Ethics of Environmental Concern

Robin Attfield

Publication Year: 1991

First published in 1983, The Ethics of Environmental Concern has become a classic in the relatively new field of environmental ethics. Examining traditional attitudes toward nature, and the degree to which these attitudes enable us to cope with modern ecological problems, Robin Attfield looks particularly at the Judeo-Christian heritage of belief in humankind's dominion, the tradition of stewardship, and the more recent belief in progress to determine the extent to which these attitudes underlie ecological problems and how far they embody resources adequate for combating such problems. He then examines concerns of applied ethics and considers our obligations to future generations, the value of life, and the moral standing and significance of nonhumans. Simultaneously, he offers and defends a theory of moral principles appropriate for dealing with such concerns as pollution, scarce natural resources, population growth, and the conservation and preservation of the environment.

The second edition includes a new preface and introduction, as well as a bibliographic essay and an updated list of references incorporating relevant scholarship since the publication of the first edition.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

In the period since the publication of the first edition, global problems have made this work increasingly relevant. At the same time local problems, such as the demise of University College Cardiff, the loss of many of its staff, and the merger out of which University of Wales College of Cardiff emerged in 1987-88, have involved pressing difficulties ...

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pp. ix-x

My thanks go to Peter Singer for discussion of a paper related to this book, to Robert Young and Nigel Dower for bibliographical assistance, to Derek Parfit for encouragement, to Tom Regan and Mary Midgley for their comments on chapter 8, and to the Cardiff Philosophical Society, and particularly its student members, ...

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pp. xi-xx

The Ethics of Environmental Concern, though published in 1983, was mostly composed two years earlier, final touches being added in 1982. Since then, public awareness has increasingly been focused on growing problems such as the greenhouse effect, acid rain, holes in the ozone layer and the destruction of rainforests. ...

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Introduction to the First Edition

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pp. xxi-xxiii

This is an unusual book. It is an exercise neither solely in philosophy nor solely in history, nor certainly in any other single discipline. Part One is predominantly but not exclusively a study in the history of ideas, while Part Two is a philosophical investigation into normative ethics and some of its applications. ...

Part One: Problems and Traditions

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pp. 1

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1 Ecological Problems

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pp. 1-19

Ecological problems have been defined as problems arising 'as a practical consequence of man's dealings with nature',1 where 'nature' is used of the nonhuman environment of man. Ecology is the science of the complex interplay of natural organisms and natural systems, and brings to light, among other things, ...

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2 Man's Dominion and the Judaeo-Christian Heritage

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pp. 20-33

In this chapter I shall consider the theory that the source of our ecological problems is to be found in the Judaeo-Christian belief that mankind was created to have dominion over nature, a belief which, according to the theory, can be interpreted as implying that humans may treat their natural environment as they like. ...

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3 The Tradition of Stewardship

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pp. 34-50

It is worthwhile to investigate further whether the central religious and ethical tradition of our culture has been despotic or environmentally responsible. Even if the Bible is not despotic as to its writers' view of nature (as was argued in chapter 2), the teaching of its adherents could still have been so; and if it had been so, ...

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4 Nature and the Place of Man

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pp. 51-66

From what we have seen so far, our moral traditions already embody an ethic on which humans are the stewards and guardians of nature, an ethic which derives from the Judaeo-Christian tradition and is apparently well-suited to our current ecological problems. But it remains appropriate to enquire whether our underlying view of reality ...

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5 Belief in Progress

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pp. 67-87

Why are the societies of both Western and Eastern Europe, and those which descend from them, so expectant of perpetual growth and perpetual increases in human power and happiness? The Judaeo-Christian tradition does not seem to explain these deep-rooted attitudes, despite the views of White to the contrary;1 ...

Part Two: Applied Ethics

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pp. 88

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6. Future Generations

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pp. 88-114

I now turn to ethical considerations, and in this chapter in particular to the nature and grounding of our obligations towards future people. This will require a change of method, away from a historical approach to a more traditionally philosophical one. ...

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7. Multiplication and the Value of Life

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pp. 115-139

The increasing size of the human population is widely regarded as an ecological problem. A social problem it certainly is, at least in some places; and it results in some measure from people's transactions with other species, since advances in the control of disease must be part of its explanation. ...

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8. The Moral Standing of Nonhumans

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pp. 140-165

So far I have confined the basis of the argument to human interests. If the interests of future humans, including those whom we could bring into existence, are taken into account, there is already a formidable case for the conservation of natural resources, wildlife, wilderness and ecosystems, ...

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9. Inter-species Morality: Principles and Priorities

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pp. 166-184

Granted that nonhuman animals and most plants have moral standing, what principles of inter-species morality should we recognize? What, indeed, is the relative moral significance of the various species and their members, and what bearing does their moral significance have on our practice? ...

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10. Problems and Principles: Is a New Ethic Required?

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pp. 185-195

In this chapter I shall briefly review the way the principles arrived at in the four preceding chapters bear on the problems of pollution, resources, population and preservation, and discuss their adequacy and the extent of such revisions as may be required to our moral traditions. ...

A Review of Recent Literature

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pp. 196-214


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pp. 215-234


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pp. 235-249

E-ISBN-13: 9780820340258
E-ISBN-10: 0820340251
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820313498
Print-ISBN-10: 0820313491

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 1991