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Is “nature” a significant moral category for the development of public policy? The answer to this question depends on what public policy is being considered. The utility of the concept of nature for ethical and policy decisions cannot be determined universally and a priori; rather, it exists along a spectrum of relevance and appropriateness, and it must be determined pragmatically based on the specific facts of each individual situation. In the area of environmental policy, for example,theideaofnature—indeed,nature’sactualexistenceasaphysicalreality— plays an important role in determining the ethical basis of policy decisions. Nonetheless , the idea of nature is not always of prime importance in environmental policy, for when we consider environmental issues in largely artifactual realms, such as urban centers, the idea of what is natural is little help in determining appropriate policy decisions. In human health and medical policy, as another example , the concept of nature plays a much less important role. Yet the spectrum of relevance exists in this area also, for some medical decisions are based on an idea of what is natural for the human body, even though most medical procedures seek to interfere with or modify the natural processes of disease, injury, or deterioration. Is there a key—a rubric, principle, or algorithm—for understanding the application of this spectrum of relevance regarding the use of nature in policy decisions? I believe that there is such a key and that it concerns the distinction between naturally occurring entities and human-created artifactual products, or chapter Five Preserving the Distinction between Nature and Artifact Eric Katz, Ph.D. 72 Eric Katz more simply, between nature and artifacts. By nature, I mean the realm of entities and processes unmodified by human agency; I consider the world of artifacts to be the realm in which entities and processes are modified and created by human intention and human manipulation. The role of the concept of nature in policy decisions thus rests primarily on the extent to which the decision concerns either the natural realm or the human or artifactual realm. If we are to employ the concept of nature in policy-making decisions, then we must maintain the distinction between nature and artifacts—on one side, the unmodified natural processes of the world that denote the world of nature and, on the other side, the results and products of human intentionality and manipulation of those processes that tend to create an artifactual human world. In this chapter I argue that the preservation of the distinction between nature and artifacts is a crucial feature of our analysis of the ethics of policy decisions. This analysis involves a two-step process. First, we must understand the real ontological difference between natural entities and artifacts. Second, we must recognize the normative value of the distinction. I use my previous work in the ethics of the policy of ecological restoration as the primary focus of this argument , but I also extend the discussion into areas involving human medical practice , broadly conceived as the attempt to modify natural processes in the development of human organisms. My conclusion is that there is a moral reason for preserving the distinction between nature and artifacts. The moral significance of this distinction rests on the concepts of intervention and domination. The Nature/Artifact Distinction: Restoration and Its Meaning In a series of articles I began publishing around 1991, I argued that ecological restorations (and to a certain extent, policies of natural resource management) do not actually restore or manage “natural systems.” I concluded that the restoration and re-creation of damaged natural environments is a misdirection in environmental policy, the result of a misunderstanding of the human role in shaping and determining environmental processes. What is ecological restoration? It is a scientific and technological enterprise, geared to the restoration, repair, and re-creation of natural ecosystems and landscapes . At one extreme, it is the mitigation of systems damaged by human interference , such as the cleaning up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. At another extreme, it is an attempt to “cover up,” literally, an intentional disruption of natural areas, such as the re-creation and replanting of a mountainside after strip-mining for Preserving the Distinction between Nature and Artifact 73 coal. There is also a vast array of middle positions, such as the attempt to re-create historical landscapes or ecosystems that no longer exist for the purpose of extracting scientific knowledge. Steve Packard’s attempt to re-create the oak-savannah plains of the U...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781421400709
Print ISBN
9780801898884
MARC Record
OCLC
794700418
Pages
232
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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