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9 Ecophilosophy: Deep Ecology and Ecofeminism The recent debate over animals—with its emphasis on extending traditional ethical models to include nonhumans—may serve to legitimize the animal’s claim to moral attention; however, by translating the value of animal reality into terms assimilable to human culture, it also completes a form of intellectual domestication. Posttraditional thought locates the value of the animal in its extra-cultural objectivity, in that which evades domestication; however, such a segregation of animal and culture casts doubt on whether any viable cultural institutions can articulate a valuation of nonhuman life without humanizing it in the process. In this chapter, I explore the possibility of finding an alternative to these treatments of the animal among the various forms of recent environmental thought. As one would expect, the literature that explores the nature and extent of our moral obligations to the nonhuman world in general is larger and more varied than that dedicated to the moral standing of animals alone. Its more complex subject matter seems to give rise to endless points of contention, with the frequent result that even thinkers in the same general school of environmental thought find themselves at serious odds. While some in the field have attempted to forge a unifying environmental ethic, an important strain of environmental thought openly rejects such efforts, opting instead to seek a direct transformation in the individual’s way of experiencing the nonhuman world without relying on the mediation of universal philosophical schemes. Given this broad spectrum of environmental thought, I will not attempt a complete summary here. But a survey of its more provocative offerings 158 030 p3 (119-186) 11/13/06 4:53 PM Page 158 is necessary, inasmuch as the attempt to inform Western culture with principles of respect for the natural world has been a cornerstone of modern environmental ethics in all its manifestations; it thereby holds out the prospect of a synthesis that recognizes the pressing need for a rethinking of the moral standing of nonhuman beings, while abjuring the traditional categories of Western ethics. Some of the themes developed by environmentalists are explored further in Part IV; the question to concern us here is whether recent ecophilosophy can provide a platform for the accommodation of the animal—one theoretically coherent enough to satisfy the demands of philosophy, and strong enough to produce practical protection of the animal. Any success in this direction will further reinforce the conclusion that the animal’s demand for moral attention should be heeded, and any ethical or political structures that cannot respond adequately must be rethought. In part because of their historical coincidence, the debate over animals and the search for an environmental ethic can be viewed as products of similar social forces outside academic philosophy. First, the political momentum of modern liberalism and the various human liberation movements that helped to provoke the moral revaluation of the animal also fueled the environmental movement. If industrialization and urbanization made the animal less of a threat and therefore a more sympathetic figure, the threat these human forces pose to the stability of the environment likewise helped to stir philosophical reflection on our duties to the rest of the nonhuman world. Furthermore, both animal advocacy and environmentalism owe a debt to modern biology: just as the science of ethology provided new empirical data for the debate over animals, the science of ecology—specifically systems ecology, which reached the level of science proper in the mid-twentieth century—did the same for environmental ethics by exposing the subtle interconnections among living organisms and their environments, and the depth of impact that human activity can have upon them. In sum, it is not difficult to see the recent debate over animals and the search for an environmental ethic as parts of the same historical moment.1 Nonetheless, although animal advocacy and environmentalism have contiguous concerns that would suggest these movements are closely allied, their philosophical commitments are not entirely congruent , for both cultural and theoretical reasons. To the first, while the debate over animals has clear English origins, and the critique of its modernist origins is associated with the European Continent, the philosophy of environmental ethics has had a distinctly North American influence. Of course, the significance of the natural environment is an Deep Ecology and Ecofeminism 159 030 p3 (119-186) 11/13/06 4:53 PM Page 159 old and worldwide concern, and recent environmental discourse has been enriched by many non-Western voices. But in...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780252091186
Related ISBN
9780252031182
MARC Record
OCLC
785781180
Pages
312
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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