The University of Georgia, Department of Philosophy, Ethics and the Environment
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Ethics & the Environment, Volume 15, Number 1, Spring 2010


The anthropocentric paradigm and the possibility of animal ethics
Elisa Aaltola

Animal ethics has tended to follow an analytical approach and has focused much attention on moral reason and theory. Recently, some have argued this to be a fundamental problem. The ‘paradigmatic account’ claims that instead of reason and theory, ethics ought to emphasize common paradigms and meanings. Since these paradigms and meanings tend to be anthropocentric, the pro-animal arguments presented within animal ethics ought to be viewed critically. The paper explores two variants of this account: anthropocentric casuistry and the Wittgensteinian approach. It is maintained that, although the importance of paradigms and meanings ought to be recognized, both of these approaches face severe difficulties that make them, without further development, an unfruitful basis for ethics concerning non-human animals.
Tidy Whiteness: A Genealogy of Race, Purity, and Hygiene
Dana Berthold

While ideals of racial purity may be out of fashion, other sorts of purity ideals are increasingly popular in the United States today. The theme of purity is noticeable everywhere, but it is especially prominent in our contemporary fixation on health and hygiene. This may seem totally unrelated to issues of racism and classism, but in fact, the purveyors of purity draw upon the same themes of physical and moral purity that have helped produce white identity and dominance in the US. Historically, this is where the purity rhetoric gets its power. To invoke purity ideals in the US is to mobilize this genealogy of racialized associations. Today’s zealous preoccupation with hygiene is part of our living heritage in a racist culture.
From “Natural” to “Ecosocial Flourishing”: Evaluating Evaluative Frameworks
Thomas Crowley

Evaluative terms are a crucial part of the environmental discourse. These terms, and the evaluative frameworks in which they are imbedded, serve as important guides to action. “Natural,” a term commonly used as a positive evaluation, is problematic because it can both justify unfair social relations and obscure the connections between humans and the rest of nature. “Sustainable,” another popular term, is extremely malleable, and is too often elaborated in frameworks that are neither socially nor ecologically responsible. The term “sustainable” is sometimes used in the framework of ecosystem health, but even this approach can fail to highlight the interconnectedness of social and ecological systems. The framework of ecosocial flourishing, introduced in this article, is better suited for highlighting the interconnected nature of the world and for drawing attention to questions of environmental justice. Evaluative terms (like “natural”) and frameworks (like “ecosocial flourishing”) are part of larger narratives that help people make sense of their interactions with, and emotional responses to, the non-human world.
Nero’s Fiddle: On Hope, Despair, and the Ecological Crisis
Andrew Fiala

It may appear rational to pursue short term self interest if the ecological crisis is unsolvable: it may be rational to fiddle while Rome burns. This is especially true when others are not making environmentally friendly choices and when we want to allow peole extensive liberty to make their own choices. This paper examines this problem by utilizing the prisoner’s dilemma and Hardin’s tragedy of the commons. It argues that voluntary solutions to the ecological crisis are not promising, while also recognizing that governmental interventions are equally unhelpful. The problem identified is that it may in fact be rational to fiddle while Rome burns.
Did Americans Choose Sprawl?
Robert Kirkman

In the debate over urban sprawl in the United States, there is serious contention concerning its origins: Does sprawl exist because of or in spite of peoples’ values and choices? As the debate plays out, it becomes clear that this question has only partly to do with the historical causes of sprawl and much more to do with questions of political legitimacy in decisions about the built environment. It also becomes clear that the debate as currently framed is not very fruitful. One way of getting a better understanding of these issues is to reconsider what it means for people to make free choices in particular contexts. Doing so yields some perspective on the complexity of the causes of sprawl and on the scope and limits of reasoned deliberation in private and public decision making.
Interspecies Etiquette: An Ethics of Paying Attention to Animals
Traci Warkentin

This paper explores a philosophical praxis of paying attention, and the importance of bodily comportment, in human-animal interactions. It traces some of the beginnings of the notion of attentiveness as it has arisen in contemporary Western environmental and animal ethics, and its further development into both a philosophical approach and actual practice as a kind of interspecies etiquette. It is informed by the kinds of comportments of openness and responsivity found in diverse examples of practical phenomenology. Through a wide-ranging interdisciplinary discussion, I suggest that a praxis of attentiveness can inspire practical applications of ethical interactions between species.

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