Finding Value in Nature

Thomas E. Hill Jr.

in Virtue, Rules, and Justice

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199692002
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741241 | DOI:
Finding Value in Nature

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An earlier paper, “Ideals of Human Excellence and Preserving Natural Environments,” argued that those who despoil the natural environment often express objectionable attitudes rooted in ignorance, self-importance, and patterns of aesthetic insensitivity that, if not themselves vices, give evidence of deficiency in the natural bases of human excellences, such as proper humility, gratitude and aesthetic appreciation. The main point was that in order to show that environmental ethics is not all about rights and welfare it is not necessary to presuppose that natural phenomena have intrinsic value in a metaphysical sense. Now, supposing there is a broader human virtue we might call appreciation of the good, the question is whether this could be manifested by appreciating aspects of nature as good in themselves. Those who are already committed to the intrinsic value as a metaphysical property should have no objection to this idea, but they typically regard the value of nature as prior to and totally independent of human capacities for appreciation. Arguably the relation is not so simple and one-directional. Values are not natural or non-natural properties that we perceive as pre-existing in a non-human world, but they are also not simply things we create or mere reflections of our subjective tastes. The philosophical challenge is to explain, without metaphysical obscurity or undue anthropocentrism, how and why it is good to value certain natural phenomena for their own sakes and to recognize and respond appropriately to the value they have, in a sense, independently of human rights and welfare. The explanation requires sensitivity to distinctions, reflected in ordinary language, between desiring and valuing, between valuing something and regarding it as valuable, and between regarding something as valuable for various purposes and regarding it as valuable in itself.

Keywords: nature; environment; virtue; appreciate; desire; valuing; intrinsic value; metaphysical; anthropocentric

Chapter.  5278 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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