Anthropocentrism: More than Just a Misunderstood Problem

Kopnina, Helen, Washington, Haydn, Taylor, Bron and J Piccolo, John (2018) Anthropocentrism: More than Just a Misunderstood Problem. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 31 (1). pp. 109-127. ISSN 1187-7863

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Anthropocentrism, in its original connotation in environmental ethics, is the belief that value is human-centred and that all other beings are means to human ends. Environmentally -concerned authors have argued that anthropocentrism is ethically wrong and at the root of ecological crises. Some environmental ethicists argue, however, that critics of anthropocentrism are misguided or even misanthropic. They contend: first that criticism of anthropocentrism can be counterproductive and misleading by failing to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate human interests. Second, that humans differ greatly in their environmental impacts, and consequently, addressing human inequalities should be a precondition for environmental protection. Third, since ecosystems constitute the “life-support system” for humans, anthropocentrism can and should be a powerful motivation for environmental protection. Fourth, human self-love is not only natural but helpful as a starting point for loving others, including nonhumans. Herein we analyze such arguments, agreeing with parts of them while advancing four counter-arguments. First, redefining the term anthropocentrism seems to be an attempt to ignore behavior in which humans focus on themselves at the risk of the planet. Second, if addressing human inequalities is a precondition for environmental protection, biodiversity protection will remain out of the scope of ethical consideration for an indefinite period of time. Third, anthropocentric motivations can only make a positive contribution to the environment in situations where humans are conscious of a direct benefit to themselves. Fourth, ‘self-love’ alone is an inadequate basis for environmental concern and action. We also explore the question of agency, shared responsibility, and a fair attribution of blame for our environmental predicaments.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anthropocentrism, Biodiversity loss, Environmental ethics, Human chauvinism, Speciesism
Subjects: C900 Others in Biological Sciences
D900 Others in Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects
F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
V900 Others in Historical and Philosophical studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2021 12:43
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2021 12:45

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