Year of Publication

2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Dr. Theodore Schatzki

Abstract

Ever since the environment and nonhumanity became major ethical topics, human-centered worldviews have been blamed for all that is morally wrong about our dealings with nature. Those who consider themselves nonanthropocentrists typically assume that the West’s anthropocentric axiologies and ontologies underlie all of the environmental degradations associated with our species. On the other hand, a handful of environmental philosophers argue that anthropocentrism is perfectly acceptable as a foundation for environmental ethics. According to Bryan Norton’s convergence hypothesis, "If reasonably interpreted and translated into appropriate policies, a nonanthropocentric ethic will advocate the same [environmental] policies as a suitably broad and long-sighted anthropocentrism" (Norton 2004:11). Norton notes that although adherents to either ism may disagree about the relative importance of the various reasons they have for advocating such policies, they nevertheless share an equal commitment to protecting the environment. Because any form of anthropocentrism must fundamentally favor humanity over nonhumanity, nonanthropocentrists are nevertheless concerned that such favoritism is "nothing more than the expression of an irrational bias" (Taylor 1981:215). They reason that only a nonanthropocentric ethic can guarantee that policies do not arbitrarily favor humans when their interests conflict with those of nonhumans. I argue that critics of convergence fail to appreciate that Norton’s hypothesis is limited to ideologies that he deems "reasonable" and "suitably broad and long-sighted," or else they misapprehend what these terms imply. When it comes to ethics, nonanthropocentrists and anthropocentrists alike vary along a continuum according to whether their overriding intuitions are more aligned with individualistic or collectivistic axiologies and their associated timescales. The most unreasonable, narrow, and short-sighted ideologies are those that are the most individualistic. It is at the collective end of the continuum that Norton’s proposed convergence takes place. I defend a version of anthropocentrism that I term ecological anthropocentrism.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

http://dx.doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2016.259

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