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Lecture 5

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University of Toronto St. George
Ingrid L.Stefanovic

PHL273 Monday October 17 , 2011 Lecture 5 Biocentric Ethics – The Sacred Mosquito Biocentric Ethics – any theory that views all life as possessing inherent worth Reverence-for-life Principle • Opposes scientific view of nature as value-neutral and mechanistic • Seeks to re-establish bond between nature and ethics Schweitzer’s Reverence for Life Principle “At the very moment when, at sunset, we were making our way through a herd of hippopotamuses, there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought, the phrase ‘Reverence for life’.” “I am life which wills to live, in the midst of life which wills to live... The man who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give to every will-to live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own. He experiences that other life in his own.” ... “He accepts as being good: to preserve life, to promote life, to raise to its highest value life which is capable of development: and is being evil: to destroy life, to injure life, to repress life which is capable of development. • This is the absolute, fundamental principle of the moral • There is an assumption that the natural world is not moving mechanistically • Schweitzer said we don’t need to be humans to know the value of life A Different View on Ethics Not a series of ethical rules but a shift in attitudes • Not focused on question “What should I do” but “What type of person should I be?” (virtue ethics) Virtue Ethics –The internalizing of various ethical perception and become a better person • You will become a virtuous person and a good person instead of memorizing the rules on how to be good Paul Taylor: Respect for Nature (1986) • A more sophisticated argument for adopting the attitude of respect for nature o Starts with recognizing that there is something about life that is valuable and about the fact that Schweitzer has captured the notion that life moves along and wants to develop • All living things have a good of their own: all living things are “teleological- centers-for-life” o Looks at it from an environmental niche perspective • Similar to – but different from – Aristotle Biological Good vs. Normative Claims • To preserve a being is precisely because of preserving a biological being PHL273 Monday October 17 , 2011 Lecture 5 Duty to preserve a being’s good ONLY if has a biological good to be promoted Normative claim needs to be justified by “the Biocentric Outlook” 1. Humans are members of earth’s community of life, in the same way as other living things 2. All species (including humans) are part of a larger system of ecological interdependence 3. All living things are teleological centers of life 4. Humans are not inherently superior to all other living things Basically: non-anthropocentric but individualistic Teleological-center-of-a-life • Telos = Greek for “goal” o Not an issue of conscious o Says that an acorn will become an oak tree...  Because there
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