PHL273H1 Lecture Notes - The Incentive, Vilfredo Pareto, Walden Pond

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27 Nov 2012
Environmental Ethics for Canadians chapter 4
Neo-liberal economics= viewpoint in which the earth and its natural capital are resources that should be exploited in the
service of an ever-growing economy
o This challenges environmental ethics
o Neo-liberal economics is unapologetically anthropocentric
Anthropocentrism=view that only humans interests have value
Economics= study of the ways we appropriate scarce resources to satisfy our wants
The way people see something like trees is that it will only have value once it is no longer in the forests just standing there; the
only way to preserve the tree is if ppl pay to keep it up
o Problem= people don’t all value trees or nature
Vilfredo Pareto; his way of efficiency is taking everyone’s values into account when making an economical decision
Pareto optimality=when one affair is superior to another that is inferior
o taking into consideration everyone’s interests who are at stake
o To pareto he thinks we have moved from a standpoint that was inferior to superior
People or penguins: the case for optimal pollution
When dealing with pollution one must think what is the goal of it?
o For ex: when attempting to clean the air; what is the goal? How clean do u want the air to be?
Baxter’s criteria on attempting to frame solutions to human organization problems:
o 1. Spheres of freedom
o 2. Waste is a bad thing; pop keeps increasing
o 3. Humans should not be used for the betterment of another
o 4. The incentive and the opportunity to improve a person’s share of satisfactions should be preserved.
These are people-orientated criteria; “i have no interest in preserving penguins for their own sake”- criteria
will preserve things for people’s sake
Reasons why he thinks selfish mindset is a starting place for analysis:
o 1. Corresponds to reality; corresponds to the way most people really act/think
o 2. This mindset doesn’t destroy non-human flora + fauna bcuz ppl depend on them too
o 3. What is good for humans is good for other living creatures; ex: clean air
o 4. Private vs collective
Ex: John can give to the env in a private manner like feeding birds when he’s at the park
Or he can do things in large groups that have a huge significance
However in the end even working privately he is partaking in a collective act of giving to the env
o 5. We have to see what value each individual thing has
Why is it wrong to cut down trees but not save penguins? Whats the value of each?
“every man is entitled to his own preferred definition of Walden Pond (example) but there is no definition
that has any moral superiority over another, except by reference to the selfish needs of the human race”
There is no definition of clean air because a man’s def of clean air is based on a man’s need of the clean air
“the first and most fundamental step toward solution of env problems is a clear recognition that our objectives are not pure air
or water but rather some optimal state of pollution” pg 113
“to attain ever lower levels of pollution we must pay the cost of having less of these other things”; food/ shelter
o People have this mindset in mind; if we give money towards fixing a pond then that is less money that will go into
building houses or fixing medical care
o Because of this reality people don’t see clean air as a must right now
o We must sacrifice and there are some things we can live without ex: washing machines
By attaining an optimal level of something like clean air we are assuming/showing that it has some sort of positive value for
Tool to way weigh the costs and benefits of trade-offs = cost-benefits analysis (CBA)
o Things that have to be taken into considerations = spiritual and symbolic places/things
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