Feb 9 ENV222 Lecture format.doc(1).docx

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School of Environment
Kenneth Mac Donald

ENV 222 Feb. 9 Anthropocentrism Lecture format 1. Definitions . Anthropocentrism: defined in reading, p. 179 as "the assumption of human self- importance in the larger scheme of things"; contains two elements: . empirical: understanding that humans are different from other animals . moral, normative: believe that humans should dominate nature Thus the concept contains two different elements: 1) separation of the human and non-human; and, (2) domination of nature by humans. Since subject is ideas inherent in anthropocentrism and their influence as a cause of the environmental problem, we need to define "ideas." . idea: defined by social scientists as "belief " or "mental process" in mind of the individual human being but also something held in common, because the idea is shared by a number of individuals; in that case, the idea exists outside the individual, something like a computing "cloud" as such the idea can be considered an entity in its own right, acting as a causal variable because it influences human behaviour: See Douglas, Mary (1986). How Institutions Think. Syracuse N.Y.: Syracuse University Press for the view that ideas in the form of institutions (rules, not corporate bodies) have a life of their own, beyond that of the humans in whose minds they exist. 2. Categories of ideas . ideas used for understanding of causality: eg, religion, empirical science, "common sense" . ideas as norms or rules(also referred to as institutions): . codified , given formal, legal form - eg a country's constitution . informal, eg dress codes . assumptions: "taken for granted"; "taken as true for the sake of argument"; the starting point for logical thought; that which is not examined. The unexamined assumption (eg economic growth is natural and good, it is impossible to imagine a world without economic growth) has power precisely because it is unexamined and therefore not subject to attack from conflicting ideas. 3) How do ideas influence behaviour? . causality behaviour is based on expected consequences of the action; prediction . norms 1) because enforced (eg by police); 2) because internalized, no need for enforcement 1 (as discussed Feb. 7 class) . assumptions provide starting point for rational planning of behaviour . influence stemming from the idea itself . "quality" of the idea (eg, allows prediction by understanding causality) . whether or not contested, held by all or just some? = legitimacy of the idea . influence stemming from power of those who hold it; idea held by elites will have more influence than idea held by marginalized minority; this shows connection between idea and interest, since many times ideas benefit those who hold them 4) Critiques of anthropocentrism . Rachel Carson 1962 , reader 178: argues against "controlling" nature . Lynne White Jr. 1967reader p. 178-79: points to Biblical view humans are and should be dominant: God gave humans dominion" over nature; nature exists in order to serve the human . or, God gave "stewardship" implying a moral obligation to care for nature . Fox argument against anthropocentrism 1. empirically incorrect - humans are similar to other animals, which do many of same things (eg social beings); so difference is matter of degree, not absolute 2. has caused problems in practice (White argument); presumably the view is based in human self-interest (desire to benefit by using nature) but we now see it perhaps is not working to human benefit (eg toxic pollution, resource depletion, climate change) 3. not logically consistent; cannot define humans as being in a separate moral class because some humans (eg, the senile, babies) are not in that class (do not have "human" traits such as rationality) but we still grant them moral worth 4. not morally acceptable (in the eyes of some – ecophilosop
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