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Thinking Like a PlanetThe Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic$
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J. Baird Callicott

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199324880

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199324880.001.0001

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The Earth Ethic: A Critical Account of Its Anthropocentric Foundations—The Natural Contract and Environmental Virtue Ethics

The Earth Ethic: A Critical Account of Its Anthropocentric Foundations—The Natural Contract and Environmental Virtue Ethics

Chapter:
(p.234) 9 The Earth Ethic: A Critical Account of Its Anthropocentric Foundations—The Natural Contract and Environmental Virtue Ethics
Source:
Thinking Like a Planet
Author(s):

J. Baird Callicott

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199324880.003.0010

Lynn Margulis persuasively argues that the living Earth has endured catastrophic change during its three-billion-year biography and cannot be significantly harmed by Homo sapiens. Rather, Homo sapiens may produce conditions on Earth to which the species is ill-adapted—thus the need for an anthropocentric Earth ethic in a time of global climate change. Michele Serres portrays anthropogenic climate change in terms of war—between Gaia and humanity—and suggests a “natural contract,” by analogy with classical social-contract theory. Because individual actions have negligible climatic effects, Dale Jamieson noted that the conventional consequentialist and deontological ethics of individual agents and patients “collapses” in the face of climate change and proffers virtue ethics instead, which Leopold had foreshadowed. Virtue ethics was theorized by Plato and Aristotle and has enjoyed a robust revival in the late 20th-century. Leopold suggested holistic as well as individualistic forms of virtue ethics, which no contemporary ethicists theorize.

Keywords:   Plato, Aristotle, Leopold, Lovelock, Margulis, Serres, Jamieson, war, global climate change, anthropocentrism

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