. The belief that there is one and only one truth; those who espouse absolutism usually also believe that they know what this absolute truth is. In ethics, absolutism is usually contrasted to relativism.
The value attributed to works of art. In environmental ethics, the attribution to nature of aesthetic value, commonly as an instance of
The conviction that one simply does not know whether God exists or not; it is often accompanied with a further conviction that one need not care whether God exists or not.
A selfless concern for other people purely for their own sake. Altruism is usually contrasted with selfishness or egoism in ethics.
The view that humans are the most important beings on Earth. Typical of Western Judeo-Christian culture.
"Human-centered" ethic or world view where human well being or interests are considered to be all that matters, everything else being valued only as a means. Example: Baxter.
. The Greek word for "excellence" or "virtue." For the Greeks, this was not limited to human beings. A guitar, for example, has its areté in producing harmonious music, just as a hammer has its excellence or virtue in pounding nails into wood well. So, too, the virtue of an Olympic swimmer is in swimming well, and the virtue of a national leader lies in motivating people to work for the common good.
The belief that God does not exist. In the last two centuries, some of the most influential atheistic philosophers have been Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Compare with Agnosticism.
In ethics, means the same as
The term has quite different meanings in other areas of philosophy.
. The ability to freely determine one’s own course in life. Etymologically, it goes back to the Greek words for "self" and "law." This term is most strongly associated with Immanuel Kant, for whom it meant the ability to give the moral law to oneself.
"Life-centred" where the well-being of each living thing is considered to be all that matters, everything else being valued only as a means to that end. Example: Taylor. The term is also used for ethics that value life itself, or biosphere, where the interests of individuals are valued largely or solely for the sake of the biosphere. Example:
Thus, biocentrism may be
The natural variety of life in all its forms, levels and combinations, together with the environmental conditions necessary for survival. Biodiversity includes: regional diversity, ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity.
The search for potentially valuable chemical compounds within biota.
A natural region defined by its ecological coherence. Each bioregion has a distinct geological formations, climatic conditions and ecology.
The belief that human communities should be fully integrated with the particular bioregion they occupy. A good example is the Ozark Area Community Congress (OACC). The OACC is founded on the principle of 'political economy', which means that political decisions must be bioregionally orientated, and so operate according to ecological laws.
J Baird Callicott taught the first environmental ethics course in the world (in 1972) and his major contribution to environmental ethics is in his extensive writings on
He is undoubtedly the #1 figure in turning environmental ethics into an academic discipline within philosophy. Since the text was written, he has moved to a position at the University of North Texas, in the Center for Environmental Philosophy (see Useful Sites)
. An unconditional command. For Immanuel Kant, all of morality depended on a single categorical imperative. One version of that imperative was, "Always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law."
A species of animal or plant having desirable human uses (food, fuel, shelter, clothing, medicine etc) present in sufficient numbers to make commercial collection or harvesting economically viable.
The belief that both determinism and freedom of the will are true.
A cultural element that describes the essential role played by a landscape in the life, culture and well-being of indigenous individuals and societies. "Traditional connections" refers to the elemental role played by a particular geographic area in the self image, heritage and economic well-being of an individual or a society, that has developed over many generations.
Any position in ethics which claims that the rightness or wrongness of actions depends on their consequences. See also, utilitarianism.
A consequentialist ethic requires that we do whatever actions will bring about the best result, eg
Conservation: often used in connection with a concern for the environment ("the conservation movement"). Internationally, associated with "wise use" or
, and contrasted with
was originally a conservationist in this sense.
In the NZ Conservation Act 1986, it is defined in terms of
Do not use the term "conservation" without explaining what you mean by it. See also
Those parts of the earth's surface, including waterways, which have been significantly modified by human activity.
. A deductive argument is an argument whose conclusion follows necessarily from its premises. This contrasts to various kinds of inductive arguments, which offer only a degree of probability to support their conclusion. Compare inductive, intuitionism. Deep Ecology: a term coined by Norwegian philosopher Aarne Naess who at 88 is the world’s oldest environmental philosopher (he also calls it "ecosophy"). Deep ecologists ask us to look into deeply into our relationship with nature; to develop self-realization through a feeling of oneness with nature; to reject materialism; and to go beyond the concerns of "shallow" or "reformist" anthropocentric concerns about issues such as pollution. There is no satisfactory definition of "deep ecology"; Devall and Sessions (text 144-147) present the most complete account. Deontological Ethics: Focus on the inherent rightness and wrongness of acts, in contrast to consequentialist theories.
. Any position in ethics which claims that the rightness or wrongness of actions depends on whether they correspond to our duty or not. The word derives from the Greek word for duty, deon.
Divine Command Theory.
Any position in ethics which claims that the rightness or wrongness of actions depends on whether they correspond to God’s commands or not. See also natural law theory.
The doctrine or principle of assessing the permissibility of an act. It distinguishes between what is foreseen as an effect of an action and what is intended as the effect of an action. Under this doctrine for an act to be permissible, the act must itself be morally good. The agent foreseeing the bad effect must not intend it and should seek alternative courses of action. The good effect should not be brought about by means of the bad effect, and the goodness of the intended act must outweigh the bad effects foreseen.
Philosophical belief that reality is essentially divided into two distinct kinds of stuff. Typically mind and body or the related pair, spirit and matter. One concept in each pair is often deemed superior to the other.
Type of worldview which sees the world as contrasting sets of pairs, eg mind-body, male-female, human-nature.
positions commonly reject dualisms, especially where they are seen as
Critics of the
ethic or worldview often contrast it with the "Eastern" view but there is no one such view. See Guha.
he view advocated by Aldo Leopold in his highly influential essay "The Land Ethic" (1949), that nature itself, not only humans or sentient creatures, has inherent moral value.. See www.utm.edu/research/iep/e/environm.htm
Type of ethic or worldview where the exploitation of nature is seen as part of a pattern of dominance including racism, sexism. Ecofeminists typically reject
largely because they see it as characterized by
hierarchy), extensionism, liberalism,
Ecofeminism is an ecocentric approach that understands environmental degradation and the oppression of women and other groups as the result of the "logic of dominance". Only by attacking the logic of dominance will we be able to liberate the environment, women, oppressed minorities, etc Examples: Cuomo, Karen Warren.
(a) use of an organism, ecosystem or other renewable resource at a rate within its capacity for renewal; or (b) use of living things or areas within their capacity to sustain natural processes while maintaining the life support systems of nature, and ensuring that the benefits of the use to present generations do not diminish the potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.
Originally the scientific study of the relationship between living organisms and their environment. The term now has a wider range of meanings. Often used to describe the holistic interconnectedness of all existence on Earth.
A community of plants, animals and other organisms together with the non-living components of their environment.
Type of ethic that emphasizes equality. Example: Taylor.
Knowledge held within the tissue of the body. It is a somatic, physical knowing which comes from direct experience. Familiar to sports people and performers. Adrian Harris claims that such knowledge is also found in spiritual contexts and can bring an experience of a wholeness and greater ecological awareness. (Harris treats the term '
' as equivalent)
A philosophical theory which holds that moral judgments are simply expressions of positive or negative feelings.
A species whose population (in a region or globally) has decreased, through habitat loss, predation, disease, environmental change or competition from other species, to the point where its continued survival is in doubt.
Also known as 'The Age Of Reason'. An intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th Centuries. A humanist movement which emphasized the power of reason above all else. Tended to emphasize empirical science as source of truth. Promoted notion of human 'progress'.
EPA defines Environmental Justice (EJ) as the "fair treatment for people of all races, cultures, and incomes, regarding the development of environmental laws, regulations, and policies." Fair treatment means that no group of people, including a racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies.
A violation of the principles of environmental justice wherein communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of toxic dumping wile being systematically excluded from discussions and decision-making concerning matters of environmental policy. throughout the U.S., and the rest of the world, communities of color are adversely affected by industrial and agricultural toxins, dirty water and dirty air, and the placement of incinerators, waste dumping facilities, and waste storage facilities. Environmental racism is a form of institutional racism.
The belief that people and/or phenomenon have properties that are essential to what they are. In a feminist context, the belief in a unique
unchanging feminine essence existing above and beyond cultural conditioning.
. A moral theory that, in its most common version (universal ethical egoism) states that each person ought to act in his or her own Self-interest. Also see Psychological Egoism.
The explicit, philosophical reflection on moral beliefs and practices. The difference between ethics and morality is similar to the difference between musicology and music. Ethics is a conscious stepping back and reflecting on morality, just as musicology is a conscious reflection on music.
The is the word that Aristotle uses for "happiness" or "flourishing." It comes from the Greek "eu," which means "happy" or "well" or "harmonious," and "daimon," which refers to the individual’s spirit.
: Type of ethic or worldview where humans are seen as not being part of
are always exclusionists: see Baxter.
Extensionist ethics assumes a conventional ethic and argues that it should be applied to a group that has traditionally been excluded from moral consideration, eg animals. Examples: Regan, Singer. Critics argue for a more radical approach. Examples: Cuomo,
Extrinsic Value: A value that is attributed to something because of its relation to something else that is considered to have
A person’s gender refers to that individual’s affiliation with either male or female social roles. Gender differs from sex in the same way that ethnicity differs from race: gender is a sociological concept, while sex is a biological one.
. Also called 'terminal grey culture'. Term used by Colin Johnson in his ' Green Dictionary ' to describe the modern West. A culture based on the ethos of growth, environmental destruction and increasing consumerism. 'Derived from the reductionist philosophical tradition and the homocentic view of the planet as being at man's disposal'. (
, page 131.)
. This is a term that utilitarians use to designate a unit of pleasure. Its opposite is a dolor, which is a unit of pain or displeasure. The term "hedon" comes from the Greek word for pleasure.
. For Kant, heteronomy is the opposite of autonomy. Whereas an autonomous person is one whose will is self-determined, a heteronomous person is one whose will is determined by something outside of the person, such as overwhelming emotions. Etymologically, heteronomy goes back to the Greek words for "other" and "law."
: a hierarchy is a set of things, arranged in order of power, such as the military chain of command.
hierarchical views of
(or society) describe nature (or society) in terms of allegedly superior and inferior groups.
: Type of ethic or worldview in which it is the whole, not the individuals that make it up, that is primarily studied or valued. Example:
A term invented by Richard Sylvan (the philosopher formerly known as Richard Routley) on an analogy with male chauvinism. Largely replaced by
Sylvan believes that the
worldview and ethic is human chauvinistic.
. A conditional command, such as, "If you want to lose weight, stop eating cookies." Some philosophers have claimed that morality is only a system of hypothetical imperatives, while others—such as Kant—have maintained that morality is a matter of categorical imperatives. Also see categorical imperative.
. In ethics, an impartial standpoint is one which treats everyone as equal. For many philosophers, impartiality is an essential component of the moral point of view.
. A command. Philosophers often distinguish between hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives; see the entries under each of these topics.
. This is the word that Kant used to refer to our sensuous feelings, emotions, and desires. Kant contrasts inclination with reason. Whereas inclination was seen as physical, causally-determined, and irrational, reason was portrayed as non physical, free, and obviously rational.
: Type of ethic or worldview where humans are seen as part of
Type of ethic or worldview where only individuals are studies and valued, the whole being considered to be no more than the aggregate of the
parts. From an ecological point of view, individualist positions are seen as
Examples: Regan, Singer.
Inherent Value, Inherent Worth:
Mostly mean the same as
Examples: Regan, Taylor
A value that is attributed to something as a means to something that is considered to have
A kind of
. Any position which attempts to reconcile apparently conflicting tendencies or values into a single framework. Integrationist positions are contrasted with separatist positions, which advocate keeping groups (usually defined by race, ethnicity, or gender) separate from one another.
Intrinsic Value, Intrinsic Worth:
A value that is attributed to something as an end and not just as a means; is believed to have value in and for itself, for its own sake. Intrinsic value is mentioned in the NZ Conservation Act 1986, but not defined. In the Resource Management Act 1991, intrinsic values are defined in relation to ecosystems only.
something that has value only because it helps achieve something else, or that you value only for its use; you may value a desk instrumentally, because it helps you achieve what you want to.
General term for the ethic and worldview that underpins "Western" society, based on early Christian texts (the "New Testament") and Jewish texts selected by early Christian authorities (the "Old Testament") for inclusion in the Christian sacred writings (the "Bible"). "Judeo" is the US spelling, "Judaeo" the British and NZ.
: Aldo Leopold (1887-1947) was a forester, wildlife manager and, later, academic. He is often seen as the Father of Environmental Ethics and his words as Holy Writ (see
, text, 124). Despite Callicott’s claims, Leopold was not, in my opinion, a philosopher - but he was a "founding father" of environmental ethics.
General term for ethical and political thought emphasizing individual rights and welfare, freedom, democracy; thus, a form of
Heroes (or villains, depending on your point of view) of liberalism include Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and John Stuart Mill (1806 1873).
are generally liberals.
Federal, state, territory, local government or statutory authorities with responsibility for management of protected or environmentally sensitive areas. They have the power to authorize access to areas or permit certain activities in these areas.
. According to Kant, a maxim is the subjective rule that an individual uses in making a decision.
. Philosophers often contrast means and ends. The ends we seek are the goals we try to achieve, while the means are the actions or things which we use in order to accomplish those ends. A hammer provides the means for pounding a nail in a piece of wood. Some philosophers, most notably Immanuel Kant, have argued that we should never treat human beings merely as means to an end.
: General term for the dominant
worldview of the last 4 centuries or so, in which objective, value-free scientific method and rationality are seen as the paradigms of knowledge. Heroes (or villains, depending on your point of view) of modernism include Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and René Descartes (1596-1650). See
. The view that we ought not to be morally concerned with, or involved with, people outside of our own immediate group. Moral isolationism is often a consequences of some versions of moral relativism.
. The phenomenon that the moral goodness or badness of some of our actions depends simply on chance. For example, the drunk driver may safely reach home without injuring anyone at all, or might accidentally kill several children that run out into the street while the drunken person is driving home. How bad the action of driving while drunk is in that case depends in part on luck.
(1838-1914). Pioneer American environmentalist, often seen as a proto-deep ecologist. Muir advocated strict preservation and founded the Sierra Club, the first and the most influential wilderness preservation organization. He was instrumental in setting up the National Parks movement via his influence on the first President Roosevelt. His heritage is global, because NP systems were set up in many countries (including NZ) in imitation of the American model. Muir and
fought many battles over American environmental policy, which Pinchot eventually won.
. In ethics, believers in natural law hold (a) that there is a natural order to the human world, (b) that this natural order is good, and (c) that people therefore ought not to violate that order.
Look in any decent dictionary and you will find at least 20 senses of these terms. Therefore, avoid using them unless you first explain the sense in which you are using them.
In ethics, naturalism is the theory that moral values can be derived from facts about the world and human nature. The naturalist holds that "is" can imply "ought."
. According to G. E. Moore, any argument which attempts to define the good in any terms whatsoever, including naturalistic terms; for Moore, Good is simple and indefinable. Some philosophers, most notably defenders of naturalism, have argued that Moore and others are wrong and that such arguments are not necessarily fallacious.
A complex concept with several highly contested meanings. Murray Bookchin points out that because many aboriginal peoples lives are so integrated with it, words that mean what we call 'Nature', are not easy to find, if they exist at all, in their languages.
The belief that there is no value or truth. Literally, a belief in nothing (nihil). Most philosophical discussions of nihilism arise out of a consideration of Fredrich Nietzsche’s remarks on nihilism, especially in The Will to Power.
: You are making a normative judgment if you say that a particular rule, standard or "norm" should be generally adopted.
A Kantian term that refers to the unknowable world as it is in itself. According to Kant, we can only know the world as it appears to us, as a phenomenon. We can never know it as it is in itself, as a noumenon. The adjectival forms of these two words are "phenomenal" and "noumenal," respectively.
: key term in feminist theory, for the modes of thought and behaviour that lead to the oppression and domination of woman and, according to
. According to Aristotle, Phronesis is practical wisdom, the ability to make the right decision in difficult circumstances.
(1865-1946). Pinchot (pronounced PinSHOW) pioneered the American conservation movement, in the sense of "wise use" of forests and other natural resources for the material benefit of presnt generations, though with an eye to the future. He founded both the American Forest Service and the
Yale Forestry School. He strongly opposed "lock up" preservation policies and his views largely prevailed over those of
Forestry policies in many countries, including NZ, were greatly influenced by Pinchot’s views.
The belief that there are multiple perspectives on an issue, each of which contains part of the truth but none of which contain the whole truth. In ethics, moral pluralism is the belief that different moral theories each capture part of truth of the moral life, but none of those theories has the entire answer.
General term for the rejection of
Postmodernists deny the possibility of objective knowledge of the world, and reject all claims of absolute or universal values. Heroes (or villains, depending on your point of view) of postmodernism include Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) and Jacques Derrida (1930 - ).
A principle dictating that, where there is threat of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. In the application of the Precautionary Principle, public and private decisions should be guided by careful evaluation to avoid, wherever practicable, serious or irreversible damage to the environment; and an assessment of the risk-weighted consequences of various options.
: for our purposes, same as
: usually, the protection of nature and artifacts from all but non destructive uses. See
. In the original Latin, this phrase means "at first glance." In ethics, it usually occurs in discussions of duties. A prima facie duty is one which appears binding but which may, upon closer inspection, turn out to be overridden by other, stronger duties.
A prima facie obligations or duty is one that is normally required, but that may be overridden by a more important duty. Example: there is a prima facie duty to keep to the speed limit, but this may be overridden by the duty to save life, as in an emergency.
A continuous change made up of a connected and related series of events; a process has a beginning in time and a completion, when the process stops. or A sequence of connected and related events. When natural scientists say they are seeking to "understand" or to "explain" observations, they usually mean to uncover
the processes - sequences of interacting events - that led to the observation. The process of discovery can be direct or indirect, involving hypothetico-deductive testing (see section on types of research). Examples of processes include the production of rocks from molten material, the weathering of rocks by action of wind and water, or the interacting events that determine the fluctuations in an animal population - birth, death from a range of possible causes, number of young produced before death, food supply (which means interaction with the dynamics of
population of a different species), effects of fluctuations in physical conditions, etc. Natural scientists refer to all these interconnected, interacting events as processes.
An linear movement forward. To advance or develop. A key drive behind Western industrial culture. In the Modern world more people have greater material wealth but more people starve and suffer from malnutrition than ever before. Many philosophers claim that these two facts are directly related, and the Western notion of 'progress' is morally flawed.
Part of the planet used for the prime purpose of genetic, species and land/seascape conservation and management. The protected area may include cultural components, appropriate sustainable use and benefit sharing, and will be managed by the owners through the most effective means to achieve the conservation objectives. Or an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.
The doctrine that all human motivation is ultimately selfish or egoistic.
'Reason generated' harm or damage; Giving a greater value than is warranted to or privileging a human activity, such as scientific research, on the grounds that any damage done by the activity is warranted or legitimated by the knowledge gained. Justifying accepting a harm to individuals, species and systems because the benefits provided by the resulting knowledge will outweigh the harm the activity might inflict.
: A view is said to be reductionist (usually this is meant as a criticism) if it attempts to explain, redescribe, or "reduce" something as "really" something else. Almost all intellectual positions have been criticized by their opponents as reductionist, eg modern science, market economics, utilitarianism, Marxism, Freudian theory, most versions of feminism.
In ethics, there are two main type of relativism. Descriptive ethical relativism simply claims as a matter of fact that different people have different moral
beliefs, but it takes no stand on whether those beliefs are valid or not. Normative ethical relativism claims that each culture’s (or group’s) beliefs are right within that culture, and that it is impossible to validly judge another culture’s values from the outside.
Rights are entitlements to do something without interference from other people (negative rights) or entitlements that obligate others to do something positive to assist you (positive rights). Some rights (natural rights, human rights) belong to everyone by nature or simply by virtue of being human; some rights (legal rights) belong to people by virtue of their membership in a particular political state; other rights (moral rights) are based in acceptance of a particular moral theory.
A term utilitarians borrowed from economics to indicate how much utility we should try to create. Whereas maximizing utilitarians claim that we should strive to maximize utility, satisficing utilitarians claim that we need only try to produce enough utility to satisfy everyone. It’s analogous to the difference between taking a course with the goal of getting an "A" and taking it pass-fail.
: Ability to have sensations, specifically to feel pleasure or pain. A key term in Singer.
. There are two senses of this term. In ancient Greece, the skeptics were inquirers who were dedicated to the investigation of concrete experience and wary of theories that might cloud or confuse that experience. In modern times, skeptics have been wary of the trustworthiness of sense experience. Thus classical skepticism was skeptical primarily about theories, while modern skepticism is skeptical primarily about experience.
See Embodied Knowledge.
The notion that human animals are superior to other animals. The term was invented by Richard Ryder and popularized by Peter Singer, on an analogy with racism and sexism. Speciesists value only the interests and well-being of their own species: other species exist only to further the interest of the speciesist. Singer believes that the
ethic and worldview are speciesist.
Any person (or group of persons), institution, organization, agency, department, authority, club, association or the like with an interest in, association with or connection to an area.
An extreme version of relativism, which maintains that each person’s beliefs are relative to that person alone and cannot be judged from the outside by any other person.
. Literally, "above the call of duty." A supererogatory act is one that is morally good and that goes beyond what is required by duty. Some ethical theories, such as certain versions of utilitarianism, that demand that we always do the act that yields the most good have no room for supererogatory acts.
Sustainability, Sustainable Management, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Use:
Terms associated with
emphasizing the needs of future generations. "Sustainable development" (see Brundtland report) is the most common internationally. The favoured NZ term is "sustainable management": see Resource Management Act. Do not use any of these terms without explaining them.
obsolescent 1960s term, English translation of the French "troisieme monde". The "first world" was the market economies ("Capitalist"); the "second world" was the Soviet bloc, China and North Korea ("Centrally planned" or "Socialist"). The third world included every other country. Today, it is more common (outside the US) to refer to the rich countries as "the North" (including Australasia!) and the poorer countries as "the South". Given the success of economies such as Singapore and Taiwan, the tripartite distinction is no longer meaningful. Nonetheless, there are still rich and poor countries.
Those indigenous people who have the authority to speak for the land/sea in question. They have a continuing spiritual and cultural connection with that land/sea that goes back to before white settlement. They are the custodians for the customary law of the land/sea area in question. Under non-indigenous law they are deferred to as the potential native title holders for that land or sea.
Thought experiment in which demonstrates that any ethics is mistaken if it allows a growing population to steadily increase its exploitation of the ecosystem which supports it. An Abstract of "A General Statement of Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons"
A type of argument, deriving from Kant, which seeks to establish the necessary conditions of the possibility of something’s being the case. For example, we have to believe that we are free when we perform an action; thus belief in freedom is a necessary condition of the possibility of action.
Immanuel Kant used this term when discussing the maxims, or subjective rules, that guide our actions. A maxim is universalizable if it can consistently be willed as a law that everyone ought to obey. The only maxims which are morally good are those which can be universalized. The test of universalizability ensures that everyone has the same moral obligations in morally similar situations.
. A moral theory that says that what is moral right is whatever produces the greatest overall amount of pleasure (hedonistic utilitarianism) or happiness (eudaimonistic utilitarianism). Some utilitarians (act utilitarians) claim that we should weigh the consequences of each individual action, while others (rule utilitarians) maintain that we should look at the consequences of adopting particular rules of conduct. Positive utilitarianism attempts to maximize the amount of happiness, pleasure, preferences, etc, as in the maxim, 'The greatest good for the greatest number.' Negative utilitarianism is the attempt to minimize the amount of misery. An action is right if and only if it produces at least as much good for all affected by the action as any alternative action the agent could do instead. Utilitarianism is a
ethic. Example: Singer.
focuses on the development of a virtuous character. See Pojman, text p.7.
: I have put this in quotes in this glossary because it is a composite term for a worldview that is characterized by
ethic. There is of course no one "Western" worldview or ethic; perhaps Richard Sylvan is correct to refer to "the Western super ethic" (and see White). See