click to play button
click to replay button
Avatarintro
X
  1. Title Clip 1
  2. Environmental Ethics
  3. Definitions
  4. Definitions
  5. Definitions
  6. Definitions
  7. Philosophical Issue
  8. Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing
  9. Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing
  10. Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing
  11. Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing
  12. Ethical Positions
  13. Anthropocentrism
  14. Ethical Positions
  15. Ethical Positions
  16. Standby for an Interview with James Cameron regarding the relationship between Avatar and environmentalism
00:00 / 00:00
CC
Hello-- welcome to this brief introduction to <BR>environmental ethics. I'm K.D. Borcoman and <BR>the purpose of this is simply to give you a a brief overview of what some of the terminology <BR>typically used in environmental ethics type <BR>courses and also to demonstrate in what way you might <BR>be able to use Camtasia in order to embed video <BR>and create captions. The use of the Avatar video clip courtesy of <BR>James Cameron's movie Avatar is designed to stimulate what interest up with respect to <BR>some of the kinds of concerns we might have with respect to our attitude toward the <BR>environment and I do think that movie will be to <BR>some extent maybe sterotypically does depict the industrial view vs. the more primal view and that <BR>does seem to me to be somewhat poignant and <BR>that the the female extraterrestrial creature there does <BR>refer to the incarnated protagonist as the "infant" when it <BR>comes to his response to the environment and <BR>his understanding and care for the fauna and flora let's take a look at some different definitions often we talk about the moral agents not only the <BR>context of environmental ethics but also the <BR>context of just about any ethics and we may define them <BR>as those who have the freedom and rational <BR>capacity to be responsible for choices -- this of course <BR>does rest on a metaphysical view about what <BR>human beings are This gets us into to some extent the free will <BR>versus determinism conversation or dialog or <BR>controversy even that has been ongoing and will probably continue <BR>for as long as we are thinking about these things, <BR>from a philosophical point of view throughout eternity, so to speak examples of moral agents would have to be adult <BR>humans for example of sound mind when you talk about sound mind I am sure that <BR>we probably all have different definitions what <BR>sound mind is all about that but probably one of the things but it could be regarded as a <BR>necessary condition for having a sound mind is the idea that person is not the constrained or <BR>compelled beyond his or her individual autonomy to come to <BR>a decision or to engage in a specific moral action a person of sound mind is an individual who is <BR>not under the influence of some inebriating drug and is also presumably a clear enough critical <BR>thinker to the degree that that individual is able to make <BR>judgments that are ultimately objective and that might be asking too <BR>much for sound mind for all I know but it certainly is one avenue that we might take in <BR>order to be able to characterize what a sound <BR>mind is that generally once we get that down pat we can realize that that some human beings <BR>might be restricted from this notion of having a sound mind --typically infants because of the fact <BR>that they have not developed sufficiently to be able to a come to a point where <BR>they are autonomous When does autonomy begin? When does <BR>complete, mature viability begin? Again these are <BR>issues that are completely may be understood well and agreed upon by <BR>everybody but we do have a sense of that I think in our <BR>common experience. We would not hold the baby <BR>accountable for certain things nor would we hold for example a dog or cat a culpable strictly <BR>in a moral sense Um- mentally ill individuals are generally people <BR>who once that has been confirmed are not regarded <BR>as moral agents they can not be held responsible <BR>for things they say or do depending of course on the degree to which we <BR>have assessed and evaluated the condition of <BR>such individuals What does it mean to have moral standing? It might be said that if you have moral standing you have the idea that your continued existence is an <BR>intrinsic value even I suppose if none of us <BR>actually express it that way-- that is to say your existence, your welfare is something that is <BR>conceived to be valuable in and of itself and I think <BR>that that of course iis certainly a deontological way of putting <BR>it, maybe not everybody necessarily sees it that <BR>way but I think that this is a typical view that is <BR>reflected when we consider what it means to be an individual or entity that has moral standing Your interest and well being must be weighed <BR>when deciding what it is permissible to do which is to say that you're not necessarily on this <BR>view under obligation to do something it's just <BR>what is morally permissible for you to do and I am certainly thinking that if you put the <BR>context of a movie like Avatar - of course there's <BR>many other movies out there that probably we could discuss and talk <BR>about you can see that the entities there- be they <BR>human or be they humanoid are probably entities which we would regard as <BR>having more standing They might look different cultures and lifestyles <BR>but that would seem clearly to be something we <BR>can say about what is being presented in various scenarios in Avatar and one <BR>would think that we could probably also bring it back to earth so to speak when we talk about the <BR>relationship between the "conquerors" or the "missionaries" so to <BR>speak and those who were "conquered." at some point in time so I certainly put this in context of the Native <BR>American tradition--of course- some people I <BR>think have thought that a obviously Avatar was about that sort of thing and hopefully it didn't as a movie completely <BR>mischaracterize the interaction between let's say Europeans and the indigenous people What are some examples of those who have <BR>moral standing? well babies, children adults you may be a moral agent on one of set of criteria but not not necessarily be able to engage in a certain kinds of activities if you <BR>happen to be a infirm or disabled-if you become debilitated then <BR>you're not a moral agent. But, certainly even if <BR>you're not a moral agent you still have moral reguardless of gender, regardless of race, <BR>regardless of ethnicity and I would think that with that somewhat other <BR>controversial subject of speciesism brought up <BR>by many contemporary philosophers it may even be true regardless of species so one <BR>would say again that the at the beings that are in Avatar probably can be said to have moral <BR>standing in which case there are certain things that a moral agent might be either a) obligated to do-- have a duty to <BR>do or have a duty behave with respect to such <BR>creatures or b) there are some things that are not going to be permissible to do to them and I <BR>think it is that at least one of those things that that probably <BR>permeates the movie Avatar How about moral duties?- moral agents owe <BR>something to those with moral standing and our task is to try to discover what that might <BR>be now it might be that we have a kind of a Kantian-- and <BR>probably is embraced by other moral traditions as <BR>well-- a duty not to kill children for example insofar as we have a moral duty to them, we also according to the SPCA -Society for the <BR>Prevention of cruelty to Animals-- and other <BR>organizations of similar ilk we have a duty to the pets that we acquire --could be anything <BR>from a our dog and a cat to our fish in the tank <BR>Now some people might argue that you don't necessarily have that much of the duty to a <BR>fish insofar as fish maybe don't have moral standing so you see <BR>that that's the question here of the notion of the <BR>ever widening circle of inclusion for moral standing--something I think <BR>that does task many environmental ethicists-to <BR>what extent we have moral duties not only to other human beings which seems to be a <BR>obvious but how about the moral duties to dogs, cats, and <BR>deer and a wild moose that you might see out in <BR>the distance-or a coyote or cockroach or ants that are on your countertop <BR>-- that's a difficult one but at least a discussion like this should prompt <BR>further discussion and dialogue about just what <BR>kinds of moral duty you have and I think it by talking this way you probably would clarify some <BR>of the other issues that do arise when maybe you have people who are <BR>"industrial" types --- industrial entrepreneurs who want to go <BR>in and develop some property or acquire property <BR>in order to develop it and that property as such may have belonged to speak to indigenous <BR>people you have a duty not only to the indigenous people but the perhaps even to the the ecosystems that <BR>are going to be affected by industrialization Let's ask this philosophical question-- who or <BR>what really does have moral standing and why? <BR>we might not be able to answer the why quickly but how about the environment itself? Does it <BR>have moral standing? Pictured before you have this wonderful <BR>waterfall-- that's almost an iconic symbol to some --Yosemite National Park-- John <BR>Muir and others spent-- had spent in their <BR>lifetimes many many hours meditating on the beauty and the aesthetic wonder of such a <BR>beautiful scenario landscape Would you say that Yosemite National Park or the <BR>elements within it have moral standing? and of course the we also have take into <BR>consideration just what are the criteria for having moral standing we talked a little bit about it but <BR>that there may be others What duty do we as moral agents have towards <BR>those with moral standing and of course this is where obviously you can get <BR>into a a lot of different viewpoints that express slightly <BR>different orientations and perspectives and paradigms about how to answer this-- a <BR>utilitarian would probably believe that indeed those of moral duty do have certain obligations to <BR>those of moral standing-- certainly Kant--the <BR>Deontologist- probably you could read the Greek ethics-Aretaic <BR>ethics-in roughly the same way- someone like <BR>Aristotle-major spokesperson for the Aretaic tradition would certainly have suggested <BR>that there's a certain set of obligations that the moral agents have with respect others although <BR>he might not have necessarily expressed it in <BR>quite that language couple of ideas about the criteria for moral <BR>standing you could say and this might just be almost true <BR>by definition on or redundant or even circular it seems to me membership in the species, homo sapiens some people argue that human beings unlike <BR>other creatures have a soul that again as you <BR>might know if you've ever followed some of the literature is a highly controversia--l probably <BR>arguable--from some points of view-- assertion humans are moral agents and we hold them <BR>responsible for knowing right from wrong at some <BR>point in time in their-- their development and that usually has the to do with <BR>some idea about when human being as its growing up and developing becomes <BR>somewhat autonomous and able to make some decisions -- certain religious groups find I <BR>suppose the idea that the person can become responsible for <BR>knowing right from wrong at a relatively early age <BR>may be 7 or 8 some a little bit later may be 13-14 when exactly does that begin?-- and I would <BR>simply iterate that a lot of these kinds of <BR>assertions to have to do with some pardigm view about what human nature is and of <BR>course that concept in and of itself is worth studying in greater detail and then taking <BR>some recently coherent notion of human nature and applying it to a study of ethics-- <BR>probably would be quite profitable Human beings and of course this doesn't exclude <BR>other entities are intelligent they have intelligence-- they have something we <BR>call personhood they have language-- all of these things are simply steps in the direction or items that <BR>maybe included ultimately in a list of things one of the the concepts here personhood of <BR>course this is extremely important to philosophy --it seems to me on whole but clearly to its sub-branch, ethics <BR>personhood-- you can parse that down a little bit further--in fact some philosophical systems see <BR>personhood as the crux of the of the moral issue and moral argumentation so the idea of course <BR>here is to try to figure out what tha concept means-- personhood-- what does it <BR>mean to be a person? one of the candidates is consciousness, another <BR>one is self consciousness. Another one can be <BR>identity possibly having an interest in the continuation of <BR>one's existence <BR><BR> possibly having some natural right let is say to the <BR>pursuit of the what one conceives to be <BR>happiness autonomy usually is associated at least with full <BR>personhood --it's important for people to sit down <BR>and think if their very interested in something like this and try to come up maybe <BR>with a list of necessary and sufficient conditions <BR>at least start that way of what it means to be a person and a bit of question remains here do you have to have language and order have moral standing now ask <BR>yourself the question-do you have to have self <BR>consciousness to have moral standing? would you have to have intelligence to have moral <BR>standing if you say no to these then you are <BR>probably saying that none of these choices are necessary in which <BR>case we would have to probably start from <BR>scratch and start talking about what is personhood? what is moral standing? is some concept of personhood related to some <BR>concept of moral standing? there are those again who expand that circle of <BR>inclusion who talk about the moral standing let us say of <BR>Yosemite or of some other things-- clearly would <BR>have to argue little bit differently with other criteria than <BR>are presented here-- I would think-- unless of <BR>course you believe ecosystems have <BR><BR> intelligence --I am sure some people argue that another approach to take would be the idea of <BR>sentience and the ability to feel pain I don't think sentience <BR>is the ability to feel pain in a sort of synonymous sense here if you are sentient you feel so presumably feeling <BR>pain or pleasure is a part of being sentient but we do know certainly other primates-- <BR>obviously other species could have moral standing from the point of view <BR>merely of their sentence but, I suppose, the question arises to what <BR>degree are these creatures sentient or how complex is <BR>the sentience? Would the flowers in your garden be sentient?- We do think that at least animals and I think it <BR>becomes questionable when we start talking <BR>about certain animals or certain species but it's probable that a cockroach has sentience <BR>--or an ant or a wasp that has somehow made its way into <BR>your house and your not real happy about that are you don't want that particular creature in your <BR>environment for a lot of reasons if a cockroach a spider or some such other does <BR>have moral standing based on sentience or our <BR>ability to be able to infer that these creatures are sentient then do we not have <BR>certain moral obligations to them Just being alive--maybe just being alive, for some is sufficient or at least necessary for moral standing so should animals the other lower --I'll say that in <BR>scare quotes "lower animals" and the plants insofar as they are alive do they have some kind of moral standing? How <BR>about living things? You see then-- when you talk <BR>about these things as well as raise it up a level or two to ecosystems or systems in general -- I think <BR>that the deep ecologists generally speaking and <BR>people like Holmes Rolston III Holmes Rolston III <BR><BR> would say that ecosystems, econiches-things <BR>that taken collectively somehow have moral standing <BR>but certainly they are not alive in the sense in which we typically think of <BR>something is as alive but if you want to throw in a philosophical I <BR>suppose conundrum here and hopefully not a red herring you can talk about the concept of alive or being alive a from the point of view of the idea that apparently biologically it is a little difficult to <BR>actually define something it's alive or when life begins <BR><BR> that might be yet another little thing that the one <BR>up would have to deal with it some point in time to <BR>get a more comprehensive notion about what of what moral standing is How about about being a part of nature? if you are too inclusive with respect what moral standing is--i suppose it <BR>could be just everything in which case you would <BR>think that the concept moral standing might actually <BR>have become so so vague or perhaps even <BR>ambiguous that we'd be committing a kind of a fallacy to include <BR>just about everything but how about the big Earth as I said previously-- <BR>ecosystems, rocks, rivers, plants, and animals <BR>natural works --those systems of the religious thought which are somewhat more <BR>animistic and possibly even panentheistic are those which would probably include rocks and rivers and on their is literature that the <BR>suggest that the am there are world views that include things like <BR>rocks and rivers........ I know that the it would be a totally inappropriate <BR>to generalize but the having studied some native <BR>American philosophical and religious trends I do believe that <BR>the there are elements of respect enough for <BR>walks Rivers of hillsides mountainsides that it is safe to say that the some of those <BR>traditions would include these entities I think a deep ecologist such as Arne Naess has <BR>often remarked that if we could just sit and think <BR>like a mountain that perhaps we would be able to understand the <BR>history and its progress and the relationships that <BR>exist between and among a various ecosystems and the fauna and flora in a different way possibly the entire natural world now that to me is <BR>yet another issue by the way like what is really "natural" versus "unnatural? word that you could contrast with natural <BR>something like synthetic or fabricated or artifactual? on are those that in some sense opposites?-- so what does a natural world include? There have been many people who have argued <BR>and have taken themselves to be saying <BR>something really important I suppose by suggesting the question-- well what <BR>isn't the natural? Human kind of goes on to invent technology and <BR>any invention of that technology that would seem <BR>to be a natural expression of species specific trait for human beings-- creativity <BR>intelligence-- etc.-- isn't that "natural So, i think that that we might want to at some <BR>point in time end up trying to define terms like <BR>natural vs. synthetic just get a better bearing--a better handle on what <BR>the distinction is supposed to be... Let's talk a little bit now about some ethical <BR>positions what is called anthropocentrism is almost literally human centered morality-- the <BR>idea being here that it's humans that have intrinsic value - if anything <BR>does-- and moral standing and whatever it is we're calling the natural world <BR>only has instrumental value so on the <BR>anthropecentric view, we can cut down trees and build a world and carve world and we can do it <BR>without worry ing too terribly much about having to to regard the tree like the one you see pictured <BR>there as having moral standing in and of itself the tree is good for us it is usable to us as wood for the fireplace or as a <BR>source of the lumber for a cabin or it could even be instrumental in the sense in which it's just <BR>beautiful to behold in which case that you might then want to <BR>consider whether or not the there would be value <BR>in the absence of human beings or something like a humanbeing <BR>to value it There's a lot of literature that provokes a lot of <BR>thought and thought experimentation with the idea <BR>that maybe a beautiful forest or a great tree like that <BR>has value independent of human beings but on the anthropo <BR>centric view it would seem fairly clearly that one can say that that anything that has moral value at <BR>all is based upon our centrality our human evaluative capabilities on if we look out for human needs according to <BR>anthropocentrism <BR><BR> then we are going to protect nature its in our best <BR>interests to conserve and I would say that that probably i the idea <BR>behind that the that early on 20 century <BR>movement where on the one hand you've got somebody like <BR>John Muir of who is thinking in terms of preservation and then you've got the few other folks on the other side --I think Teddy Roosevelt <BR>probably was in the other side of the coin who would have felt that conservation-- land <BR>management resource use and given our discussions we've <BR>had about Aldo Leopold I think he started being a conservationist and ended up being more of the preservationist <BR>but I think that still had a conservationistic bias there but if we're conservationists we are probably <BR>looking at we are quite possibly an anthrocentrism we should preserve wetlands, save rainforests-- <BR>rainforests provide the oxygen that is obviously true and human beings benefit and of course of another very interesting notation that must be made is that these <BR>rainforests currently are thought to still harbor of a variety of natural medications for certain <BR>human ailments and that long run of course would be good for <BR>human beings so lets conserve them I pose problem here-- blowing up the world if you <BR>are the last human and only to get you to think a little bit about the fact that <BR>maybe you if you were an anthropocentrist might <BR>say look. I'm it --I'm Omega man and this is it after I'm dead it will not be instrumentally valuable to a human I suppose because the humans are <BR>gone probably still would be instrumentally valuable <BR>however to some of the animals -- I don't know <BR>that people talk that way too terribly much but- probably a way of suggesting that there still <BR>instrumental value for some at least sentient being so that does not appear to me to be the worst problem to have to solve there is something at least in terms of my <BR>experience is a relatively newer piece of vocabulary called sentio-centrism <BR>centrism and that of course is a little bit different than than <BR>what we previously talked about sentient being- centered morality sentient beings--animals that feel pain and <BR>possibly pleasure have intrinsic value and they have moral standing so that if you hapen to be a sentient creature then <BR>you have that a somewhat privileged place not <BR>unlike not unlike an intelligent sapient type like <BR>anthropocentrism but in this particular case it would look as though we are talking about the primacy of the ability to feel pleasure and pain and consequently the rest of the world could be looked upon as <BR>having instrumental value at least to other <BR>creatures even if human beings weren't around so since humans are part of the animal a kingdom I suppose you could say and we share with other animals are sentience we all have <BR>certain kinds of rights it could be argued and interests that would have to be considered <BR>we're making some, moral decision Biocentrism is probably closely aligned with deep ecology and what this essentially says is that living <BR>beings individual organisms-- not just species have intrinsic value so we are taking this down to the particular level and of course part of the idea behind biocentrism <BR>is that humans are not regarded as superior to other life forms and <BR>shouldn't be regarded as being privileged they have to respect the fact that there are other <BR>organisms that are sharing a life in an ecosystem or in larger systems and that there is an entitlement if we can can use <BR>that term for for each and every one of us as an <BR>individual organism not simply as species so the idea here of course would be to try not to <BR>harm other creatures --try not to harm nature and sometimes what follows with <BR>biocentrism is becoming a vegetarian and we would noticed <BR>that a little bit interestingly enough in the ecological footprint quiz where it does seem like two main things can cause your up volume of earth's two to go <BR>way up one of which is meat eating and the other of <BR>which of course is gas consumption in which <BR>you transport yourself hither and yon so biocentrism does lend itself a little bit to the <BR>concept that by eating vegetarian on we're going to cut down on the amount of land <BR>significantly that needs to be cultivated and <BR>thereby not impact organisms that are living in certain ecosystem
Definitions 342waterethopia Moral Agents Those who have the freedom and rational capacity to be responsible for choices Those capable of moral reflection and decision. Example: adult humans of sound mind Infants and mentally infirm adults are NOT moral agents Definitions gmfetus Moral Standing: If you have moral standing: Your continued existence or welfare is valuable in itself (intrinsic value) Your interests and well-being must be weighed when deciding what is permissible to do. Example: humans of all kinds Babies, children, adults, old people, etc. Women, different races, different cultures Definitions 342hunterskids Moral Duties That which is owed by moral agents to those with moral standing. Example: It is wrong to kill our children because we have a moral duty toward them Philosophical Issue yosemite Who or what has moral standing, and why? Does the environment have moral standing? Must look at criteria for moral standing What moral duty do we (moral agents) have toward those with moral standing? Different ethical positions suggest different moral duties. Yosemite National Park Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing 342homoerectus2 Membership in the species Homo sapiens Humans have a soul Humans are moral agents and are responsible for knowing right from wrong Humans are intelligent Humans have personhood and self-consciousness Humans have language Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing gmgorilla Sentience, the ability to feel pain Therefore extend moral standing to animals Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing 342apple Being alive Therefore extend moral standing Environmental Ethics 342brazilrainforest2 Environmental Ethics Definitions 342waterethopia Moral Agents Those who have the freedom and rational capacity to be responsible for choices Those capable of moral reflection and decision. to animals and plants: All living things. Ideas on Criteria for Moral Standing 342grandcanyon Being part of nature Therefore extend moral standing to the earth ecosystems rocks rivers plants animals the entire natural world Ethical Positions 342redwoodloging Anthropocentrism: Human centered morality Only humans have intrinsic value and moral standing. The rest of the natural world has instrumental value (use to humans). Anthropocentrism 342rainforestguatamala We can best protect nature by looking out for human needs. Ex: Ducks Unlimited preserves wetlands Ex: Saving the rainforests will provide O2 and medicines for humans. Problem: Would you blow up the world if you were the last human Ethical Positions gmtranscow Sentio-centrism: Sentient-being centered morality All and only sentient beings (animals that feel pain) have intrinsic value and moral standing. The rest of the natural world has instrumental value. Both humans and sentient animals have rights and/or interests that must be considered Ethical Positions 342howlermonkey Biocentric Individualism: Life-centered morality All and only living beings, specifically individual organisms (not species or ecosystems) have intrinsic value and moral standing. Humans are not superior to other life forms nor privileged, and must respect the inherent worth of every organism Humans should minimize harm and interference with nature: eat vegetarian since less land needs to be cultivated.