Coming into this class I didn’t really have much of an opinion on the issues we would come to study. Animal protection and environmental protection seemed so out of touch with my own personal interests and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. Throughout this course I have been able to learn about many environmental protection philosophies as well as animal protection philosophies and been exposed to different views on these subjects. As a result, I am now able to formulate my own opinion on these matters and successfully argue my position to other environmental conscious people. This experience considerably reinforced my original (yet passive) position on these issues and today I view myself as an environmental protection advocate. In this essay, I will explain how my views on these issues were reinforced and evolved to some degree by using five of my previous prompts. I will be using my prompt eleven, ten, nine, eight, and one.
I came into this class believing that mankind needed to protect the environment without giving any reasons for my claim. I figured we might as well do it because so many people thought it was important. In my first prompt I had to choose a question I wanted to answer related to the issue of environmental protection. I instinctively chose to answer the question “Should mosquitoes be preserved because they are part of the natural ecosystem?” Without really realizing it I approach this question using my own personal negative experience with mosquitoes. I immediately adopted an anthropocentric view stating that mankind would be better off without mosquitoes as their disappearance would have a more positive then negative effect on our lives. I latter came to realize that my answer to this question was really in contradiction to my belief that we should protect the environment and all of its living creatures in order to protect the ecosystem. In fact, upon reading another student’s critique of my post I came to rethink my answer. Do I only believe in animal and environmental protection as long as it benefits me? This question would become a key part of my quest to find a definite personal opinion on this issue.
I continued writing prompts and learning more about the different views and theories adopted by philosophers. Environmental ethics was a much more complicated subject then I originally thought. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find a philosophy that would be close to what I started to believe in until I read Russow’s article of the “traditional answer”. In fact, my prompt 8 was one of the turning points in my quest to formulate my own opinion. In her article, she explains that animals have inherent value and as such they should be protected from going extinct. I started thinking about the value animals have in my eyes. I had dogs when I was younger and having dogs made me happier; nevertheless even without dogs I was still really happy. I realized animals had a more instrumental value for me. Animals were a mean to achieve happiness and as such it benefited me to protect them. I started to think about cultural relativism and its consequences on my newly expressed statement. Do I only think about this argument because I can afford to? I had the chance to travel around the world and especially in Africa. Most people in poor African countries don’t care at all about animal rights and environmental protection, whereas in rich countries it is the opposite. I immediately thought about my previous question: “Do I only believe in animal and environmental protection as long as it benefits me?” I was eager to continue reading and ultimately finding an answer to my question.
Paul Taylor’s essay was another important factor in my quest to formulating my own opinion. In my prompt 9 I had to critique Taylor’s essay, “Human-Centered and Life-Centered systems of Environmental Ethics”. In his essay, Taylor explains his environmental theory using one main argument: we are all part of earth’s biotic community. According to him, the solution to the moral dilemma of environmental protection and animal rights is in realizing that mankind is part of bigger entity that includes all of earth’s living creatures (men, animals, and plants). Before this article I never considered myself as being part of a bigger group. We as humans tend to view nothing but ourselves as equals. Before reading this article I was also unsure about which subject I felt strongest about animals protection or environmental protection? The main thing I realized is that by using Taylor’s life-centered philosophy we could advocate for both issues because nature, and animals are part of earth’s biotic community. This holistic view of these issues was also compatible with my personal anthropocentric belief, which was further accentuated after having red the lecture on cost-benefit analysis. I felt as if I was progressively getting closer to my answer.
My prompt 10 was the last step towards finding my answer. In my prompt 10 I discuss Callicott’s “The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic”. In this essay, Callicott tries develop his own theory as to how humans should view nature as being part of their own community in order to better protect it. On one hand he explores a more holistic approach when he talks about Leopold’s Land of Ethicstheory, and on the other hand he deals with a more anthropocentric approach, which is more individualistic in the sense that it only considers environmental effects on humans. This essay was the culmination of all that I believed in. Callicott’s philosophy is the only one that regrouped all the different ideas I believed in. I think that we shouldn’t separate the holistic view of the argument from the individualistic view. I believe that viewing ourselves as members of a bigger community such as Native Americans did (in his example) enables us to give a higher moral importance to the issue of protecting our biotic community. However, ultimately we try to do so only because it benefits us in the long run. As humans raised in a capitalistic society we are almost always drawn to making decisions that will positively affect us (cost-benefit analysis). As a result anthropocentrism is innate to us and I believe that environmental protection is just another way we utilize our anthropocentric beliefs.
Having found my own personal opinion on the issues of environmental protection and animal protection, I wanted to know if I was able to critique someone else’s view on these issues. In my opinion, being able to critique another person’s belief with thoughtful arguments is the sign of a strong and clear personal opinion. I decided to critique Andrea’s view on these issues in my prompt 11. As I red her prompt, I was surprised by the fact that she believed in the same ideas I did. She believes that Callicott’s theory is the “most do-able” and thoughtful compared the others we red so far. In her own prompt 10 she not only validates Callicott’s theory but she also advocates the possibility of his philosophy being adopted by the majority of people. I have to say I totally agree with her statements and her opinion on the matter. I think that Callicott’s environmental philosophy is the most complete one as it takes into account both issues of environmental and animal protection using both holistic and anthropocentric views.
After having gone through this class I feel as though I can really defend my newfound opinion against any attack. We live in a capitalistic society and, even though we learn that we should always act according to what benefits us more, I truly believe that viewing ourselves as being part of a bigger community will helps us define this environmental battle as one morally right and worth defending. This idea of “biotic community” is very important because it goes beyond the barrier of cultural relativism. In fact by viewing ourselves, as being part of earth’s biotic community we are able to reach all human beings (at least the majority). As a result, poor countries as well as rich countries will commit themselves to helping protect the earth and all of its living creatures.