Writing Prompt

Purpose:  A land ethic radically redefines the idea of a moral community.  In this assignment, you will explain and critique Callicott’s theory of the land ethic and use it to refine your personal environmental ethic.

Word Count: The best posts will be 600-800 words.

Before You Write

In sections XI and XII of The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethics, Callicott attempts to resolve the conflict between a holistic ethics that takes the entire biotic community as its subject and the more individualized ethics that are focused on anthropocentric moral concerns (i.e. human moral concerns).  As you read the entire piece, ask yourself these questions:

  • What moral obligations arise from being an individual member of the biotic community?
  • What moral obligations might arise from being merely part of the human community?
  • How do these moral obligations conflict?
  • How might awareness of being a member of the biotic community change your moral perspective on your relationship to the land and other humans?
  • How might the moral obligations to the biotic community be considered inhumane and misanthropic?
  • What solution does Callicott offer to the potential conflict between the moral obligations of biotic and human communities?
  • What is moral entitlement?  And where does it come from?

With the answers to these questions in mind, think about your own reaction to the concepts that Callicott has introduced:

  • Why might the idea of the biotic community be appealing?
  • Why might the idea of a merely human community be appealing?
  • Do you think that Callicott’s solution to the conflict between the communities works?
  • What consequences for how we regard the ethical status of other living beings (plants, animals, insects) and non-living aspects (the land) does Callicott’s solution to the conflict between the two communities have?

When you’ve thought through answers to these questions, move on to the writing portion.


Critique Callicott’s solution to the conflict between the biotic and human moral communities.

  1. Do you agree with his solution?   If so, explain why and what impact Callicott’s explication of the land ethic has on your own personal environmental ethic?  Does it change your answers to previous ethical questions?
  2. Do you disagree with his solution?  If so, explain why.  Explore the consequences Callicott’s land ethic would have on your personal environmental ethic and why this new ethic is incompatible with your past positions.

Don’t forget to complete the exam questions when you are done!

Exam Questions

For this assignment, write four points worth of questions.

The full instructions for these assignments are here.

When you are finished, email (do not post) the questions to the instructor.

To Do

  1. Read: Leopold: Ecocentric Ethics: The Land Ethics [222-232]; Callicott: The Conceptual Foundations of the Land Ethic [232-245]
  2. Post: Prompt 10 | Due 1:00 PM EST
  3. Email: Exam Questions to Instructor Due 5:00 PM EST
  4. Comment: On at least 3 Group Member posts | 1st Due 8:00 PM EST | All Due Jan 21, Noon EST

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