The two main units of this course have focused on two opposing (and some would say contradictory) forms of ethics: an ethics of animal liberation and an ethics of ecology.  In this assignment, you will take sides in this debate and begin more formally formulating your personal environmental ethics, which you will present to the class on Fri, Jan 27 (the last day of class).

The main argument put forward in today’s reading is that animal rights/liberation and environmental ethics are fundamentally opposed: animal rights theorists and activists must be considered with the welfare of individual creatures, while environmental ethicists (what we’ve been calling ecological ethicists) must be concerned with the preservation, stability, and integrity of the whole system.  These two goals are contradictory.  If you are concerned with the welfare of individual animals, then eliminating the biotic order is the most efficient way to remove any potential harm to that welfare.  In contrast, if you are concerned with the stability and integrity of the whole biotic system, then you accept that the welfare of individual animals will very much be damaged by the preservation of this system (as Sagoff points out, the most animal suffering happens in nature).

There is a definite tendency to favor the individualistic ethics approach of animal right and liberation theorists.  The welfare of the individual is much more immediate than the integrity of the whole.  In fact, if we think about our concern for the whole, we tend to explain it in terms of the harm to individuals, not the destruction of the stability and integrity of the whole.

This leaves us with a major question to be answered: which approach is best?

Writing Prompt

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

Before You Write

Consider the argument that Sargoff puts forward in Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce.  He positions animal liberation and environmental ethics proper (ecological ethics) as profoundly opposed.

  • What reasons does Sargoff give for the opposition between animal liberation and environmental ethics?
  • Think back to Callicott’s solution for resolving the conflict between human and biotic moral communities.  Would this solution work in this case as well?

Now look over your work from the semester and consider where you stand in the debate (as you review your posts, it might be useful to look at the instructions for your Final Post):

  • Have all of your posts taken an animal liberationist position?  An ecological ethicist position?
  • Are you consistent throughout your posts in what position you take?
  • If you use aspects of both positions, which position are you closest too?
  • If you had to choose one position only, which would you pick and why?

After you have thought and come to a conclusion about these questions, look over your classmates’ responses to prompt 10.   Find a post that you really liked (either because you agree with it, they raised interesting points, or you profoundly disagree with it to the point of entertainment and respond to it.  Note: This post can be by any person in the class, not just a group member.


Compare and contrast the post you chose with your own response to the same prompt.  In your post, make sure you cover these key points:

  • Whether the other student took an animal liberationist position, an ecological ethicist position, or some combination.
  • Whether you took an animal liberationist position, an ecological ethicist position, or some combination.
  • What in the post gave you clues to the position the student took.
  • How your answers to prompt 10 were different.
  • How your answers were the same.
  • How the differences and similarities apply to the conflicts between the animal liberationist and ecological ethicist position.

To Do

  1. Read: Introduction to Prompt 11
  2. Read: Sagoff: Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce[Electronic]
  3. Post: Prompt 11 | Due 11:59 PM EST
  4. Take: Review Exam 03
  5. Complete: Rough Draft of Group Presentation | Due 11:59 PM EST
  6. Join: Video Discussion abt Ecological Ethics

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