26 February 2005

Paul W. Taylor on Biocentrism

When a life-centered view is taken, the obligations and responsibilities we have with respect to the wild animals and plants of the Earth are seen to arise from certain moral relations holding between ourselves and the natural world itself. The natural world is not there simply as an object to be exploited by us, nor are its living creatures to be regarded as nothing more than resources for our use and consumption. On the contrary, wild communities of life are understood to be deserving of our moral concern and consideration because they have a kind of value that belongs to them inherently. Just as we would think it inappropriate to ask, What is a human being good for? because such a question seems to assume that the value or worth of a person is merely a matter of being useful as a means to some end, so the question, What is a wilderness good for? is likewise considered inappropriate from the perspective of a biocentric outlook. The living things of the natural world have a worth that they possess simply in virtue of their being members of the Earth’s Community of Life. Such worth does not derive from their actual or possible usefulness to humans, or from the fact that humans find them enjoyable to look at or interesting to study.

(Paul W. Taylor, Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986], 12-3)

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