Final Exam Study Questions, Env. Ethics, Fall 2015
Study Questions on Taylor’s Biocentric Egalitarian Individualism
1. Explain what it means to say Paul Taylor's environmental ethic is an "egalitarian biocentric individualism." Define each term.
2. Given Taylor's biocentrism, why does he think it follows that he must accept individualism rather than holism?
3. What is the difference between Taylor's biocentrism and ecocentrism? What is the difference between Taylor's biocentrism and a sentience-centered environmental ethic?
4. What are the four components of Taylor's "biocentric outlook on nature?" What function does this outlook serve for Taylor?
5. Describe some of the ways that Taylor suggests human and nonhuman organisms are similar.
6. Is Taylor correct in claiming that life on earth would do much better without us? Why or why not?
7. Does it make sense to think of evolution as a process heading toward and culminating in the production of the human species? Why or why not? What is Taylor's view about this idea?
8. Explain and evaluate: "Only if your are a sentient being can anything matter to you. Therefore, only sentient beings can have morally considerable interests. Since it doesn't matter to a tree what happens to it, if we consider only the tree, nothing we do to it matters morally." What does Taylor think about this argument?
9. What is the difference between welfare interests and preference interests? Give an example of one that is not the other. (E.g., I want a cigarette...)
10. What would Taylor say about the following argument? "Tractors need oil. Plants need water. So if plants have a good of their own, then so do tractors." What do you think about this argument and Taylor's response to it? Does arguing that we should respect the good of all living things mean that we must also respect the good of machines? Don't beg the question (=assuming what you are trying to prove) by simply assuming that only living organisms count morally.
11. Does Taylor think that species, ecosystems, and abiotic biological/geological entities and processes are morally considerable? Why or why not? What do you think about the moral considerability of each of these?
12. Paul Taylor presents an argument denying that humans are superior to other living things. Present this argument as fully and persuasively as you can. Is this argument a good one? Do you think humans are superior to other creatures (be careful to explain what you mean by "superior")?
13. What does Taylor think about the idea that humans--simply in virtue of their birthright--are superior to nonhumans?
Study questions on Taylor’s Priority Principles
1. What is a prima facie duty? Give examples. What is the opposite of a prima facie duty (viz., absolute duty)? Are there any such duties?
2. How would Taylor respond to the objection that if plants and animals have inherent worth equal to humans, then it follows that we ought to allow an advancing bear to eat us and should not kill bacteria that are making us sick?
3. What conditions does Taylor think we must we meet before we can defend ourselves against other organisms? Is it ever morally permissible to harm (or even kill) innocents in self defense?
4. What is restitutive justice? Give an example of a situation that Taylor thinks calls for restitutive justice and then give an example of a way of meeting the demands of restitutive justice.
5. Does Taylor think giving to the Nature Conservancy is a matter of charity?
6. Using an example, explain how proportionality is relevant to Taylor's principle of restitutive justice.
7. What is "distributive justice" according to Taylor. What does it mean in terms of our relations to nonhumans?
8. Explain Taylor's view on the morality of eating. Is he for or against vegetarianism? Does he think that it doesn't matter whether we eat animals or plants (since they have equal inherent worth)? How does his principle of distributive justice relate to this issue?
9. In order to live, must all living things consume other living organisms? Why or why not? (Hint: Think about plant life.) Are there ways humans can feed themselves without killing other organisms? If there are (were), do you think we should try to do this?
Questions on Jamieson on Biocentrism
1. Explain the criticism that claims sentiocentrists do not extend moral concern far enough.
2. Is the capacity for having experience necessary for having interests? What do the sentiocentrists say? What do the biocentrists say? What do you think?
3. Explain the debate between biocentrists and sentiocentrist about whether or not plants have interests in a sense that matters morally. Include a discussion of the “interests” of machines and an evaluation of whether or not having a designer can affect if one has one’s own interests
Questions on Ecocentric holism vs. Individualism (e.g., species /ecosystems vs. individuals)
1. Give some examples where respect for natural systems and species involves the sacrifice of the good of some individual organisms. Discuss how you might resolve such conflicts. Does the good of the species/ecosystem outweigh (ever? sometimes? always?) the good of individual members of that system? Give a plausible example where the good of the system outweighs the good of an individual in it. Now give a plausible example where the good of the individual outweighs the good of the system.
2. Do agree with Roger Caras that the conflict between concern for individuals and concern for species is a “nonissue?” Is emotional concern for the plight of individual wild animals appropriate? Is it “unscientific?” Should one be a “bambi-ite?” Is Caras correct in thinking that needs of individual and species seldom come apart?
3. Why some Western states seek to kill sea lions? Should they be allowed to do so on your view? Who cased this problem in the first place? How?
4. Why do some bird lovers worry about feral cats? Describe what one such bird lover did (from our reading). Were his actions justifiable on your view?
5. Describe the debate over hunting endangered wildlife in Texas as a way of preserving them. What is to be said on each side of this debate? What is your own view about this practice?
6. Why was the Navy shooting goats on San Clemente Island? Do you agree with that policy? Why or why not?
7. What is an endemic species? What is a feral species? What is a native species? Makes sure you understand how they are different.
Leopold and Ecocentric Holism
1. Do you agree with Leopold that the right to see geese is as important as the right of free speech?
2. What is the slogan for Leopold's reappraisal? Using examples, explain what it means.
3. What is the moral "extensionist" approach in environmental ethics? Why do some think it involves an arrogant and condescending attitude toward nonhumans? In what way is Leopold's ethic not extensionistic?
4. Describe Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic. What does he mean by land? How would believing in the land ethic change our attitudes toward the land? Describe the current conception of land that Leopold is criticizing. What alternative conception of land does he propose? Does this reappraisal of land (and the human relationship to land) make sense to you?
5. State "Leopold's Maxim" and explain what purpose it serves in his land ethic. Explain and give examples of each of its components (viz., integrity, stability, and beauty). What sorts of policies toward the land would violate each of these components?
6. Explain how biodiversity and wildness value might conflict.
7. Is Leopold's maximum holistic or individualistic? Explain why.
8. With respect to individual members of the land community, is Leopold's position egalitarian or inegalitarian? Why?
9. What is the ecofascism objection to Leopold's land ethic (or any holistic ethic)? Is this a good objection to Leopold's position? Why or why not? How might Leopold defend himself from the charge of ecofascism?
Study questions on Jamieson on Ecocentrism
1. What are some of Jamieson’s objections to the concept of “ecosystem” and to the idea that they have moral standing and we morally ought to protect their interests?
2. What of moral concern to many environmentalists does ecocentrism leave out? (Hint: abiota like....)
3. Does Jamieson think it makes sense to extend moral considerability (moral standing and perhaps even rights) to abiotic entities? How does Jamieson think we should protect such entities?
4. What is Jamieson’s own environmental ethics? What view of moral standing does he take? Does he limit what he values to what has moral standing?
Questions on Rolston’s Duties to Endangered Species
1. Describe several anthropocentric reasons for species preservation and then identify what Rolston thinks about those arguments. Does he agree with them? Explain. Consider rivet popping, resources, reading the book of life.
2. Explain the worry that species might be like lines of latitude and longitude. Why is this a problem for arguing for duties to species? Why might one think the are like those mapping strategies? Does Rolston think species are like such lines?
3. Explain Rolston’s conception of the nature of species. Are they real? How do they relate to the individuals that make them up?
4. How does a duty to protect the speciating process (what Rolston thinks is most important) help explain and justify the Endangered Species Act’s focus not just on species but subspecies and varieties?
5. Do you agree with Rolston that the species is more important than the individuals that compose them?
6. What are some of the valuable things species do that Rolston suggest we should value? Explain how species learn/discover over evolutionary time, how they defend a form of life.
7. How does Rolston characterize human caused extinction? How is it different (both biologically and evaluatively) from natural caused extinction? Does Rolston believe we have duties to preserve species going extinct naturally?
8. Is the duty Rolston argues we have to not drive species extinct absolute or prima facie? Explain and give examples.
9. Using some of Rolston’s examples, explain why the good of a species is not just the good of its members. Consider predation, fire, death, reproduction.
10. Why does Rolston think about preserving species in zoos? Why does he think this is not even possible, much less desirable? What is it we should be preserving? What are we preserving if we put endangered species in zoos?
Questions about Davis et at., “Don’t Judge Species by Their Origin”
1. What is the difference between native species and non-native (exotic) species?
2. Why are non-natives often called “introduced” species?
3. Can non-native species get to new habitats on their own?
4. Is the native/non-native distinction the same as the non-invasive/invasive distinction? How often are non-native species invasive and cause problems?
5. Identify one non-native species that has been problematic (mtn pine beetle) and one that has possibly been beneficial (Tamarisk).
6. What are some of the objections raised to the typical environmental policy of vigorously identifying and eradicating non-natives species?
7. Is opposition to non-natives xenophobic (illustration of distrust/dislike of the foreign)? Explain why some argue that it is.
8. Should we judge species based on their origin?
Questions on Jamieson (and Hettinger) on Natives vs. Exotics
1. Describe at least two definitions of exotic species and give examples that those definitions have trouble accounting for.
2. Does Jamieson think it an important environmental goal to eliminate all exotic species? Do you?
3. Explain and evaluate from your own perspective the worry that human introductions of exotics will homogenize the world’s ecology.
Questions Shue, Creating a More Dangerous World
1. Risk is a function of two factors, according to Shue. What are they?
2. Explain Shue’s analogy between tobacco and fossil fuel companies? Do you think it a fair comparison?
3. Shue argues that when three conditions are met, one has an obligation to act even with uncertainty. What are those conditions? Explain them in detail. (Hint: There are 3 conditions and the 2nd has two important dimensions to it and so does the 3rd.) Apply this argument to CC. Do you agree it is a good argument?
4. Explain why Shue thinks the cost of preventing losses due to CC are not excessive. Do you agree with him?
5. Identify reasons for thinking failing to act on climate change involves massive losses.
6. Evaluate from your own and Shue’s perspective: If we fail to act on climate change we are guilty of a sin of omission (not a sin of commission); we are guilty of failing to stop a more dangerous world from coming into existence.
7. What is it about future people that makes Shue think it especially problematic for us to create dangers for them?
8. Does Shue imagine any conditions under which he believes it would be permissible to burn almost all the carbon that is now stored in fossil fuels?
Questions on Readings on Meaning and Value of the Natural
1. Identify two distinct meanings of “natural” and do so by identifying their contrasts (natural as opposed to .......)
2. In what sense of “natural” is it true to say that everything humans do is natural? In what sense of “natural” is if foolish to say that everything humans do is natural?
3. In what sense of “natural” does the natural come in degrees? Give examples of items in increasing degrees of naturalness.
4. Evaluate the following claim: If X is natural, then this guarantees that X is good or morally right. Give some examples that should make one worry about this claim.
5. Give some examples that should make one skeptical of the idea that humans should look to animal behavior as a model for how we should live and act. Is nature a good guide for “family values?”
6. What is the National Park Services Policy that explains why it objected to snowmobilers attempt to rescue a drowning bison? Evaluate this policy from your own perspective. Should the National Parks have a policy of letting nature takes its course in the Parks?
7. Describe what the Aspen Art Institute did with Desert Tortoises at the opening reception. Was it wrong to use the tortoises in that way? Why or why not? Let’s say that it did not physically hurt them. Is it still wrong or inappropriate? Why or why not?
8. Describe the ways in which Niagara Falls is unnatural. Should this make it any less appealing to the informed visitor?
9. What are Bill McKibben’s reasons for claiming we are at the “end of nature?” What does he mean by nature? Is he right?
Questions on Jamieson on Intrinsic Value
1. What are the four different senses of intrinsic value that Jamieson discusses? (Skip the 3rd sense....)
2. What is the last man argument? Which type of intrinsic value is it an argument for? Is this a good argument?
Questions on Jamieson on Ways of Valuing Nature
1. Does end valuing (IV1) imply there is objective intrinsic value (IV4)? Why or why not?
2. If something is not morally considerable (IV2), does that mean we can’t intrinsically value it as an end (IV1?)
3. What is Jamieson’s view of moral considerability? Does this mean he does not intrinsically value non-sentient nature?
4. Does Jamieson think that beings who are morally considerable should get protection before beings who are not morally considerable but intrinsically valued as an end?
5. Does Jamieson think that what is intrinsically valuable is more important than what is instrumentally valuable? What is his example to dispute this?
6. What is “prudential value” of nature? Does Jamieson think this is a good reason for valuing nature? Does he think it is the only good reason? Does he think it is a sufficient reason?
7. Does Jamieson think nature’s aesthetic value is a good reason to protect it? Does he think it is a sufficient reason?
8. What does it mean to say nature’s beauty is subjective? Objective? Which of these does Jamieson argue for and how?
Questions on Managing Nature
1. Should humans manage nature (or “manage Planet Earth”)? What reasons are there for thinking we should not do so? What are the reasons for thinking we have no choice but to do so? What reasons are their for thinking this involves a contradiction (e.g., a human managed natural area). Consider the idea that we should manage ourselves rather than nature.
2. Explain the conflict between Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Lions. Does it make sense to just let nature take its course in this case? Why or why not? Is this relationship so influenced by humans that to do nothing is actually to have a large effect?
1. Explain the idea that we now live in the “anthropocene.” Evaluate the claim that “this is the earth we have created and we must manage it with love and care” and “create new glories” rather than impossibly trying to restore nature to a mythical pristine (never-touched-by-man) state. Is the “anthropocene” something to be celebrated or bemoaned? Is the ideal of pristine wilderness a useful, helpful one that we should continue to value or one we need to reject?
2. Is the Anthropocene a disaster? Is it a defeat for environmentalism? Is it an “ecological hell?” What do Marris and her colleagues think? What do you think?
3. What is wrong with the notion of virgin, pristine wilderness according to Marris and colleagues?
4. Is an important goal of environmentalism to “create new glories that contain heavy hand of man?” Give an example.
5. Evaluate this claim: “This is the earth we have created.”
6. Do humans have a duty to manage earth? Is it our job to sustain nature?
7. Evaluate the idea that the earth is like a garden that humans need to nurture and take care of.
8. If humans were offered a ring (by the gods) that would allow us to totally manage all of nature (including human nature), should we accept that ring? Imagine deciding whether we should have more rainforest and less deserts, less wind and more clouds, more lakes and islands, more snowstorms and fewer forest fires, more summer and less winter. What do you think of the prospects of humans deciding these things?
Study Questions for Jamieson on Natural Values
1. What is Jamieson’s definition of “natural?” Can something be influenced by humans and still be natural on his view?
2. Give an example of something that is not natural according to Jamieson’s definition and then an example of something that is natural (by his definition), but is nonetheless influenced by humans
3. Why does Jamieson accept or reject that we are at the “end of nature.”
4. What is the idea behind the “social construction of nature?” What does Jamieson think about this idea?
5. According to Jamieson, what are some of the values that lie behind our attraction to what is natural?
6. Is there naturalness within us, according to Jamieson? Give examples.
7. Using examples, explain how naturalness value can conflict with biodiversity values, with aesthetic values, and with prudential values.
Questions on wilderness oral presentation readings
1. Explain the argument that says rather than keeping our hands off wilderness areas what they need is more hands on management. What are some examples of active human management that are being done to protect wild areas and species. Why is this a problem for the idea of wilderness?
1. What is U.S. Wilderness Act’s definition of wilderness? (Hint: ...where the earth and it’s community of life is ....where man is a .....”
2. Does “untrammeled” mean “untouched”?
3. Describe Douglas Tompkins efforts to set aside large tracks of land in Argentina as nature reserves. Describe some of the opposition he faces and reasons for this opposition. Are they justifiable? Is what Tompkins is doing a good thing overall?
4. Thompkins self-identifies as a “deep ecologist,” and says: “Environmental problems arise from the mistaken notion that humans come first. They have to come second. This has not sunk into the political and social leadership.” Assess this perspective from your own point of view.
5. Explain this claim and then evaluate it from your own perspective: “A designated, managed wilderness is, in a very important, a contradiction in terms.” Tie this in with the idea that the root of the term ‘wilderness’ means “self-willed land.”
6. Evaluate this interaction from your own perspective:
a. “What has replaced naturalness as a guiding philosophy of what to do or not do?” I asked David Graber, chief scientist for the National Park Service’s Pacific West Region . . . “We have nothing,” he answered, his voice flat.
b. Do we need an alternative to naturalness as a guiding philosophy in national parks? Why might someone think we do? Why might someone deny that naturalness is no longer important or useful policy guide? What do you think?
7. Is there a significant value difference between intentionally manipulating/influencing a natural or wilderness area (by say removing non-native species) and non-intentionally influence a natural or wilderness area (by climate change)? Explain the idea that rejects a hands off policy of wilderness management by claiming “doing nothing is still doing something.” Do you agree?
8. What is rewilding? Give an example.
9. George Monbiot argues for rewilding both nature and human life (and in fact thinks they are related). Do you think human life needs to be “rewilded” because we suffer from “ecological boredom?” Would nine-foot long sabertooth salmon in the Cooper river be a good thing? How about wolves in the Francis Marion Forest (the 250,000 acre National Forest less than 30 minutes from Charleston)
10. According to Monbiot, what is the end goal of rewilding? What sort of ecosystems does rewilding aim to produce? (This is a trick question.)
Study questions for Cronon’s “The Trouble with Wilderness”
1. Why does Cronon believe that “wilderness poses a threat to responsible environmentalism?” (Assume he means “wilderness environmentalism” as we defined it in class.) Do you agree? Why or why not?
2. What does Cronon think wrong with a “wilderness environmentalism” that thinks solving env. problems involves setting aside wilderness areas?
3. Explain Cronon’s account of how the perception of wilderness has changed and explain the two major factors he identifies as causing this change.
4. Explain and evaluate Cronon’s claim that wilderness environmentalism is an elitist, urban idea.
5. In what way does Cronon think wilderness was actually causally, physically created by white European settlers? Did we remove Native Americans from their land to create wilderness areas?
6. Explain and evaluate Cronon’s reasons for claiming wilderness is a historically ignorant idea.
7. Explain and evaluate Cronon’s claim that wilderness involves a harmful human/nature dichotomy.
8. Explain and evaluate Cronon’s claim that wilderness environmentalism encourages us to ignore the protection of local, less that pristine nature.
9. What does Cronon think are the virtues of the wilderness idea?
Questions on Environmental Action
1. Describe “no impact man.” What did he (and his family give up)? What benefits did they get from it. Was this a worthwhile endeavor?
2. What 2 of the 4 things David Sirota gave up during “low-impact week?” Describe one of the lessons Sirota learned during this week?
3. Explain the objection that claims that attempts to reduced personal pollution harm environmental causes because they make conservation a purely individual effort rather than the collective effort it needs to be. Assess this claim from your own point of view.
4. Why does Derrik Jensen tell us to “Forget Shorter Showers?” Is he right? What does he think about “personal solutions” to environmental problems and living simply as a response to those problems?
5. Do you agree with Jensen that “the industrial economy is killing the planet?” Do you agree with him that we must “act decisively to stop the industrial economy” and that the “role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems?”
6. Explain why Jensen thinks simple living as a solution to environmental problems accepts the idea that we have become consumers rather than citizens? Why is this a problem?
7. Describe the four cases Peter Singer gives to help explore the question of the morality of law breaking. Which of these cases were justified in your view? Which not? Why?
8. Describe a case where lawbreaking to protect the environment led to environmental protection. Describe a case where lawbreaking to protect animals let to the protection of animals.
9. What does Singer think about the suggestion that the ends can never justify the means?
10. Is it always morally wrong to break the law? (Think of Oscar Schindler.) Is it always morally wrong to break the law in a democratic society? (Think of Martin Luther King.)
11. In Wendell Berry’s Speech Against State Government, what practice is he objecting to?
12. In your opinion, do our governments encourage environmental destruction? If so, give an example. Do you agree with Berry that money seriously corrupts politics?
13. Does Berry think that in the face of great violence retaliatory violence is a good solution? Do you agree with him when he says “I do not believe in violence as in any sense a solution to any problem.”
14. What is non-violent resistance or insistence or obstruction? What is civil disobedience and how is it different from other types of lawbreaking (E.g., sabotage, terrorism, self-interested lawbreaking)? Is one easier to justify than the other?
15. What are the reasons for thinking law breaking for env. goals harms the environmental movement? What are reasons for thinking it can help?
16. If your favorite natural area (Yellowstone, Smoky Mountain National Park) was going to be destroyed (by development), would you be willing to break the law as part of a campaign to protect it? Could such activities ever be justified?
17. If one believes animals have equal rights on a par with human rights, does it follow that one ought to break into research labs and release the animals? If one believes that fetus are persons with the same rights as you and me, then is it permissible to shoot abortion doctors?
Questions on Jamieson’s Ch. 7: Nature’s Future
1. Does Jamieson think that the environmental challenge for humanity is to preserve stable equilibrium-seeking systems? Why or why not?
2. Explain in some detail the problem of climate change, including its causes and potential impacts.
3. What are some reasons for thinking we live on a human dominated planet?
4. Explain Commoner’s and Ehrlich’s IPAT formula. Using examples, explain how each of the three factors affects environmental impact. In the end, which factor does Jamieson believe is actually most important in our world for determining whose environmental impact is the most extensive? Which country in the world has the greatest environmental impact and why?
5. What is the size of the earth’s population today? About how many years until we add another billion humans? Name the three largest countries in terms of population. Where is most of the population growth occurring?
6. Evaluate the following claim from your own and Jamieson’s perspective. The most serious environmental problem is the exploding human population of the developing world. That is what we need to control if we are to solve environmental problems.
7. Which country is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide (=CO2)? Why might one argue that China is not solely responsible for its emissions of C02? Which country in the world emits the most CO2 per person?
9. Explain the concept of ecological footprint. How does the U.S. compare with China, India, and Europe in terms of ecological footprint?
10. What does Jamieson think “the most effective thing an American can do” if he wants to minimize his environmental impact? Why does he think this? Is he right?
11. What is a “social ecologist?” Explain why Jamieson does or does not accept this idea.
12. Describe global inequality and poverty in terms of fractions.
13. Explain some of the reasons one might be skeptical about the idea that we have strong duties to future generations in the further future.
14. Explain Garrett Hardin’s life boat ethics argument against feeding the hungry (use the idea of the commons in your response). Do you accept this argument against feeding hungry people?
15. What is the famous definition of “sustainable development” that came out of the Rio Earth Summit?
16. Describe two of the results of the Rio Summit and explain Jamieson’s evaluation of them.
17. Evaluate the claim that humans need to “save the planet.” What does Jamieson think about this claim?
18. Do our current environmental problems constitute a catastrophe according to Jamieson?
19. Does Jamieson think that everyone can live as American’s do? Why or why not?
20. Does Jamieson think it is possible for the rich developed countries to keep the poor countries of the world undeveloped, so that we in the developed world can continue our lifestyles? Why or why not? In what ways might the developing world do great damage to things the rich countries value?
21. What does Jamieson think the rich countries need to do in terms of third world development if we are to an avoid environmental disaster?
22. What is Jamieson’s assessment of the likelihood of Americans changing their way of life by reducing consumption and increasing efficiency and sustainability?
23. What does Jamieson think about the connection between wealth/affluence and happiness? Although Europeans have less income and wealth than Americans, why might one think they are better off than we are?
24. What is a stationary state economy? Does it entail a lack of progress in human improvement? Why or why not?
25. What are some of the problems Jamieson sees with moving Americans toward lower consumption and increased efficiency?