Jamieson, Ch. 6: The Value of Nature



1.       Criticism of animal liberation/rights philosophy of Singer/Regan (Sentiocentrism or “sentientism”) that it does not extend moral concern far enough

          a.       Including sentient/subject of a life animals in the moral club is barely to move beyond traditional human centered morality

          b.       Letting in our closest cousins, those living creatures most like us into the moral arena

          c.       Vast majority of living creatures (including living animals) are not sentient and thus are excluded from direct moral concern

2.       Biocentrism: All life is morally considerable

          a.       Schweitzer’s reverence for life

3.       Having interests is necessary for being morally considerable

          a.       Sentientists think that capacity for experience is necessary for having interests

          b.       Biocentrists deny this and assert all living things have interests (a good of their own), even if they have not subjective experiences

4.       Examples of interests of non-sentient beings

          a.       Plants have interests based on need for sun and water

          b.       Even human have interests (e.g., needs) independent of fact we are experiencing creatures

                    i.        We need vitamin C (in our interest to have some) whether conscious of this or not

          c.       All living things have biological needs that is in their interests to satisfy.

5.       Sentientist reply (1): Nothing matters to plants

          a.       W/o sentience nothing for morality to take into account

          b.       Nothing that happens to an organisms who is insentient matters to it

          c.       But even though a tree does not care if you crush its roots with a bulldozer, it is bad for the tree

6.       Biocentrist’s reply: Two senses of “interests”

          a.       Preference interests (caring wanting desiring)

          b.       Welfare interests (needs, good of one’s own)

          c.       Only sentient beings have former, but all living beings and not artifacts have the latter

          d.       Both senses are enough to get moral concern going

7.       Sentientist reply (2): Plant interests imply machine interests, which is bizarre

          a.       If non-sentient beings like plants have interests then so do machines like cars

          b.       Plants need water and cars need oil

          c.       Talking about cars having interests is strange and non-literal use of ‘interests’

          d.       But so is talking about plants having interests

          e.       Humans have interests (because what happens to them matters to them)

                    i.        Neither cars nor plants have interests in this sense

8.       Biocentrists reply: Machine’s needs not their own

          a.       Machine’s “interests” not their own, but belong to their owner, maker user

                    i.        Car’s need for oil is not its own, but its owner or user

          b.       Tree’s need for water really is its own need and not reducible to the need of the human who wants its shade

9.       Jamieson reply: Having a designer does not mean interests not your own

          a.       Fact machine has a designer-maker does not give us a reason to deny it has interests

          b.       If one organism was made by natural selection and another with identical characteristics by Biotechnology Systems, no reason to say the former has interests and later does not

          c.       “Nothing about a beings origin affects whether or not it has interests”

          d.       Things have interests and are morally considerable in light of their features, not because of their history

10.     Rolston/Rollins debate : For a useful debate on these issues between a sentientist (Rollins) and a biocentrist/ecocentrist (Rolston), see video clip

ECOCENTRISM (Holism, Callicott, Leopold’s Land Ethic)


11.     Criticism of sentiocentrism and biocentrism for engaging in “moral extensionism”

          a.       Things get in the moral arena in virtue of sharing properties that gives humans moral considerability (sentience, life)

          b.       Instead of assuming that humans are morally important and then extending moral concern to whatever is sufficiently like humans, ecocentrists start with the assumption that the earth is morally important and see what follows from that

12.     Rejects individualism of sentiocentrism/biocentrism and gives moral primacy to ecological wholes of which we are a part

          a.       Ecological wholes = biotic communities, ecosystems, “the land”, nature, the earth, natural processes (speciation, fire, glaciation)

          b.       Ecological wholes are what has primary moral standing, moral considerability

13.     Leopold’s land ethic is an example of ecocentrism: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community; it is wrong when it tends otherwise”

14.     Jamieson claims ecocentrism has attractive features, “but most philosophers reject it.”

          a.       My view is that it is the most widely held environmental ethic, probably the most widely held environmental ethic by philosophers specializing in environmental philosophy, though not by philosophers in general


15.     Jamieson’s criticisms of the key concept of ecocentrism: Ecosystems

16.     Ecosystems = assemblages of organisms together with their (abiotic) environment 

17.     Ecosystems are not real, but merely ways of looking at things

          a.       Ecosystems, like the average Australian (or constellations of stars, as opposed to stars themselves) don’t exist as anything more than collections of individual members

18.     Can’t tell where one ecosystem ends and another begins (spatially or temporally)

          a.       In ecological succession, grasslands turn into shrubs and small trees which turn into forests

                    i.        What are we to say of the in between states?

          b.       Little ecosystem growing on north side of the rock in my garden, my garden is an ecosystem, my valley is one

                    i.        What is relation between these ecosystems

19.     Do ecosystems have interests that ought to be respected?

          a.       How are we to think about one ecosystem turning into another? (As the interests of the first ecosystem being compromised and the interests of second ecosystem being promoted?)

20.     If ecosystems don’t protect their own interests, why should we?

21.     To know what ecocentrism morally demands of us need to know the nature of the biotic community or ecosystem that has primary moral importance


22.     Are worries here but things not as problematic as Jamieson suggests

          a.       Bad for the forest ecosystem to remove the predators, let prey like deer overpopulate, eat all the vegetation including the saplings

          b.       Sometimes it makes sense to protect the integrity and stability of ecosystems

          c.       An ecocentrism that favors letting natural processes do their thing w/o human interference also makes sense (Jamieson includes this value in his discussion of naturalness)


23.     Regan’s environmental fascism objection to ecocentrism

          a.       Subordinates the rights of individuals to biotic concerns

          b.       Permissible to kill humans to save wildflowers

          c.       Callicott (in early article he now restricts the reprinting of) said:

                    i.        “the preciousness of individual deer, as of any other specimen, is inversely proportional to the population of the species”

                    ii.       Suggests any individual member of an endangered species is worth vastly more than a human being

          d.       Remember Callicott’s reply? (Land ethic is supplement t-- not a replacement of--human ethics)


24.     Ecocentrism can’t explain the value of abiotic things that are not part of ecosystems or biotic communities

          a.       Value of rainbows, canyons, rock formations, clouds, caves

25.     Extending moral concern to abiotic entities (a move beyond ecocentrism) seems crazy

          a.       Idea of rocks having rights drives many to dismiss radical environmental thought


26.     Jamieson thinks we need to quit idea of extending moral considerability even further and use language of valuing to protect these things


27.     Jamieson’s environmental ethic

          a.       Extends moral considerability only to sentient beings

          b.       Insentient biotic nature (trees, forests) and abiotic nature (mountains, oceans) get protected by acknowledging we value them in other ways than “thinking of them as morally considerable” (intrinsic value sense ii)

          c.       We value them intrinsically (sense i) as end value (“ultimate value”)

          d.       Protect them by noting their prudential value, their aesthetic value, their wildness/naturalness value



28.     See end of Ch 3 for the four senses of intrinsic valuing

          a.       Intrinsically valuing in one sense does not entail doing so in another sense

                    i.        E.g., IV (1) in sense of ultimate value does not entail IV (4) objective value

29.     Intrinsic valuing in the second sense (seeing things as morally considerable) is not the only way of valuing, or even intrinsically valuing

          a.       Might value things only instrumentally but intensely

          b.       Might deny things are morally considerable (intrinsic value sense 2) but intrinsically value them as of ultimate, end value (intrinsic value sense 1)

30.     Virtue of stopping moral considerability at sentient beings and using intrinsic valuing (ultimate end value) to protect rest of nature

          a.       Don’t need to establish interests/rights as one does for moral considerability

          b.       Interests for trees? (Then machines)

          c.       Interests for rocks? Crazy

          d.       Interests for ecosystems? Can’t determine what they are.


31.     Many examples of valuing that are neither clearly intrinsic nor clearly instrumental valuing (p. 153)

32.     Assumption that what is valued intrinsically is more important than what is valued instrumentally is false

          a.       Rope that holds you as you hang over a cliff is valued only instrumentally, but much more intensely than the stamp collection that one intrinsically values

          b.       Yes, but the only reason the thing valued instrumentally is more valuable is because it is a means to an intrinsic value (your life) that is much more valuable

                    i.        Your life is intrinsically more valuable than your stamp collection

33.     We can value things urgently, intensely and even desperately yet not value them intrinsically


34.     Rich resources for valuing nature, whether anthropocentrist, sentientist, biocentrist, ecocentrist, or whatever

35.     Complications Jamieson’s view opens up

          a.       Anthropocentrists only extend moral considerability to humans, but the can nonetheless value nature intrinsically (sense 1) and ultimately; so being an anthropocentrist (IV 2 only applies to humans) does not entail that the rest of nature is a mere resource for humans

          b.       Sentiocentrists like Jamieson only extend moral considerability (IV 2) to sentient creatures, but this does not mean that all the rest of nature is a mere resource for sentient creatures

          c.       Important to specify the relative importance of being morally considerable (IV2) versus being intrinsically valued as an end (MC 1)

                    i.        Can MC (IV2) be weak and IV 1 be strong, such that what is not morally considerable and (let us assume) is solely intrinsically valuable (a glacier) can be more important to protect than something that is morally considerable (a deer)?

          d.       Dale,

I've been working through your chapter on the value of nature and have tons of questions and am not sure I'm clear enough to start asking, but let me try one.

I'm wondering about the relative moral importance of being morally considerable (intrinsic value sense 2) and being intrinsically valuable (of ultimate value) (sense 1) (see your 4 senses of intrinsic value at the end of Chap 3).

Can intrinsic value 2 be relatively weak and intrinsic value 1 be relatively strong?

For example, can a being that is not morally considerable (on your view, say a glacier) and is being valued solely intrinsically (sense 1) (ignoring instrumental values) be more important to protect than a being that is morally considerable (say a bear)?

If so, this would be a case where although we have duties to not compromise the interests of the bear and no such duties to the glacier (as it is not morally considerable), our intrinsic valuing of the glacier is so strong it overrides our moral duties to the bear.



36.     Prudential values

          a.       Nature is valuable for our flourishing and survival

          b.       Like a crew of a spaceship, we should take care of our earth

          c.       Yearly value of ecosystem services for entire biosphere estimated to be equal to the value of GNP of all nations of the world

37.     Problems with prudential values

          a.       Every species ought to be preserved because for all we know a plant we drive extinct might contain a cure for cancer

                    i.        “Sure and someday Jamieson my play in the World Cup”

          b.       Good prudential values on the side of destroying nature

                    i.        What drives species extinct are activities from which people benefit; real money being made from mining and farming that is deforesting Amazonia

          c.       Need to find good reasons for protecting nature that are not just prudential cost-benefit to reasons


38.     Natural beauty is important part of, but only part, of the reason why we should protect nature (only part of nature’s value)

39.     Beauty moves us (perhaps more than ethics)

40.     Beauty’s value transcends pleasure

          a.       Experiencing beauty can improve us and change our lives

                    i.        Experiencing the Baroque Churches of Rome or a six-day backpacking trip improves us

                    ii.       Both can be life-changing experiences

41.     Authenticity matters for Beauty

          a.       Las Vegas mock-up of Rome or Imax movie about nature can’t substitute for the real thing, no matter how much pleasure they give us

42.     Context matters in aesthetics

          a.       Seeing statue of reclining Buddha in London museum is different from seeing it in temple in Tailand

          b.       World of difference between seeing a cheetah in the zoo and seeing one on the Serengeti

43.     Rarity matters in aesthetics

          a.       Only 36 of Vermeer’s paintings exist, each one more precious

          b.       Rare species or natural features more valuable then more common ones

44.     Difference natural and artistic beauty

          a.       Art was intentionally designed and its appreciation should be affected by that

45.     Environmentalists have tended to de-emphasize natural beauty (though clear very important in explaining why we value nature)

          a.       Why?

          b.       Apparent subjectivity of experience of beauty

          c.       Apparent triviality of such experiences

          d.       Jamieson thinks beauty neither trivial or idiosyncratic


46.     Jamieson thinks beauty judgments involve both subjectivity and objectivity

          a.       Aesthetic value tied to human experience and in that sense subjective

47.     Objectivity dimension of beauty claims:

          a.       Some beauty claims we regard as obvious and objectively true and someone who denies them isn’t just a person with different taste, but there is something about the world this person does not understand.

          b.       E.g.,

                    i.        Michelangelo’s David is beautiful

                    ii.       Yosemite Valley is beautiful

                    iii.      Angelina Jolie is beautiful

          c.       When people's aesthetic faculties working properly, our responses to beauty as reliable as our responses to color

                    i.        Increasing empirical evidence for tight correlation between features of the world and our experiences of beauty


48.     Being natural is valuable

49.     Definition of natural: Extent to which something is not a product of human influence

          a.       For those who care about things being “natural” this is how they use the term

50.     Naturalness is a matter of degree

          a.       Canadian Rockies are more natural than Adirondaks

51.     Something can be influenced by humans and not be a product of humans

          a.       The length of the growing season in Great Lakes affected by humans (climate change), but is not a product of humans

          b.       Zebra mussels being in the great lakes is a product of humans (a European species brought over in ship ballast water)


52.     Jamieson rejects the idea that pervasive human influence on the planet means nothing natural left

          a.       Humans have influenced all the surface of the earth, but we are not at the “end of nature” (much on earth is still natural) because the earth’s surface is not the product of humans)

          b.       Being the product of humans seems to be (for Jamieson) an overall judgement about the extent of human responsibility for the thing

          c.       Being a product of humans makes something unnatural, though humans can influence things and they remain natural

                    i.        Tablecloths and Texas longhorn cattle are products of humans and thus not natural.....


53.     Jamieson rejects the social construction of nature/wilderness idea

          a.       Just because concept of nature has a history

                    i.        Not everyone has the concept (most aboriginal peoples do not think of themselves as living in a wilderness)

          b.       Just because people have different conceptions of nature and value it differently

                    i.        Puritans who colonized New England though of it as “wild and howling land. . . bringing forth no fruit to God, but wild fruits of sin” and thought it needed to be avoided or improved

          c.       Doesn’t mean there is no such thing as the nature/wilderness independent of human artifice


54.     Examples of and arguments for why the natural is valuable

          a.       Marvel at the 6 foot high termite mounds until find out they were built by local chamber of commerce to amuse people who don’t want to walk into the wild to see them

                    i.        Admiration gone when what you thought was natural turned out to be a product of human influence

55.     Why does being natural contribute to nature’s value

          a.       It just does; must be a stopping point to valuing and explanation

                    i.        Why do people find pleasure or kindness valuable? They just do

          b.       Loneliness in being in a world all of our (human) making (and one we dominate)

                    i.        We value human companionship because we get tired of ourselves and want people with minds and lives of their own who are not just extensions of ourselves

                    ii.       We value being in a world where there are other beings and processes not merely extensions of ourselves

          c.       Autonomy: Value the natural because we value nature’s autonomy; her doing her own thing and is largely indifferent to us

                    i.        Indifference of nature is a welcome relief from life in a human-dominated world

          d.       Wildness: Nature’s autonomy at most extreme is its wildness and we value the natural for its wildness

                    i.        Wildness = what is not dominated by others; free from external control; self-willed, independent

                    ii.       Natural not equal wild (tame dog is natural, not wild; human parties are wild, though not natural in above sense)


56.     Value wildness (naturalness) within us

          a.       Our bodies are wild “involuntary turn of the head at a shout, vertigo looking off a precipice, heart-in-throat in moment of danger

          b.       “We do not go into wildness to escape our lives but to return to them.”


57.     Diversity another value of nature

          a.       Many kinds of diversity

                    i.        Species, genetic, ecosystem

                    ii.       Geological

          b.       Diverse natural world inspiring, fascinating, admirable simply in virtue of expressing this diversity


58.     Biodiversity and naturalness/wildness can conflict

          a.       Some places highly human influenced have more diversity than less human dominated landscapes

          b.       If all we valued was diversity, then genetic engineering would be a strategy superior to environmental preservation

                    i.        We value naturally produced biodiversity, not that brought to us by Monsanto


59.     Natural values can conflict with prudential and aesthetic values

          a.       Garden may be more aesthetically pleasing than a natural landscape

          b.       Irrigated field serve our interests better than one left natural

          c.       Prudence and aesthetic/natural value conflict when issue is shall we cover a desert with solar panels

          d.       Add moral concern for animals and get greater conflicts


60.     Environmentalism is a diverse group of world views

          a.       Not an ideology whose adherents move in lockstep, obeying directives of some green politburo


61.     Bighorn sheep vs mountain lion case

62.     Feral goats versus endemic plants

63.     Natives vs exotics