Questions for Prof. Callicott


Student questions for Professor Callicott


 1.      William Worthy Humans part of nature? Callicott’s response to Rolston?

After reading about Callicott’s argument to Rolston’s account of, “Naturalizing Callicott,” I understand that Rolston criticizes him on the claim that Callicott believes human beings and human culture exist as a part of nature. Arguing that culture is naturally evolved and remains a part of nature, opposite to what other environmental philosophers,

along with Rolston, believe that nature is culturally constructed. Callicott also claims human beings are part of nature based on evolutionary considerations, saying evolutionary naturalization of human beings and human culture is a foundation and essential to the land ethic. I have a somewhat clear understanding of the argument, then get a little lost in the reading after Callicott says he remains unconvinced by the conclusion of Rolston’s claim. My question is for him to explain this statement a little more, and also what is his conclusion to this?


2.       Nicole Capano Natives peoples in wilderness/bioreserves

Based on your article, “What ‘Wilderness’ in Frontier Ecosystems?” Why should people stop kicking out native people when national parks are formed around the world? How did the natives influence ecosystems and why should their presence be required; when other people who are not native have to follow strict rules about camping in national parks? Don’t non-natives influence the ecosystems the same as the natives? Or how are the native people different? “Some Indians brought animals to near extinction” as claimed in the “What Wilderness article”, why should Indians be an exception to non-natives? Wouldn’t the extinction of animals be disrupting the environment on a bigger scale rather than a normal one? Wouldn’t the killing of one animal, while it may see disrupting on a normal scale, really be disrupting on a bigger scale? How can we know what a "normal scale" is considered to be if something small can lead to some big disaster? What’s considered a normal scale then?


3.           Abby Falconer Responding to Climate Change

What are your views on global climate change as a whole, and what can we do as individuals or as groups to help others realize the importance that global climate change imposes on us all? What do see happening now that Obama is in office related to climate change? How do we balance our global scale- or is it even possible to do with such a large population?


4.       Evan Justyn Shooting Goats to Help Ecosystmes

In the Galapagos Islands, a few farmers have brought in goats not native to the islands. These goats have been feeding on the local vegetation and plants there, and have endangered the food supply for the indigenous animals living there. Due to the extreme rarity of the animals native to

the islands, NATO has repeatedly sent helicopters with snipers on board ordered to shoot any goat they see. Do you feel this is the right approach to eradicate anything threatening the wild life of the islands considering the indigenous animals of the Galapagos Islands are not found

anywhere else in the world?


5.       Trey Eaddy Is the belief that humans have duties to nature is anthropocentic?

If the environmental crisis is a question of man's ethical responsibilities to the biotic communities of which he is a part of, then are we assuming that if man does not take "right" moral action the environment will be degraded in value for all beings? Why should man have the right to decide what is or is not valuable, since it is a matter of perspective. In the case of the spotted owl, would it not be a matter for vital interest for its prey if they were to go extinct? This example is rash, but my point is that it seems anthropocentric to suggest that man is responsible for deciding what is and is not valuable to a biotic community based on human evolved concepts such as ethics and morality.


6.       Gavin Smith Priorities for Endangered Species

How do we determine priority in terms of saving endangered species? With few funds devoted to that area, who decides which animal is on the top of the list?


7.       Cammie Amacher Space Universe Ethic?

Is there or is it necessary for there to be a space/universe ethic being that the Earth Ethic is limited to our stratosphere and below? If intergenerational justice is important, should we be concerned that in a couple hundred years we could be traveling in space that is being affected by us now? Or is the universe too big and its processes too slow for us to determine the long term effects of space pollution?


8.       Kendelle Tekstar If Humans Part of Nature, Why Keep Humans out of Bioreserves?

How do you explain your belief that human beings are in fact part of nature and then advocate setting aside land where humans are excluded in order to reduce degradation (except for native peoples of course)? Isn't the damage a beaver does making a dam the same as a human making one?


9.       Y-Darian Niehrah Humans Earth Bound?

--You mention that even with sky scrapers, airplanes, bulldozers, and other methods of transforming or destroying nature, humans are still earth bound. With space exploration and talks of living on the moon, what "Earth" are we bound to?

--What type of environmental ethics/philosophies would apply to humans in space? Would a human born on a different planet or while floating in space still be "earthbound" With an attempt to live extra terrestrially, would humans be a new addition to a new "nature"?  

--In an environment that does not support human life, if humans are able to make the environment habitable are we in effect creating a "nature"?



Hettinger questions for Prof. Callicott


1.       Should species have standing 

          a.       ESA gives listed species implicit IV and defacto legal standing, operational legal rights, not explicit or de jure legal standing

          b.       Reason listed species do not have real/de jure legal standing is that they do not have a legal right to sue

                              (1)     Human infants have such rights?

                    ii.       And reason is they are not persons?

                    iii.      To have a legal right to sue you must both be a person and be personally injured?

          c.       Listed species have defacto standing because of citizen suit provision of ESA, any person can sue if think listed species not being protected

                    i.        Do they have to show they were injured?

                              (1)     Scalia’s argument: everyone effected by env.

                    ii.       Do they sue on behalf of listed species or on own behalf?

                    iii.      Unless sue on behalf of listed species, don’t see how its IV or defacto standing.


2.        Second order principles (1): nearer and dearer (older) community members get preference and (2): greater interests takes precedence over lesser interests.

          a.       If two contradicts one, does it always override one?

                    i.        Trees interest in life, homeowner’s interest in remodelling house

                    ii.       What if the greater interest is only somewhat greater:

                              (1)     A dog’s leg versus a human’s ear?

                                         (a)     Dog’s leg and humans’s leg same interest?

                              (2)     Bear/wolves need for survival versus your dog’s need to roam outside

3.       3rd principle? Interest of a holistic entity matters more than interests of an organism?

          a.       Need of Yellowstone ecosystem for wolves versus individuals wolves need to survive

          b.       Life of the dear versus the health of population of deer?


          c.       Worry about partiality of #1 as having racists, sexist, nationalistic implications


4.       Humans part of nature issue

          a.       Callicott’s “naturalization of culture”

                    i.        Rolston is Kantian cold respect for the radical Other; Callicott is Humean love and warm fellowship and society with fellow voyagers in odyssey of evolution

          b.       Callicott 301, my reply: Humans remain thoroughly primate in anatomy, physiology, and psychology, except for more language dependent cog and abstract consciousness

                    i.        Largest part of our conscious lives, feelings joy, sorrow anger remorse, jealousy rage; intense social interaction negotiated mostly by body language, facial expression and tone of voice, pervasive sexuality are utterly animal thus natural (though shaped around edges by culture”

                    ii.       Dazzling artifacts of culture, skyscrapers, airplanes are powerful to destroy but seem ephemeral compared to titanic forces of nature

                    iii.      Earthly beings, and remain even culturally, earth bound.

          c.       Ned’s humans both are and are not part of nature/natural

                    i.        Both sides have important insights

                    ii.       Thoroughly natural is reductionistic, as if natural sciences where all you needed to understand humans and not also social sciences

                              (1)     Human vs Beaver Dam


5.       Wilderness issues

          a.       Why are spiritual and aesthetic valuing of wilderness

                    i.        Recreational?

                    ii.       Anthropocentric?

                    iii.      Instrumental?

          b.       If intrinsically value something (like wilderness) for a reason having to do with the nature of the thing (its beauty its manifestation of God) why is that make it no longer intrinsic valuing?


6.       No: Biodiversity reserves as alternative to wilderness

          a.       Place that animals (wolves, bison) that can’t fit well into healthy human disturbed ecosystems can still have a place to thrive

          b.       “Biodiversity reserves” language makes it clear (unlike “wilderness”) that these nonhumans take precedence when wilderness uses conflict with biodiversity

                    i.        What about “national wildlife refuges?” Sounds good, but for hunters.....


7.       Success of reformulation of Leopold in light of ecology of instability.

                    i.        May be that ecosystem health is another norm

          b.       Success of argument that human actions are wrong when they are at abnormal spacial and temporal scales

                    i.        “People should disturb nature only at normal spatial and temporal scales”

          c.       Ned/Bill’s counter examples

                    i.        Extensive Restoration

                    ii.       Intentional extirpation of a species but at normal temporal scale

                    iii.      Developer in S.C. Lowcountry acts on scale of hurricannes, both temporally and spacially

8.       Leopold’s earth ethics solves problems the Land Ethic faces

          a.       Which problems exactly?

          b.       Does it solve problems the Land Ethic has even when “dynamitized” as you do for it?

          c.       Is the Gaia dimension important? Is earth being conscious important?


9.       Ecological communities sufficiently robust/cohesive to engender obligations because human communities engender obligations, even though they are no more cohesive and robust

          a.       See 296 of “my reply”.

          b.       What counts as an ecosystem depends on our purposes as well as on the empirical facts.

             c.          Ned/Bill: Human communities held together by shared purpose and meaning which is essential to their unities

             One intriguing response to these worries has been advanced by J. Baird Callicott. Callicott points out that, like biotic communities, human communities are neither stable, nor typological, that is, they change over time and do not come and go as units. Human communities are also composed of individualistic, self-promoting, and competitive individuals. Callicott concludes that biotic communities are no less integrated and no harder to demarcate than are human communities, and thus that if human communities are sufficiently coherent to generate obligations to them, then so are biotic communities.

                  One problem with this argument is that human communities are held together by shared purpose and meaning. That people see themselves as part of a human community is essential to its unity. Self-seeking individualism, predatory competition, and parasitism, unchecked by community spirit and identity, tear apart human communities. Sprawl development characterized by vacant strip malls, big-box stores adjacent to diseased local merchants, and aggressive automobile traffic hardly constitutes a community that generates preservationist obligations. Callicott's analogy ignores that the shared purpose and meaning that bind together changing, self-seeking individuals into human communities are lacking in biotic communities.

               This does not show that there are no biotic communities, for properties essential to human community may not be necessary for biotic ones. Perhaps some communities need not be intentional ones. Or perhaps humans can see themselves as parts of biotic communities and provide the requisite intentionality. In any case, Callicott's insightful analogy between human and biotic communities is insufficient to make the case that biotic communities are robust enough to engender moral obligations to them.


10.     Importance of moral monism

          a.       Why do you think it so important and what is it and its alternative?

          b.       Callicott is pluralistic in principle, but monistic in that his general theory is communitarian


11.     Importance of Holism: You are a strong advocate of holistic env. Ethics. Why do you think holism is so important in env. Philosophy? (And what is it?) Is it simply to push back against animal rights/sentiocentric environmental ethics? Why isn’t a biocentric ethic (Like Paul Taylor’s) enough?


12.     For Students: Callicott on ethical vegetarianism

          a.       Environmentalists who don’t believe in animal rights should be more in favor of this than should be defenders of animal rights

          b.       Explain why