Holmes Rolston

Converging versus Reconstituting Env Ethics


1.      Norton’s definition of Anthropocentrism:

         a.      “Only humans are the locus of intrinsic value and that the value of all other objects derives from their contribution to human values”

         b.      Issues

                   i.       Why isn’t the experienced pleasure of an animal also a locus of intrinsic value?

                   ii.      Isn’t the instrumental value of water to an animal or to a tree a type of value that exists apart from its contribution to human values?

                   iii.     Sometimes people argue for “anthropocentrism” by pointing out that any judgment about value we arrive at is a human judgment of value (obviously, necessarily)

                            (1)    Does this prove that all value is reducible to what contributes to human benefit?


2.      Rolston’s definition of nonanthropocentrism (from Norton?)

         a.      “There are intrinsic values in nature (either with individuals or collectives) (IV4) which constrain human entitlements and interests (IV1) . . . “Natural things can and ought to count morally for what they are in themselves” (IV2)

3.      Notice confusion of valuing for own sake and value existing apart from valuers

         a.      Rolston/Norton? run together 3 different senses of intrinsic value

         b.      Serious issue in Rolston that he assumes/believes IV1 (valuing as an end, valuing non-instrumentally) involves also IV4 (there is objective IV in nature) and many have denied this

         c.      P. 110 same confusion


4.      Definition of convergence thesis (logical or empirical thesis?)

         a.      “Environmentalists are evolving toward a consensus in policy even thought they remain divided regarding basic values” (empircal)

         b.      Issues

                   i.       They way CT is put here, it’s not the logical claim that anthropocentric and nonanthropocentric values logically entail the same policies

                   ii.      Rather, it’s a empirical claim that environmentalists with these different values in fact are getting closer and closer to agreeing on policy

                            (1)    Empirically testable claim

                   iii.     Convergence, not agreement: Not that there is agreement on policy, but it is headed that way

                   iv.     Rolston says that in the real world anthropocentrists and nonanthropocentrists do in fact disagree, in part because the real world anthropocentrists are not enlightened as Norton wants them to be

         c.      Another formulation (logical): “The convergence hypothesis asserts that if one takes the full range of human values –present and future– into account one will choose a set of policies that can be accepted by a ‘reasonable’ anthropocentrism”


5.      Truth of the “logical” convergence thesis (both value orientations lead to same policy prescriptions) depends (in part) on one’s conception of human flourishing

         a.      Specifically, how central to human well-being/flourishing is a wild natural world?

         b.      Could humans flourish on a human constructed, life-sustaining spaceship (with arts, sciences, economic opportunities)? Or would their lives be significantly impoverished w/o earth?


6.      Is anthropocentrism selfish?

         a.      No in sense that its not egoism, its not the individual humans good that all other goods reduced too

                   i.       Worrying about future generations access to energy source and stable climate is not selfish

                   ii.      Worrying about pollution because it disproportionately harms the old, infirm, poor, minorities is not selfish

         b.      Yes in the sense it is a group/species selfishness

                   i.       For something to be valuable it has to someway benefit humans

                   ii.      “What is in it for us?”

         c.      Force-fitting every possible conservation good into something good for humans “goes sour” “rings hollow”

                   i.       Like arguing that good for people of the word can be reduced to what is good for Americans

                   ii.      Or arguing what is good for America is what is good for me and my family



8.      Head injury research on primates at Univ of Pennsylvania

                   i.       Deliberately inflicting massive head injuries

         b.      Long term likely to be benefits to humans from this research

         c.      Nonanthropocentrists will focus on the decades of intense animal suffering and likely believe it outweighs any human benefits

         d.      Anthropocentrists like Norton can’t say suffering counts at all

         e.      Divergence

         f.       Norton’s response

                   i.       Accepts moral standing of individual animals of many species

                   ii.      Not sure this makes him an nonanthropocentrist

                            (1)    Sure seems like it does!

                   iii.     Not concerned with these types of cases

                   iv.     In environmental ethics he’s an anthropocentrist

                            (1)    Couldn’t we come up with cases of wild animal suffering where environmental and animal ethics come together

9.      Tiger sanctuary in Nepal

         a.      Bengal tiger and other species extremely endangered reside there

         b.      Millions of people desperately poor live nearby

         c.      Nepalese Army responsible for preventing poaching, grazing, cutting grasses, pilfering timber, or permanent habitation

         d.      Rolston says give priority to tigers over people inside that park

         e.      Nonanthropocentric intrinsic value of tigers is part of his reason

         f.       “Doubts there are enough anthropocentric benefits to justify keeping tens of thousands of persons hungry in order to save the tiger”

10.    Wolves: Why isn’t a healthy and productive live in harmony with nature quite possible w/o wolves on the landscape?

         a.      Because w/o wolves my grandchildren will never shiver in their sleeping bags when the wolves howl?

         b.      Don’t protect wolves for wolves own sake, but because grandchildren have a “birthright to stand in their awe”

         c.      Wolves not valuable for own sake but of great value for the tingle they

11.    Delhi Sands fly (a listed endangered species) standing in the way of building a hospital and blocking an industrial development with 20,000 jobs


12.    LESSONS

13.    Here (in Fly case) nonanthropocentrism is more politically persuasive than anthropocentrism

         a.      “I doubt that entwined destinies with odd flies (people’s birth-right to hear these needle mouth flies buzz) is going to be as politically persuasive as the respect for unique species with a clever form of life defending a good of its own”

         b.      California state senator: “I’m for people, not for flies”

14.    Nonanthropocentrism more politically persuasive than Norton’s enlightened anthropocentrism (birthright for grandchildren to hear wolves howl)

15.    Many species “are of little or no use to us” and given this divergence we will need nonanthropocentric convictions to save such species

         a.      “I don’t lament that; am quite pleased that this is so”

16.    Anthropocentrism is arrogant

         a.      “One species arrogantly claiming that none of the other millions of species is of any account except as resources in our larder”

17.    Motives matter and even if anthropocentrists and nonanthropocentrists converge on policy their rationales for the policy are important

         a.      Susan cares for he aging mother because she loves her

         b.      Sally cares for her so she is not cut out of the will

         c.      Admire Susan’s behavior; depressed by Sally’s


         d.      John saves the whales because he respects and admires their skills

         e.      Jack saves the whales because he runs the tour boat that makes money taking John and others out to see them

         f.       Behaviors converge, but more impressed with John’s motives


18.    In a way, Rolston agrees with the convergence thesis

         a.      Nature (creativity, planetary biodiversity) is essential to human flourishing

                   i.       Gaining “authentic happiness” without “these ecological goods . . . is a logical, empirical, and psychological impossibility” p. 117

         b.      So true human good (a sufficiently enlightened and environmental conception of human flourishing) requires the flourishing of natural world

         c.      But the reason/motive to protect nature should not be only as a means to human flourishing




20.    Given Norton’s ever increasingly enlightened anthropocentrism, rather than the two converging, the anthropocentrist is headed over to the nonanthropocentric side