Hope, Self-Transcendence and Environmental Ethics

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Environmental ethicists often hold that organisms, species, ecosystems, and the like have goods of their own. But, even given that such goods exist, whether we ought to value them is controversial. Hence an environmental philosophy needs, in addition to an account of what sorts of values there are, an explanation what, how and why we morally ought to value—that is, an account of moral valuing. This paper presents one such an account. Specifically, I aim to show that unless there are eternal goods (and maybe even if there are), we have a duty of self-transcendence toward nature—that is, a duty to value nature's goods as ends. This duty is owed, however, not to nature, but to ourselves. It is grounded in what I call an imperative of hope. The argument, in a nutshell, is that we have a duty to ourselves to (in a certain sense) optimize hope. This optimization requires self-transcendence toward entities whose goods are more diverse and enduring than any human goods. But unless there are eternal goods, such goods occur only in nature.

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