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Against the Moral Considerability of Ecosystems

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Chester Gan

on 16 October 2013

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Transcript of Against the Moral Considerability of Ecosystems

Harley Cahen
Against the Moral Considerability of Ecosystems
Attribution of Interests
Taking a Closer look...
Behavioral Byproduct
About Harley Cahen
Taking The Deep Breath
Worked with other environmental philosophers
Born in 1956?
Wrote a book “Wilderness and the question of moral standing”?
Award named after him in Cornell University
Premise: Ecosystems cannot be held morally considerable because they have no interests.
Focus of paper
Key Ideas
Moral Considerability
Goal Directedness
Behavioral Byproduct
The Preservationist Intuition
Setting the Stage
Purported by Katz and Leopold
5 Justifications
Interests of Individual Creatures
Ideals of Human Excellence
Moral Considerability
Moral Right
Intrinsic Value
Why the link between interests and moral considerability?
Pitfall of Interests vs Intrinsic Value
Down the Rabbit Hole
Prima facie wrong to frustrate/harm
Wrongness is Direct
Cahen’s definition of Moral Considerability
Goal Directedness
Merits and Limitations
Case Study: Rocks vs Plants
“Natural entities … striving to actualize themselves”
Easily recognizable but not defined
Ernest Nagel
-Persistence and Plasticity
Charles Taylor and Larry Wright
-Behaves for the sake of the goal
-Behavior brings about goal
Goal Directedness
Behavior is such because it tends to bring about goal
William's Theatre Example
Outside the standpoint of the organism
Mere tendency
Upstream journey of salmon
Application of above framework to Ecosystems
-Stability of ecosystem genuine goal or byproduct?
Cause and Effect
-Cause: Pursuit of Individual Goals
-Effect: Trophic Structure that enhances stability
Through the Looking Glass
Group Selection at Community Level
Cahen’s Response
Can be explained by self-serving behavior
Seeming Redirection of Reproductive Effort
Clutch Size
Darwinism is a “profoundly individualistic doctrine”
1) Moral consideration only for things with interests
2) Interests can only be represented by goal-directedness
3) Ecosystems do not have goals but behavioral byproducts

Thus, ecosystems are not morally considerable
Cahen's Argument
Personal Thoughts
Cahen’s Stand in Environmental Ethics
Relationship between Moral Considerability and Intrinsic Value
Full transcript