This preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.
This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.View Full Document
Unformatted text preview: Where the wild things are: environmental preservation and human nature MARC ERESHEFSKY Department of Philosophy, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada (e-mail: email@example.com) Received 27 September 2005; accepted in revised form 21 December 2005 Key words: Environmental preservation, Human culture, Human nature, Human/nature dichotomy, Natural, Wilderness Abstract. Environmental philosophers spend considerable time drawing the divide between hu- mans and the rest of nature. Some argue that humans and our actions are unnatural. Others allow that humans are natural, but maintain that humans are nevertheless distinct. The motivation for distinguishing humans from the rest of nature is the desire to determine what aspects of the environment should be preserved. The standard view is that we should preserve those aspects of the environment outside of humans and our inuence. This paper examines the standard view by asking two questions. First, are the suggested grounds for distinguishing humans from the rest of the environment viable? Second, is such a distinction even needed for determining what to preserve? The paper concludes that debates over whether humans are natural and whether humans are unique are unhelpful when deciding what to preserve. Introduction A central question in environmental philosophy is deciding which environ- ments to preserve. The common response is preserve wilderness. But this answer raises further questions. There is the normative question, why ought we preserve wilderness? Then there is the metaphysical question, what is wilder- ness? If we are to preserve wilderness, we need to distinguish what is wild from what is not wild. The standard answer to the second question is that those aspects of the environment outside of humans or human influence are wild (Norton 1986; Taylor 1986; Brennan 1988; Rolston 1989, 1991; Callicott 1991, 1996a, b; Elliot 1997; Katz 1997; Hettinger and Thorp 1999; Woods, forthcoming). Hence, those facets of the world outside the sphere of humans are candidates for environmental preservation. The line of reasoning offered for what distinguishes humans from the rest of nature is intended to be descriptive not normative . Biology and the social sciences are supposed to tell us what distinguishes humans from the rest of nature. That scientifically informed difference then tells us what is wild and what are the candidates for environ- mental preservation. The philosophical literature contains two views on what divides humans from the rest of nature. One view highlights the distinctive nature of humans and suggests that such a difference renders humans, or certain human actions, Biology and Philosophy (2007) 22:5772 Springer 2006 DOI 10.1007/s10539-005-9023-5 unnatural (Norton 1986; Brennan 1988; Rolston 1989, 1991; Elliot 1997; Katz 1997; Hettinger and Thorp 1999). Wilderness, then, is outside of humans and their unnatural activities. The other view allows that humans are naturaland their unnatural activities....
View Full Document