Environmental Ethics (Spring 2011)
Does nature have any morally significant value apart from the fact that humans need clean air to breath and that some people enjoy hiking in the mountains? Is human welfare all that matters morally? Or must we also take into consideration the welfare of other kinds of creatures that can feel pleasure and pain? Is pain really all that morally significant? Does life have value? What about life forms? Do we have reason to preserve species or might it be better to get rid of a few nasty varieties? What about ecosystems? Are they valuable merely because of the sentient creatures they support, or do they command respect on their own?
These are some of the questions we will explore in this course. Our focus will be on theoretical issues concerning the value of nature and its moral significance.