Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices

I recently read an essay that is relevant to the topic of this forum and of the Public Philosophy Network so I thought I'd post a link to it here. It is from the September 11, 1989, New Yorker and I apologize to those who do not have subscriptions to the New Yorker or have access to their web site because this link will probably not work for you. You will only be able to read the abstract.

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1989/09/11/1989_09_11_049_TNY_CARD...

I'm sure this is collected elsewhere but I haven't found free links to those sources yet.

Bill McKibben's very readable essay, "The End of Nature," discussses the potential impact of carbon emissions on global temperatures, which was just beginning to be recognized as a serious problem at the time the article was published. But as the title indicates, it really explores a more fundamental topic which could be considered "metaphysical," whether the impact of human activity on earth has fundamentally altered our relation to the planet and eliminated nature as it has been known up to now by human civilization.

This is a provocative assertion. Worth discussing before accepting. But since this is a seminal essay on the topic it is a valuable reference, and the question it raises can certainly be applied to questions regarding our relations with animals and our moral obligations to both animate and nonanimate nature.

How does it affect our views about our relationships to and treatment of nonhuman animals if we no longer see them as members of nature apart from the human realm? Is this as relevant to treatment of farm animals and agriculture as it is to "wild" animals, ocean "fisheries" and residents of wilderness areas? What aspects of nonhuman animals remain distinct and independent of the effect McKibben proposes and how does this affect our views of ourselves and of other animal species? Is there a philosophical view in which "nature" is seen as only a human construct and not even relevant to moral, policy or philosophical considerations?

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