Elegant Arguments


  • PEGGIE L. FIEDLER Book Review Editor

Over the past two or three decades, while many biologists came to believe that they needed to work to protect nature, not just study it, many environmentally concerned philosophers decided that their discipline should contribute to understanding and solving environmental problems. Environmental ethicists have worked to develop strong ethical arguments for preserving biodiversity. They have also challenged the materialistic definitions of happiness and “the good life” at the base of much environmental degradation. In the process, environmental ethicists have reinvigorated academic philosophy, contributing some of the most interesting and widely read recent work in the discipline.

The following articles review some of the best work being done in environmental philosophy today. Much of it engages the details of specific environmental or management issues, as in the articles collected by Peter List on forestry ethics or Bryan Norton's intricate analyses of sustainability. In this way, environmental ethics remains practical and engaged. Still, in a sense, there is nothing more practical than a person's metaphysics: his or her overall picture of reality. This does a lot to determine our values and how we act in the world. So we have also reviewed one book, Holmes Rolston's Genes, Genesis, and God, which argues, in the grand philosophical tradition, for a sweeping metaphysics, combining science and spirituality in a comprehensive picture of a beautiful and valuable universe. Such efforts also contribute to bringing about our shared goal: a world that respects and safeguards the wild diversity of nature.