Religion and Ethics, Who knew.

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Western Christian and Eastern Buddhist Ecological Spirituality and Environmental Ethics… what a weird mix. Some people would love to extend personhood to animals, and some already do this. Think about it, how often do you talk to your animal in the second person? If I may so myself, it must happen pretty often. I know I do it multiple times per day. Yet, there are religions out there that blog 28.2believe God created us as the authoritative figure on Earth, therefore we are above animals. They do not see God’s creations extending beyond humans, thus animals, etc. do not have souls. What I want to know is where did this thought come from? Lynn White and Andrew Linery provide an answer.

White’s “main area of research and inquiry was the role of technological invention in the Middle Ages” (Wikipedia). He believed the Middle Ages was the time which can be defined as the “genesis of Western technological supremacy,” founding the basis of all technological inventiveness (Wikipedia). Wanting to figure out why the scientific community thinks in a certain way, White seeks to understand how the relationship between science and technology began.

All significant science is western, dating back to the 17th century. White thinks the relationship between science and technology is recent, science was a form of contemplation: what brough them together was this dominion view in Christianity. This view can be used to subdue the Earth and create mastery. This mastery comes from this ideology that only man was created by God, and man only. Which explains why the church replaced pagan animism with cults of saints, because man had an effective monopoly of spirits. Hence, man does not need to answer to any natural spirits, just its monopoly of spirits. Therefore, God did not create nature, but we were created to have dominion over it.

Linzey takes a similar point of view, but takes a viewpoint from christianity, and its thinking. Christians have lost their identities, because most have a strong hatred for animals. In fact, in christian theology animals are used as satelites for Satan. Satan is viewed as an evil creature, so if animals are depicted as satelites of Satan then they must be evil, as well. For centuries, animals have been made to look evil. Depicting them in dimly light, dark, and evil situations give animals horrific denotations.

However, there is some hope in christianity. St. Francis of Assisi believe in the virtue of humility. Not only for individuals but man as a specie. He tries to despose man and his monarchy over animals. This dominion should not exist, have christians forgot their past, their story? They need to rethink their story, go back and see these untapped, marginalized stories of a world filled with animals and humans together, in harmony.

As a fellow catholic, similar to a christian (different sector) I do not believe animals are evil, but I will say that they are depicted as evil creatures, which is clearly ironic due to how inhumanely they are treated as of late, but I can see that once upon a time they were equal to us humans. Humans are an evil specie. I mean, look at the destruction we have caused amongst the ecosystems of this world, none of them look the same, and none of them will ever look the same. In my opinion, our world would do a whole lot better if religion did not exist. I guess people need something to hope for, to pray for; but why cannot people pray/hope for our world. This world is hanging on by a thread (not trying to sound cliche here but it is true). We focus on continually improving our technology, but what about the science which daily portrays the implications of our own doings?

I love the assessments done by White and Linzey, it helps one better understand the origin of this concept of us being higher up on the ladder in comparison to animals. Fortunately, that is not true. We are all equal. Now lets get that into all our dang minds. COME ON PEOPLE. blog 28.1

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Biocentric Environmental Ethics, What is it?

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What is Biocentric Environmental Ethcis? Breaking it down, Biocentrism is the theory that all living things have equal and inherent worth, relating to the concept “deep ecology.” Take, for instance Matthew Hall, he believes plants are sentient beings. Hall argues that plants should be considered sentient beings, just like Paul Taylor.

Taylor is a philosophy professor at Brooklyn College, and he wrote on biocentric egalitarianism in his book Respect for Nature (1986). Stating that all things, including plants, have equal and inherent worth, Taylor wrote 10 lessons for respecting nature. First, humans centered and life centered systems of environmental ethics, second, the good of a being and the concept of inherent worth, third, the attitude of respect for nature, fourth, the justifiabiliy of the attitude of respect for nature, fifth, the biocentric outlook on nature, sixth, humans as members of the Earth’s community of life, seventh, the natural world as an organic system, eighth, individual organisms as teleological centers of life, ninth, denial of human superiority, and tenth, moral rights and the matter of competing claims. These are the ten sets of advice Taylor gives, he believes that non-humans have an inherent value just as humans do. Therefore, humans have five priority principles which help deal with the conflicts between non-human animals and humans, and each other’s values. The five principles are: self defense, proportionality, minimum wrong, distributive justice, and finally restitutive 27.1

However, if any situation is too complicated to use one of the five presented principles then on should use ethical ideals. The overall aim is to live in harmony with all non-humans on Earth, and therefore any decision should keep that idea in mind. However, don’t we as humans have the right to fulfill our own interests? Yet, if our interests intertwine with what is best with non-human animals what do we do then? Most humans believe that it is the non-basic interests which are worth seeking out, but because some of our non-basic interests are not compatible with respect to nature’s interests. An example includes hunting for sport, and in this case, it does not infringe on human rights; it does not harm other humans.

But, if we apply environmental ethics, then these actions seem wrong because that would be saying that basic interests of non-human animals are not on par with the non-basic needs of humans. Thus, no one with respect for nature, including Taylor, would agree to non-basic interests which harm the interests of non-human animals. Then can we say that the pursuit for development has not only harmed us but the non-basic interests of non-human organisms as well?

Using Taylor’s five principles, one sees that basic interests should always be given priority regardless of species. Therefore, we should be more aware of our surroundings, and how our non-basic needs affect other species which surround us. Take, for example a zoo, it is a place for education and awareness; yet it harms the interests of non-human animals. Animals are not meant to be caged. Although it is beneficial for human kind, animals do not thrive in these “exhibits.” In fact, these exhibits limit cognitive growth, reduce a species interactions with other species, and reduces its environment down to the very basics; but how are they supposed to grow, figuratively and literally. We should think about what is best for the animals, as well as ourselves. Are there alternative programs than zoos? Maybe zoos with larger, life-like exhibits which allow the animals space, as well as interactions amongst species its would normally interact with in nature.

That is my belief. Animals, plants and humans live together on this big rock. Lets live cohesively  amongst each other, keeping each others basic and non-basic interests in mind.

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Sentient? Huh, Come Again….

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Does criterion of moral standing, the idea of being “sentien,” not reason, extend to animals? Well, not most animals, but non-human animals that are able to enter social relationships or have the ability to conciously feel pain, pleasure, and have constant awareness of their surroundings are sentient beings. Which means certain non-human animals are not going to be qualified to fit this criteria, unfortunately.

Who is state that our well being is worth more than the well being of an elephant or a dog? Lets discuss an idea, Moral Egalitarianism –not hierarchism, states that we cannot rank human lives over other non-human lives. This become relevant in blog 25.1times of trade-off situations, like when you are willing to kill an animal, or human, over the other. Therefore, neither a human’s life or an elephants life takes precendence. We are all equal.

However, abolitionists have some policies and rules dealing with this equality. If you want to eat animals, that is fine, but it has to be done humanely. Which means you cannot slaughter an animal inhumanely; by reducing your consumption of wrongly slaughtered animals the number of them slaughtered inhumanely will be lessened. This can also be done by reducing one’s consumption of meat products. Refining what meat you at to only farm-raised, humanely killed meat.

One organization which follows these guidelines is PETA, and it stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It is an organization or political wing of the animal ethical movement, and holds a strong opinion abou the animal rights movement. Besides PETA, there are two other animal rights activists whose main goals are obtaining animal rights, albeit in two different ways. Peter Singer and Tom Regan take their beliefs from either Mill or Kant.

Peter Singer is a controversial guy. He uses the utilitarian framework of betham and mill. Believing that sentients is a traditional concept used in animal behavior or philosophy: means some kind of conciousness, and on some level an awareness of the blog 25.2environment. Singer states that if a non-human animal would be able to follow his framework of utilitarianism then it should lead to moral extensionism. Principles of utilitarianism should apply to all non-human animals. Whereas Tom Regan bases is beliefs on Kantian structures. Therefore, we all have an innate duty to respect others and the alienable rights of others.

However, are all animals really sentient? Well, in a sense… maybe not. Because it is scientifically unclear whether or not lower animals are sentient enough or how much sentience they have, if they have it. Yet there is some slight primative awareness within animals. But what they do on a daily basis does not mean they are aware of what is going on; deep down their primative instincts are based on primative awareness of their surroundings.

Can extensionism really cover animal sentience? Are animals really capable of receiving full moral worth? I believe they are. I mean some animals, like fish, might seem like a stretch but every animal has an extensive network of nerves, and perception of their environment to which give them the right to receive full moral membership. Which means that millions of species across the globe should receive full sentience membership. In essence, I agree with Singer, but more so with Regan. Regan believes that we all have this duty to fulfill which tells us to extend respect and alienable rights to other species, besides us.

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Toxic Display of Environmental Ethics

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Many skeptics of today believe that God created our great Earth for us humans, or that is how my father sees it. Seeing how is view point is skewed, I would take that with a grain of salt. Meaning, that is one opinion, of one man, lost amongst thousands of other opinions formed by humans daily. Human beings were created equal to every other specie we share this beloved planet with. So why do we treat animals, and other species so poorly? Because we are not the planet’s rulers, we are not the justifiers. We are all coinhabitants of planet Earth.

Society needs to see how we all have this innate connection with nature, we need it, it needs us, and we need each other. Unfortunately many people do not view the world this way, in fact the people who do, utilitarians, are usually criticized for focusing on the amount of happiness and ignoring fair distribution. Because most people do not believe in fair distribution of environmental burdens, countries are unequally subjected to environmental effects. Most countries affected are located in Africa, a continent which accepts toxic wastes for a cost.

Economics is the basis for how we decide to dispose of waste, like toxins. It is what is most economically efficient. Trading with countries, like ones in Africa, for space to dump our toxins in turn for various purchases, and materials. Yet, shouldn’t we respectblog 21.1 each others fundamental well being, which is living in a clean and healthy environment? Then, reapplying the equality of living to all creatures and organisms on the planet, Earth, is a must. Starting in our own backyard.

45% of Bronx residents live below the poverty line, those residents consists mostly of African Americans and Latinos. Tragically, most other people are against fixing situations that do not affect them personally, Fordham residents do not usually think twice about the surrounding community. Think about it, how often does a student hide their Iphone or Macbook from the streets of the Bronx. Never do they think about the community, and all the problems that the area has come across over time. Tons of areas here in America are veiled with ignorance, not realizing that there is an extreme difference amongst economic classes, races, nationalities, genders, and generations. Ignorance is a disease. A disease which consumes all of us, none of us think twice about other communities and situations which don’t affect us. This mentality, a theory of justice – veil of ignorance portrayed by John Rawls, needs to change and fast.

Just like Adam and Eve we do not know our place in society or the world. We need to bring environmental justice to the world, because it is the fair treatment of all. It brings meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to its development and implementation. The major benefits of implementing this idea is it allows a cleaner environment for all, with millions gaining access to cleaner environmental areas. Take someone like Peter Wenz, he believes people should receive an equal amount of environmental burden; therefore, those who consumer the most shall be burdened the blog 21.3most. Leading to less consumption of products, and materials, which results in less pollution emitted. If we are going to pollute, then we should suffer the consequences. We need a clean, pollutant-free environments. Without a sufficient amount of green space our world will be destroyed, and if we continue disposing harmful substances into the environment, like with the Love Canal incident, we will destroy ourselves.

There are a plethora of waves being made in the field of environmental ethics: Robert Bullard was able to push the movement forward with animated words about out future environment, Charles Lee’s 1987 study of toxic waste dumps and its correlation with race, and finally the fourteenth amendment created further equality amongst races involving the environment. I believe that these people, these solutions will pave a great future for not only our country but our world. Our world deserves a renewal. Without it will suffocate and die or possibly try restoring itself, who knows. Continuing this righteous path will permit our world and ourselves to regain the strenght we once had.

Categories: Environmental Ethics, Environmental Policy, Environmentalism, Ethical Egoism, ethics, human beings and the environment, Life, policy issues | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Consumption: The Mindless Dummy Edition

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Should citizenship, value and politics be able to override the free market? Well, maybe. Today’s global society is exactly that: global. Nothing can be said differently because our world is filled with consumer wants and needs, skewed by an unnatural consumer market, like I will state in the next blog. However, our global environment helps us to understand the crisis of environmental degradation that is at hand. First off what steps shall we take?

Well, changing our consumer culture would be the first I would change. It is impossible to move five feet without seeing someone with a shopping bag, or hearing an advertisement for some new, and “improved” product. America, as well as the world, has gone mad. Unfortunately I will say that I have delved deep into the consumer culture, and it is something I regret; however, it is something that helps the world’s economy move round.  So what should we, including myself, consider ourselves? Are we citizens or are we consumers of this vast culture? Well, lets comprehend what exactly is a moral citizen versus what is a model consumer,

"the perfect customers"

“the perfect customers”

then we can decide from there. The model consumer is the perfect egoist. Looking at the “Economic Man,” one can see this idea further explained. First, one must see the world through the “mind’s I,” and its want for satisfaction. Second, one’s values are interpreted as prices and the willingness to pay, thus moral values (i.e. virtues and justice) “are factored out.” Thus, anyone with a product to sell can sell the item/service in any shape or form as long as one can get away with it. If you have a little trouble getting away with selling the item one can us what is called, “junk science.” Junk Science is a false study, or science, which helps to persuade people to see value in a product when there is absolutely none. Personally, I can tell when there is real science being used for a product and when they are trying to outsmart people and use junk science, and I laugh. I will never be fooled, hopefully.

Then there is the moral citizen. He or she is a person who takes “the moral point of view,” by seeing themselves as an equal member of society. Recognizing his or her own duty, but also the duty of others as well. This viewpoint allows the moral citizen to see the moral goodness, or excellence, in everyone. Therefore, these moral values remain independent of economic values. In turn, the moral citizen is unmoved by the devious sales-men of the model consumer, and instead, following the clearer more coherent sides of all arguments.

blog 19.2The overall citizen, however is really a combination of the two, the model consumer and the moral citizen. We all have this skewed sense of the model consumers wants, versus the moral citizens needs. Basically, everyone is a mixture of the two, however each individual will vary. Although, more and more Americans are becoming like the model consumer instead of becoming more like the moral citizen.

Today’s world is getting smaller due to technology. The model consumer is what all this fortune 500 companies want us to be, they do not want us to care about the environment or second guess or choices, they just want us to make a purchase. Unfortunately I fallen victim to their skewed ways. However, I think the only way out of this is to realize we do not need to get so many different things, and we should move back to nature. Nature is where we grew up, it is where children have fun and one can discover the amazing world we live in. We need to get back to that time.


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Ethics of the Environment Continued

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Politics are messy, heck, we should have listened to George Washington when he said we should not allow parties in our system, but what are you going to do?! Unfortunately, we face varieties of issues dealing with the environment and coming up with a single plan will be messy, difficult and bloody. No one will get their way 100%, compromise is the game that must be played.

Different agencies have been working feverishly over past decade to help legislation get past here in the United States, even around the world. Take the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which checked out the consequences of change amongst ecosystems and watersheds upon human well-being. Working with experts, their findings proved scientifically we need to conserve our ecosystems, and its services they provide. Ecosystem services are benefits provide to us for free, mainly purification or water, air, soil, and helps to weed out dying species. Giving up something was the key because need to improve our ecosystems, restoring would be better actually. Enhancing our decisions planned will allow countries to obtain the pros and cons of a certain project, and whether its repercussions are worth the destruction.

There are four ways to evaluate our ecosystems and its good and services, ecologically, economically, socioculturally and intrinsically. All these values help us obtain information about our ecosystems and their goods and services. Ecological value is based on a system of natural sciences; ecosystems have value because they maintain diverse life here on earth. Providing material/immaterial important for sustaining life on our planet. Economical values quantify nature, because knowing how to treat nature will ease our pain when pricing it. We want to measure everything in monetary terms, therefore we measure all economic values of ecosystems monetarily. Thus, helping access the impact of each decision, economically. Then, socio-culture values combines the idea of anthropocentric values and non-anthropocentric values. We value ecosystems outside of the services they provide directly to us, they matter to our surroundings, religion, national and personal ethical values and spiritual values. Therefore, the decision of what to do with an ecosystem should be done in an open forum type deal. Finally, intrinsic value tries to show how we can place moral values upon non-humans, as well as non-living species. Everything deserves a chance especially species which cannot speak for themselves.

It is important to think this over, everyone has a different opinion on these types of situations and we are certainly not going to appeal to everyone’s ideal solution, but we can compromise. Different people view ecosystems differently, take the indians they worship animals, almost like deities. Differing cultures apply their beliefs to their ecosystems differently than others, so coming to a conclusion is cumbersome. Reevaluating our needs and wants will help us become more in sync of what too do, but before that our world will continue suffer.

Categories: Egoism, Environmental Ethics, Environmental Policy, Environmentalism, Ethical Egoism, Ethical Reasoning, ethics, human beings and the environment, Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Ethics of the Environment

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Like I said earlier, there is a lot about ethics which can be seen in the environment, namely the lack of proper diffusion of climate change and its effects amongst population of the globe. It seems to be that poorer people receive the butt-end of the effects of climate change, and no one really cares, unfortunately. Maybe we should dive deeper into environmental ethics, its method and the structure of ethical reasoning.  By applying traditional ethical theories to the environment, and its problems, its policy issues, maybe we will better understand them.

First Aristotle’s practical syllogism, which is based upon two different premises. The first premise is this idea of general normative or ethics. Which leads to this idea of particular factual premise which includes  this idea of the natural and social science. Then you have the conclusion of whatever has been specified in the premise two. There are all sorts of definitions of  ethics, like how it is the basic goods essential to the well-being and happiness of a person or the idea of its basic societal “values.” Maybe one could refer to it as our moral duties and obligation as human beings who are indeed alive.

Thus, people will do the right thing when give the chance, but when one person preaches at them, like many environmentalists do, the likelihood of them doing the right thing is much slimmer. Slimming down their chances because a person is less likely to understand the ethical issues at hand, I know I do not like to be preached what to believe. This idea of ethical egoism comes to mind, because people are selfish and do not care about the environment and its problems unless it affects themselves somehow. We could change this perception through economics and showing people that one opinion is not better than another’s opinion but who knows how well that will work.

There is the three step method for analyzing ethical reasoning: first, figure out what the author or theory is saying. Within this step there are two steps, diagram the author’s or theory’s ethical or values reason explaining the various levels of reasoning within (breaking something down into its parts like a car, down into its parts, and think of it backwards). Finally, there are characteristics or standards which the theory in question thinks beings have to meet if we are to acknowledge his or her “moral standing.” We all have duties owed to a member of the moral community with moral standing and we must fulfill them; but also, there are indirect duties.Indirect duties result from the duties we owe to moral agents which do not affect you unless it is within a moral community.

Thus, should animals have moral rights/duties? The question is hard because some would say yes, while others would obviously say no. The idea of speciesism was created by critics to extend moral rights to species/animals, but can they be expended to animals? Personally, as an animal lover, I believe animals have souls and are fully capable of maintaining their duties; thus we should extend duties to animals. Yes, humans are egoists. Fulfilling their own dreams is much more important than caring for the moral of other humans, let alone animals.

I believe that ethical reasoning can be attached to animals, just like with humans. There are plenty of examples of animals sticking it out for humans, their best friends. Considering a dog in Japan sat by an owner’s grave for weeks after the Tsunami must mean something, or when a dog from the Tsunami, a recent orphan, suffered from post traumatic stress disorder… I am not out of my mind, animals feel, and have moral and we should respect them.

Here are some bullet points to go along with this debate:

(I.E. the arguments made)

1) Egoism:

  • psychological egoism:
    • human acts are motivated by self-interest
    • obj: reject if altruistic acts occur

2) ethical egoism:

  • human acts ought to maximize self-interest
  • obj: no value can be placed on anyone’s else’s well-being unless it is for the benefit of the self.

3) Social Darwinism:

  • survival of the fittest
  • obj: fitness is context relative
  • obj: even if “fitness” determines survival, it does not follow that we ought to act in any particular way .
    • all free market competition and survival of the fittest
    • no sense that people have a right to food/health care.. like Romney with the 47%
    • we only look after ourselves: meaning they take this stance on other living things
    • we have a natural tendency to feel for one and another
    • the idea of biophilia = an attraction to other human beings

4) divine command:

  • god’s commands determine whether an act is good or not.
  • obj: can humans determine what god commands
  • obj: is an act good because god commands it or does god command it because it is good?
  • rights theory:
    • humans have moral and legal rights which can entail certain duties
    • hobbes and locke; humans have rights in “state of nature”
    • obj: rights of non-human
    • obj: giving exceptions to rights leads to utilitarianists

5) utilitarianism:

  • only state that is good for its own sake is that of happiness/pleasure
  • one ought to act in a way that maximizes total good
  • obj: summing harms can lead to harm of individuals for greater good
  • obj: motivation of acts have no bearing on moral goodness
    • ethical level: consider motivations when considering something is good or not
    • 19th century economists were utilitarianists

6) natural law:

  • what is good is a function of the way things are
  • good comes from realization of natural tendencies
  • obj: what are natural tendencies and how can they be distinguished from social constructs
  • obj: consequences are unrelated to what is right?
    • ex:) birth control

7) Kant:

  • things that are used as morals so be able to applied universally.
    • think what if everyone else did this?
Categories: climate change, Egoism, Environmental Ethics, Environmental Policy, Environmentalism, ethics, Life, Priorities | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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