Environmental Ethics and Ontologies: Humanist or Posthumanist?
The Case for Constrained Pluralism
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This paper will evaluate a range of humanist and posthumanist ethical positions as useful bases for environmental education. It will conclude that a range of such positions can be seen as embracing respect for non-human nature. Therefore, environmental education can effectively embrace ethical pluralism to some extent. Embracing a degree of pluralism potentially makes it easier for teachers and students with a wide range of preconceptions to become more pro-environmental, while highly committed and exclusive approaches can prove divisive. However, some humanist and posthumanist positions are grounded in dismissive or reductive attitudes to non-human nature. In summary, there is not one suitable ethical basis for environmental education in the humanist and non-humanist traditions, but several. However, key to the effectiveness of any of these is full acceptance that human and non-human flourishing are integrally related, and that non-human nature must therefore be both respected (that is, both admired and cared for), and not merely when this meets short term instrumental human goals.
Andrew Stables is Emeritus Professor in Philosophy and Education at the University of Roehampton, London.