Environmental Philosophy, Lecture four

Mediating biocentrism and anthropocentrism

According to Sterda, both anthropocentric ethics and non-anthropocentric ethics (in their most plausible versions) yield then same principles. Primarily, Sterda recognizes the principles of Human defence, Human preservation and Disproportionality.

Non-anthropocentric ethics

Non-anthropocentric ethics (such as biocentrism) allows for human preference. For non-anthropocentric ethics merely claims (among other things) that all species are equal. Sterda attempts to derive the aforementioned principles by extending human ethics to non-humans. In human ethics, while all humans are equal, we still permit preferences for specific humans. For instance, we permit the aggression against other humans if doing so would save our own lives. In this way, the principle of self-preservation can be extended to non-anthropocentric ethics.

However, many arguments can be brought against Sterda's point.

The principle of Human defence

Aggressions to defend oneself and other human beings are permitted even if they harm or kill plants or animals. This is (according to Sterda) consistent with the equality of species. This principle contains a principle of propositional force. Where killing is only permitted if the aggressor threatens to inflict (morally) significant harm.

The principle of Human preservation

Aggressions to meet one's basic needs are permissible even if they go against the basic needs of other animals.

The principle of Disproporionality

The pursuit of luxury needs is not permissible if this violates the basic needs of other beings.

These principles are also acceptable by anthropocentric philosophers. The first two are obviously acceptable (according to Sterda). However, the final principle (of disproportionality) needs to be argued for. According to Sterda, anthropocentrism claims that other species also have intrinsic value by virtue of claiming that humans are superior. Sterda further claims that an anthropocentric view might not permit aggressing against animals or plants, but instead permits failing to meet the needs of animals and plants. After all, non-human beings do not aid us (humans) and thus give us no reason to help them..