TRAMES 2, 2, 1998

Peep Aarne Vesilind. In search of the environmental ethic

Duke University


Environmental ethics has, since Aldo Leopold first suggested the concept, been struggling with the central idea of why should we people, all things considered, have moral responsibility toward the environment. Except for narrow concerns such as the effect of environmental destruction on human welfare and perhaps the suffering of sentient creatures, the application of classical ethical theory to environmental ethics has not been successful. In search of the comprehensive ethic, many environmental ethicists have reverted to the principles first laid down by Aldo Leopold. In this paper I respond to one such attempt to use the writings of Aldo Leopold for developing an environmental ethic and show that this attempt results in failure. In the absence of such support, we are left with no rational basis for environmental ethics, creating a crisis that may eventually result in the re-definition of the field.

Key words: ethics, environment

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