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An overview of Environmental Ethics

  1. Resources
  2. Guide Questions
  3. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week's reading:

Environmental Ethics & Ethics Overviews:

This Week's Authors:

Paul Taylor:

Gary Varner:

Real TED Videos (



Guide Questions:

The following questions are designed to fine tune your understanding of the reading. The subject matter and answers to these questions form the basis of what you will be required to know for exams.

Objectives for this week: These are the learning objectives you should have mastered after attending the lectures and completing the questions below

  1. outline life centered theory and the ethical status of humans/animals
  2. explain the ethical premises behind the biocentric outlook on nature
  3. contextualize the role of sentience/reasoning and teleology in crafting an ethics respectful of animals
  4. summarize the tension between environmental ethics and animal rights
  5. describe the worse-off and miniride principles and their role in the animal rights debate
  6. think about the role of hunting in the quest for self preservation

The Ethics of Respect for Nature (Taylor)

Guide Questions:

  1. Briefly outline life centered theory and the ethical status of humans/animals.
  2. What are the three basic elements that constitute an ethics of respect for nature?
  3. List the four main components of the biocentric outlook on nature?
  4. Describe Taylor's idea that organisms are "teleological centers of life." Based on our discussions from the Palmer essay and this reading, what does it take to qualify as a teleological center of life?
  5. Explain why judgments of merit and morality are biased in favor of outcomes beneficial to humans.
  6. Taylor makes the claim that humans who live in modern democracies do not believe in hereditary social distinctions. Is this assumption accurate? Is there a schism between theory and practice? Do we live in a classless society?
  7. Explain why someone who accepts the first three tenants of the biocentric viewpoint is in a position to reject human superiority claims from tradition.

Can animal rights activists be environmentalists? (Varner)

Guide Questions:

  1. Summarize the tension between environmental ethics and animal rights. According to Varner can we live in both camps?
  2. Describe the difference between therapeutic, subsistence and sports hunting.
  3. What is Varner describing when he states that animal activists practice brinkmanship with regards to hunting issues?
  4. Describe the worse-off and miniride principles and their role in the animal rights debate.
  5. Is Schweitzer correct when he states" that even killing in self-preservation and incurs guilt?"(Varner, 109)


Smartboard Notes

Smartboard Notes from Week 4 Lecture:







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