Ethical Theory

Philosophical ethics is the examination of normative judgements. The text gives (1)dispute, (2)evaluation of current theories to obtain a metacognitive analysis, (3)functions and recommendations of theories, and (4)validity of theory as the “Four general considerations” that “make theory relevant to the study of environmental ethics.” (page 26)

I am going to take a more general philosophical approach in highlighting this principle rather than an environmentally specific approach, because I believe it will illustrate the accuracy of the principle more clearly.

Is there a way in which something, that seems contradictory to itself, can maintain an existence?

Analytical philosophy, as you might know, would say no. Analytic philosophy holds that propositions which are self-contradictory cannot be necessary propositions. For analytic philosophers, that would be as far as the journey takes them. This is very evident in a debate that Bertrand Russell had with F.C. Copleston over the cosmological argument.

Aristotle once wrote “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I propose that this is a necessary foundation upon which philosophers come to examine different ideas. Therefore, for any philosopher to take the position that a proposition ought not be considered because it is self-contradictory, seems to me contrary to the mindset necessary for any philosopher. So, to say one who is an analytic philosopher is a philosopher holds a contradictory notion that is troubling for me based on the foundations of analytic philosophy.

How does this relate to environmental ethics? Bertrand Russell was one of the greatest minds of our time. He even has a little biographical synopsis next to his picture when one Google’s his name. He was an analytic philosopher. Since his time (died 1970), we have discovered that there was very likely a beginning to the universe (contradictory to Russell’s belief) and that means that there must have been, if this is true, a necessary being (also contradictory to Russell’s belief as it assumes that something can exists in nothingness). In fact, the laws of nature are necessary to the creation of the universe and without them we would not exist, all according to science. This means that they existed at a time before existence and are therefore analytically contradictory, no matter how true.

Again, environmental ethics?? Well, it’s simple. As a race, we now know certain things that many in the past have not had access to. Moreover, the theories of the past have been proven false precisely because they were based on the assumption that the inconceivably unreasonable is impossible. This dogmatic way of thinking is what has caused us to be exactly in the position we are with relation to not only environmental ethical theory but any system of ethical theory.

If we look at the framework given by the text for ethical theories, we can see that we have both a dispute and invalid theory. To identify why the theory is invalid, we need to address the other two considerations to determine why the designers of said theory were thinking what they were thinking and how the ends that they had been previously established translated in to our current position of holding disputes with those ends as well as invalid theories. I believe this form of consideration is precisely what is needed to solidify modern environmental ethical theory.


DesJardins, Joseph R. Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.

“Leibnizian Cosmological Argument (Frederick Copleston vs Bertrand Russell).” YouTube. YouTube, 11 July 2012. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.

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