Monday, May 14, 2012

Ecological Humility

With some trepidation, I post a link to a draft of a paper I have been working on. [File updated 5.31.12).] Here's the abstract:
Humility is often invoked by environmental ethicists as the corrective to human arrogance and pride, but has only been afforded close attention by a handful of environmental philosophers. Here, I wish to consider what kind of an environmental virtue humility can be. Rather than presuppose that humility requires particular axiological commitments, I will attempt to elucidate conceptually why we might expect the cultivation of humility to increase environmental consciousness, to underwrite to ecologically responsible action and change, and to promote an appreciation of value in nature that transcends instrumental and human-centered concerns. In the penultimate section, I consider at some length Paul Weiss’ notion of “adventurous humility,” in order to come to terms with the tension between a humbled attitude toward the natural world and the need to use, and sometimes struggle against, nature. I conclude by suggesting that humility answers a “paradox” that Rolston poses for environmental virtue ethics.
As I say in the paper, I have tried to avoid sentimentality (including the sort of worry Tommi mentions here). Any thoughts about the extent to which I have succeeded or failed would be appreciated.

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