Two rationalist-deontological approaches in environmental ethics: A critical comparison of Rolston and Taylor

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Sheppard, Aryne Lynne

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University of Guelph


This thesis is an investigation of the rationalist-deontological approach in environmental ethics that relies on the concept of intrinsic value. It critically compares the environmental ethics of Holmes Rolston III and Paul Taylor, finding that both share fundamental assumptions which render them untenable. Rolston and Taylor both argue that intrinsic value is objectively present in the environment and that humans have a responsibility to protect such value. Each theory is criticized in three general ways. The first criticism deals with the method of value ascription and the move from values to moral duties found in both Rolston's and Taylor's ethics. The second highlights the seemingly contradictory usage of human teleology in determining moral considerability. The last criticism indicates where both ethics are inconsistent. The conclusion of this thesis is that the rationalist-deontological approach in environmental ethics, as exemplified by Rolston and Taylor, must be rejected.



environmental ethics, Holmes Rolston, Paul Taylor, rationalist-deontological approaches, intrinsic value