Protecting biodiversity and moral psychology; or why philosophers are asking the wrong questions

Authored by: Jay Odenbaugh

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138827738
eBook ISBN: 9781315530215
Adobe ISBN: 9781315530208


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In this essay, I contend philosophers have been asking the wrong questions about the value of biodiversity. By and large, they have concerned themselves with the intrinsic value of non-human organisms, species, ecosystems, and biodiversity more generally. First, I consider the most important argument, the ‘‘Argument from Teleology,’’ for claiming they have intrinsic value. I argue that it fails. Second, I argue that even if it succeeds, psychological studies suggest that claims of intrinsic value are comparatively poor motivators of pro-environmental behavior. Third, I claim that focusing on ecosystem services offers a better chance of protecting biodiversity.

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