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Anthropocentrism Essay

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David Meyers
Environmental ethics
Essay 2
Mark Davies
October 23, 2017

Anthropocentrism is the school of thought that human beings are the single most significant entity in the universe. As a result, the philosophies of those with this belief reflect the prioritization of human objectives over the well-being of one’s environment. However, this is not to say that anthropocentric views neglect to recognize the importance of preserving the Earth. In fact, it is often in the best interests of humans to make concerted efforts towards sustaining the environment. Even from a purely anthropocentric point of view, there are three main reasons why mankind has a moral duty to protect the natural world. The first of which is also the oldest in origin.
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Thomas Aquinas for example, used this view to rebuke the criticisms of anthropocentrism, “We refute the error of those who claim that it is a sin for a man to kill brute animals. For animals are ordered to man’s use in the natural course of things, according to divine providence. Consequently, man uses them without any injustice, either by killing them or employing them in any other way” (Desjardins, 99). Not only has Aquinas claimed that animals are subject to man as a “natural course”, but also that anyway in which they are used is justified because of this. Aristotle takes this idea one step further, and claims that the sole basis for plants and animals’ existence is to serve humans. He later goes on to say that if nature makes nothing without purpose, then nature has made everything specifically for the sake of humankind. Both Aristotle and Aquinas based these beliefs upon the idea that only human beings are worthy of moral standing. This is due to the belief that humans alone have a “soul” capable of thinking and choosing. Since they thought animals not to have such a soul, animals must be morally irrelevant (Desjardins, 99). In this first example, the basis for environmental responsibility comes entirely from the belief that said the environment is meant to serve humans. Meaning that any obligations man has towards nature is entirely…show more content…
Though Blackstone created these thoughts well over 200 years ago, they are more relevant now than ever before. He reasoned that “changing environmental conditions” require us to restrict traditional freedoms and property rights in the name of public welfare and equality (Desjardins, 104). Due to dwindling natural resources and rising concerns of pollution, those previous rights and freedoms can no longer exist if the welfare of posterity is to be protected. To say that millions of unborn humans have a right to anything, even before existing in our world, is an odd concept. However, this sentiment conveys perhaps the single most compelling argument for why an anthropocentric approach to environmental ethics is in fact, the most justified. It is the instinct of all living beings to prioritize oneself and ensure a future for those to come (Acari, 2017). Though this justification for protecting the natural world might seem selfish or short-sighted, it is in fact, the nature of all life to preserve self-interests. In response to the counterclaim that plants and animals should be regarded with natural rights like humans, Blackstone would rebut that these beings are incapable of “free and rational thought” (Desjardins, 103). This is most likely in part due to his purely anthropocentric perspective that human life alone is worth consideration. Thus,
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