Essay on Robert Elliot's Faking Nature

Essay on Robert Elliot's Faking Nature

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Robert Elliot's "Faking Nature"

ABSTRACT: Robert Elliot's "Faking Nature," (1) represents one of the strongest philosophical rejections of the ground of restoration ecology ever offered. Here, and in a succession of papers defending the original essay, Elliot argued that ecological restoration was akin to art forgery. Just as a copied art work could not reproduce the value of the original, restored nature could not reproduce the value of nature. I reject Elliot's art forgery analogy, and argue that his paper provides grounds for distinguishing between two forms of restoration that must be given separate normative consideration: (1) malicious restorations, those undertaken as a means of justifying harm to nature, and (2) benevolent restorations, or, those which are akin to art restorations and which cannot serve as justifications for the conditions which would warrant their engagement. This argument will require an investigation of Mark Sagoff's arguments concerning the normative status of art restorations.

"Faking Nature" begins with an identification of a particular kind of pernicious restoration—restoration that is used as a rationalization for the destruction of nature. On this claim, any harm done to nature by humans is ultimately repairable through restoration and therefore should be discounted. Elliot calls this view, the "restoration thesis." Elliot rejects the restoration thesis through an analogy between the relationship between original and replicated works of art and nature. Just as we would not value a replication of a work of art as much as we would value the original, we wouldn't value a replicated bit of nature as much as we would the original thing.

The force of the analogy is provided by an argument th...

... middle of paper ...

...ental Ethics, ed. Robert Elliot (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 76-88. Parenthetical page references to Elliot will be to this work. Also see Robert Elliot, "Extinction, Restoration, Naturalness," Environmental Ethics 26:2, Summer 1994; and "Ecology and the Ethics of Environmental Restoration," in Philosophy and the Natural Environment (Cambridge UP, 1996).

(2) Alastair Gunn attempts this kind of distinction between ecological restoration as analogous to art restoration, but he mistakenly thinks it is sufficient to rebut the entirety of Elliot's claims. See Gunn, "The Restoration of Species and Natural Environments," Environmental Ethics 13:4, Winter 1991, pp. 291-310.

(3) Mark Sagoff, " On Restoring and Reproducing Art," The Journal of Philosophy LXXV: 9, September 1978, pp. 453-470. Parenthetical page references to Sagoff will be to this work.

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