THE RATIONAL MORAL STATUS OF NON-HUMAN NATURAL PHENOMENON: AN ETHICS OF ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Social IssuesEnvironment

  • Author Victor Asu Bisong
  • Published September 24, 2022
  • Word count 1,726

ABSTRACT

The survival of the human being, which is known as a being of consciousness depends in the healthy interaction and interrelation of variety of living and non-living organisms, empirical and supra-empirical realities in the Universe. These interactions calls for a unified coexistence of these realities. Hence, in some degree, the human person feels he has no direct moral obligations to non-rational, non-human nature, only rational beings are worth of moral considerability as Kant affirms. This will be argued as an excessively anthropocentric, and excludes the non-human natural world from the sphere of moral considerability. Conceding to the fact that non- human nature is instrumentally valuable to some extent, to some inevitable existential, ontological consideration.

However, this work intends to maintain that moral obligations should be extended to the natural world in other to achieve an holistic environmental sustainability.

INTRODUCTION

Right from antiquity, the primitive man faced with the problem of survival at the face of the earth, invented tools for work with his high instinct for survival. He conquered nature and as such was preoccupied with how to be a master and control his dignity1. This was in the ancient era. Presently, ours is how humanity can totally remove drudgery and restore comfort even if it is at the expense of other living and even non-living entities.

Therefore, the focus of this work is to speak to the consciences of the conscious being on how he/she should relate and interact with the non-human phenomenon in other to promote and protect the cosmic environment.

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY THEORIES.

(Social Ecology and Bioregionalism)

This theory is postulated by Bookchin's version of critical theory which takes the outer physical world as constituting what he calls "first nature" is a social movement and the problems it controls are social problem. Bookchin suggested that humans can choose to put themselves at the service of natural evolution, to help maintain complexity and diversity, diminishing suffering and reduce pollution.

Bookchin's social ecology recommends that humans should use their gifts of sociability, communication and intelligence as if were "nature rendered conscious", instead of turning them against the very source and origin from which such gifts derive. Exploitation of nature should be replaced by a richer form of life devoted to nature's preservation.2

MUMFORD, adopted a regionalist perspective, he arguing that strong regional centers of culture are basis of active and securely grounded local life. Like the pessimist in critical theory, he was worried about the emergence under industrialised capitalism of a mega machine one that would oppress and dominate human creativity and one that despite being human product operates in a way that is out of our control. (LEWIS MUMFORD 1944: P403)

In his groundwork, Kant articulates the kind of imperatives that should characterize our moral actions. As human goes through internal moral conflicts between reason and desires, the propensity to ignore moral law and follow the dictates of our irrational passions may be quite appealing and forceful. For this reason, all moral laws confront us as imperatives. Our moral duties or obligations can be translated into the language of imperatives or commands.

Kant made a distinction between two kinds of imperatives: the hypothetical and categorical imperatives respectively.

Hypothetical imperative come to us in a conditional form such as "if you want to achieve goal X, you must perform act Y". Hypothetical imperative are neither absolute nor universal moral laws because they are necessarily based on some inclination, goal or desire. It represents the practical necessity of a possible action as means to something else that is willed 3.

On the other hand, categorical imperative are not conditional because nothing can justify disregarding of moral obligations: they rather obligate us absolutely or categorically. Categorical imperative is what Kant calls pure a priori foundation and it represents an action as objectively necessary in itself apart from it relation to a further end. 4

Hence, Kant present each human person qua rational as possessing intrinsic value and dignity which entails that no person must be exploited or manipulated or merely used as a means to accomplished an end. By implication only rational beings (human) are intrinsically valuable while others are valuable only in terms of their being instrumental to accomplishment of an end.

This argument sounds extremely anthropocentric, the theory anthropocentrism places man at the center of the universe and maintained that moral obligations are exclusively human-centered. Therefore, non-human world is only valued instrumentally, this critically has a destroying implications to the environmental growth of both human and non-human entities. However the rational world has a responsibility to play in maintaining the non-rational world, diminishing one aspect of the cosmos, over and against another is destructive to man's effort for a holistic understanding and maintaining of her environment.

The next sect would expand on the non-human world and the logic of instrumental and intrinsic value in a distinct analysis.

NON-HUMAN NATURAL WORLD AND THE VIEW OF INTRINSIC AND INSTRUMENTAL VALUE

Non-human natural world simply refers to every physical non-artificial, biotic and abiotic constituent of the universe excluding human beings. From this standpoint the natural world is that part of "nature" with which human being interact and influence such as lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. It is important to note that these earth systems comprise the environment and including the animate component of living natural systems and an animate non-human component. 5

From Kant's second formulation of the categorical imperative, he puts humans exclusively in the kingdom of Ends. This simply implies that non-human natural world or environment could be used as means to achieve some ends since it bears no intrinsic value.

For a better understanding there will be need to define what is value.

Value as a term, may be known also as worth, utility, desirable, or quality. From the origin of the word "Valere" it is equivalent to worth.

Hence , one can referred to a thing as having intrinsic value as absolute, ultimate, an end, it is what it is in itself, this contrasting to instrumental value which is extrinsic, it gains it worth for its contribution it offers that is "a means to an end"6.

However, as ratiocentrist attribute intrinsic value only to humans leaving the non-human natural world in the class of means. This paper argues that, it is not humans that ascribes value to nature. Some qualities we find in nature as; beauty, order, harmony are ends in themselves, which are not necessarily conferred by human reason and valuation. The non-anthropocentric, such as Naess argues that nature is intrinsically valuable. Naess went further to asserts: The well-being of non-human life on earth has value in itself. This value is independent of any instrumental usefulness for limited human purpose 7.

Naess argument reject the treatment of non-human natural entities merely as means to satisfy insatiable human wants. On the point of O'Neil, he defended the idea that non-human world has intrinsic worth in the strongest sense of the term. This is in the sense of value that exist independently of any valuation by rational being 8. Such value, he affirms confers no automatic moral obligations on human agents but that the defender of nature's intrinsic value still to show that such value offers in the welfare of human being 9. O'Neil position seems not completely free from anthropocentrism, since intrinsic value is referential to human welfare.

However, non-human natural world lacks rationality and cannot be objects of moral considerability, yet our inconsiderable actions could help nurture habits of cruelty to humans which would make an agent morally culpable.

RECOMMENDATION

Even though a change of attitude towards our care of the environment, individuals as well as groups should consider in other to sustained the well-being of humans in the universe. The atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere should be cared for as human beings are cared because it is paramount to affect the well-being of the rational being of no care is taken.

The authorities are expected to ensure the following:

(a) The government should implement measures to checkmate environmental pollution by factories, industries, power plants Vehicles and other polluters.

(b) To regulate deforestation and encourage afforestation meticulously.

(c) The government should ensure that construction companies that builds roads to provide adequate drainage facilities like gulters, Culverts, at appropriate places.

(d) The citizens should be enlightened on environmental protection and preservation.

(e) An economic that encourages recycling should be considered.

(f) Wildlife should be encourage in other that animals that are going into extinction can be preserved for future generation.

CONCLUSION

It is holistically agreed that health is wealth and one of the primary ways of realizing this is by protecting the living and non-living components of our environment.

The issue of environmental degradation as we have seen arose out of value centeredness on "man". Many had the misconception that it is actual duty of humans to do with environmental entities as he/she wishes. Presently, in many developed nations, animal's courts have been established alongside solicitors who stand on animals' behalf.

Therefore, the watchword for the realization of authentic environmental sustainability remains prudence in human relationship with other creatures. There should be mutual co-existence between the human persons and other creatures of the universe. It may sound paradoxical, if man in his mission of dominating the universe as the philosopher Protagoras will say "man is the measure of all things", burns downs the universe with his nuclear weapons, not knowing he is exposing his weakness by destroying himself and his future generation. Then rationality would become an history, it would live in nothingness both rational and non-rational will be experience in vacuum. That which you cannot create, should not be destroyed because it is part of your existence.

REFERENCES

  1. Onuoha J., Ethics and Human Society, (A Reflective Study) Owerri :Winet printing co., 2011, p171.

  2. Onuaha J., p181

  3. Kant Immanuel, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Moral, T.K. Abbott trans; London: Longman, 1962, p294

  4. Sullivan, Roger J. , An Introduction to Kant's Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge university press, 1994, p34

  5. Keller David, Environmental Ethics: The Big questions, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2010, p2

  6. Edward U. "Ratiocentrism and Moral status of Non-human natural world: A Reflection on Kant's categorical imperative" Maryland Studies: An international Journal of philosophy and Africa studies, Vol. 13, 2016, p117

  7. Naess, A. "A Defence of Deep Ecology movement", Environmental Ethics Vol. 6, 1984, p266

  8. Edward U, p120

  9. O'Neil J., "The Varieties of intrinsic value" Environmental Ethics: An Anthropology, Andrew Light & Holmes Rolston 111(eds), Malden: Blackwell publishing, 2003, p131

Victor Asu Bisong

Mobile No: 08132148163

Email: victorasubisong24@gmail.com

I hail from Oku-Bushuyu in Boki LGA of Cross River State, Nigeria.

I am a BA Holder in Philosophy.

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