Philosophy 252: Contemporary Moral Problems
3 December 2012
William Baxter’s Anthropocentric Justification Regarding Regulation of Pollution Introduction:
William Baxter addresses the issue of pollution, using a human-oriented method by which all value assigned to flora and fauna is dependent on each entity’s benefits to humans. In this essay I will briefly explain Baxter’s anthropocentric approach, attempt to show the flaws in Baxter’s arguments, examine his possible recourse after revisiting these points, and then conclude by restating my stance regarding the importance of flora and fauna and the immorality of environmental pollution. Pollution is immoral not only because we have a duty to preserve the environment, but because according to Baxter’s own argument it in humanity’s necessary interests. Overview of Baxter’s Anthropocentricity:
Baxter’s anthropocentric viewpoint hinges on four points: 1) Spheres of Freedom, 2) waste is a bad thing, 3) every human should be an end and not a means; and 4) both incentive and opportunity to improve a man’s satisfaction should be preserved (Timmons, 615). Spheres of freedom are such that a man can act as he desires as long as his actions do not interfere with the rights and intentions of another. He proposes waste is a bad thing because all resources are limited, and there is never enough of any one resource to appease the satisfaction of every human. Because his focus is that of humans solely, waste of any one entity that could limit human satisfaction is immoral. He also postulates the Kantian humanity formulation in that all humans have essential intrinsic value and should therefore be elevated above any other alternative as the end to any goal rather than the means to satisfy another. Lastly, he favors redistribution of wealth in that every man should be given at least opportunity to better his life and satisfaction by preservations of these incentive values. He qualifies these criteria for moral action outlined in six basic principles: 1) however selfish, this how people think, 2) this method does not lead to the destruction of all flora and fauna, 3) what is good for humans is good for penguins, 4) individuals may still favor flora and fauna over themselves but not over other humans, 5) animals and plant life do not vote or voice preferences and we are unfit to elective volunteer to do so 6) questions of ought are meaningless. For Baxter there is no moral methodology involved in human choices unless the choice involves the fate of another human. He proposes even that pollution is not wrong, unless more or less pollution would lead to less human satisfaction. Points of disagreement:
I agree with Baxter in that humans are more highly evolved animals and possess qualities unique to humans alone. Having self-awareness and the ability to conceive of an ordered system in which plants and animals are inferior, it follows that we as humans have an obligation, or the privilege rather, to decide the fate of such lower ordered creatures. We have the power to impact or even destroy those that are weaker. It is difficult for me to conceive of a world in which other animals and plants have no worth at all unless deemed vital or at least entertaining to humans. Animals and plants, fauna and flora, are essential however insignificant, in the larger picture. We depend on plants and animals for food and medicine, and tools, and they in turn depend on us to in a smaller capacity to tolerate these creatures and help maintain a suitable environment. It seems then, that plants and animals, including humans, all have worth based not solely on their usefulness to humans, but on the delicate balance of nature and that being’s usefulness to its biocentric complements. Baxter suggests that animals and plants have no intrinsic value for their own sake, but can he account for the value an animal or plant may have that is yet undiscovered? He claims...
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