The value of relationships with other species

Christopher M Rice, Fordham University


Many humans seek out and find value in relationships of care for other species. In this dissertation, I defend these relationships as a basic objective element of human well-being. To begin, I defend an objective list theory of human well-being according to which a plurality of basic objective goods make life go well on account of their intrinsic features. Here, I critique subjective theories of well-being such as hedonism and desire-satisfaction theories. I also argue that objective list theories are superior to nature-fulfillment theories that identify human well-being with human flourishing. After this, I defend the relationships of care for other species as a basic element of well-being. I draw on humans' everyday judgments about relationships with pets and gardens and argue that the value of these relationships is irreducible to that of other recognized basic goods such as aesthetic experience, loving relationships, and achievement. I next analyze the nature of relationships of care for other species. I argue that these relationships involve five criteria: human knowledge, support, sympathy, and receptivity toward other species, as well as some responsive activity on the part of the living things or systems under human care. I also argue that humans can form valuable relationships of care for individual plants and animals as well as for entire species, populations, and ecosystems. Finally, I consider the reasons, duties, and virtues that these relationships ground. Here, I discuss our duties to respect and promote others' relationships with other species and the environmental virtues which these relationships involve. I argue that the prudential value of relationships with other species gives even those concerned only with human well-being some reason to show concern for other species. I also show that the value of these relationships can inform non-anthropocentric theories of environmental ethics and some contemporary forms of animal and environmental activism.

Subject Area

Ethics|Philosophy|Social psychology|Environmental Studies

Recommended Citation

Rice, Christopher M, "The value of relationships with other species" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3543390.