Values beyond culture: A study in environmental axiology

Robert Lawrence Chapman, Fordham University


Western moral traditions are seriously lacking in the necessary attitudes and resources that will allow us to move beyond the paradigm of abusive materialism and the exclusive anthropocentric concerns that have bewitched and dominated Western thought. Classical utilitarianism, deontology (both Kantian & Rawlsian), and social contract theories are unable to supply the resources for the extended moral concerns of a viable environmental ethic, since they define the moral subject in isolation from the relevant sphere of social/environmental action. My thesis fits into a broader, more general concern that challenges moral philosophers to a systematic revisioning of our moral tradition: to look afresh at moral intuition, morally relevant characteristics, and moral language. My objective is to establish a post-materialist paradigm, founded on a non-reductive naturalism, enriched by aesthetic categories. I argue that nature (ecosystems & biotic/abiotic communities) possess nondetached intrinsic value because they superveniently expresses aesthetic excellence, and integrity; anything possessing these attributes demands moral consideration. Humans, as part of the natural world have duties to the world of nature, and to deny these duties is to seriously diminish human integrity. Human good, or well-being (flourishing) is much broader than otherwise thought; human good depends on the contingent circumstances of the environment. With human well-being so intimately bound to environmental well-being, it is clear the environment ceases to be merely a resource, but is transformed in a powerful source. A source of self-knowledge, inspiration (aesthetic), and as such a category of moral concern.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Chapman, Robert Lawrence, "Values beyond culture: A study in environmental axiology" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9313757.