Pluralistic casuistry, animals, and the environment
Weir, Jack L.
Doctor of Philosophy
This thesis analyzes, modifies, and defends Baruch A. Brody's theory of pluralistic casuistry as the best contemporary theory of animal and environmental ethics. In the course of reviewing lots of theories of animal and environmental ethics, two problems emerge: "inclusiveness" and "derivability." Unlike the other theories, pluralistic casuistry resolves the two problems. The argument begins by analyzing several cases that give evidence (intuitive case data) that moral theories should include in appropriate ways nonhuman animals, plants, and inorganic things. Next, important recent theories of three types are critically analyzed: (1) utilitarian theories (John Passmore, Peter Singer, and intrinsic-value utilitarianism); (2) deontological theories (Paul Taylor's theory of respect for life, sentience deontology, Tom Regan's theory of animal rights, and Holmes Rolston's theory of duties based on intrinsic-value), and (3) virtue theories (Stephen R. L. Clark, J. Baird Callicott, and Thomas E. Hill, Jr.). These theories fail in two ways: (a) they include too little or too much, or both (the "inclusiveness" problem); and (b) they fallaciously attempt to derive duties directly from values (the "derivability" problem). When emended as proposed in the thesis, Brody's theory of pluralistic casuistry resolves the inclusiveness and derivability problems. First, inclusiveness of nonhuman animals, plants, and inorganic things is achieved by casuistry's five major moral appeals (consequences, rights, respect, virtues, and justice). As argued by W. D. Ross (1930) and Brody (1979, 1988, 1998), pluralism is necessary because no single principle or monistic standard coherently encompasses all of the legitimate moral cases and principles. Pluralistic casuistry resolves the derivability problem by making explicit the empirical aspects of the case and by invoking one or more of the five major appeals. Ethics begins and ends with a case: the case's moral problem, and the moral decision resolving the problem. When more than one appeal applies, a conflict results. Conflicts are resolved by a holistic moral judgment. In contrast to other theories, pluralistic casuistry explains conflicts and gives detailed guidance for resolving conflicts.
Ecology; Philosophy; Environmental science; Biology