MANCEPT Workshop 2023 - Consequentialism and Environmental Ethics
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Despite the increasing attention given to environmental ethics in recent years, environmental problems continue to grow in both scale and diversity. Therefore, the need to investigate how we should morally respond to these problems is stronger than ever, and consequentialist thinkers continue to make important contributions to the field. By focusing directly on the consequences of our actions, consequentialists have the advantages of employing a clear methodology; of prioritizing effective environmentalist action; and of providing concrete action-guidance which translates well to the public policy context. Yet consequentialists also face numerous challenges and have received considerable opposition within environmental ethics. This workshop aims to investigate the ability of consequentialist frameworks to deal with environmental issues and to showcase the novel analyses which they provide. It will consist in two parts: the first at the level of moral theory, and the second at the level of applied ethics.
In the first part participants will be invited to question whether consequentialist frameworks are able to appropriately value non-human nature and the environment. A key question here is whether a consequentialist ethic can really be an environmental ethics in the strong sense, that is, a theory which gives intrinsic value to the environment – non-human individuals (including non-sentient living beings such as plants or fungi), ecosystems, species, etc. – and whether it is, in the first place, desirable that it can. The most prominent consequentialist theory – utilitarianism – is well known to be monistic and to give intrinsic value only to valenced experiences or the satisfaction of interests. Can such theories do justice to all environmental issues? Or must consequentialist theories be broadened so as to value individuals intrinsically (even those that may lack conscious experience) or even environmental wholes?
The second part of the workshop will explore how consequentialist theory can help to answer questions in applied environmental ethics. Particularly pressing problems which consequentialist arguments have contributed to include climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and environmental degradation, and the suffering of wild animals. However, consequentialist theories also face challenges in this context, such as the problems of over-demandingness, epistemic uncertainty, and inconsequentialism. Should individual and collective agents always seek to maximize environment-related values? How should consequentialist theories deal with uncertainty regarding the outcomes of environment-oriented actions? And how should they deal with the fact that some unilateral pro-environmental actions may themselves be inconsequential – because of causal inefficacy, overdetermination, or indeterminacy?
The workshop aims to gather scholars interested in consequentialism in the environmental context, both at the level of moral theory and in dealing with applied problems. It will take on a hybrid format, allowing both for in-person networking and to include speakers from different countries and continents.
May 31, 2023, 11:00pm BST