|By Kaitlyn Orr
From the Author: "Ethical Sustainability" is a culmination of sustained thought regarding environmental ethics and contemporary philosophy. Taking simultaneous classes in both, I found the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze to intertwine with ideas of Aldo Leopold and deep ecology. I pursued these thinkers in an attempt to make sense of the roots of environmental ethics. Earth is changing rapidly, the effects unknown and frightening and it is essential to understand our own intentions as deeply as possible, for it is our intentions that often shape our philosophies and actions. What I have written here does not only reshape our concept of environmental ethics itself, but may begin to reshape our concepts in other areas of philosophical thought, such as feminism.
From the Faculty Nominator: Kaitlyn wrote this essay for my Contemporary Philosophy course which looks at trends in European philosophy in the years following the tumultuous events of 1968. Her paper focuses on the work of Gilles Deleuze, a notoriously difficult thinker, and relates his ideas to environmental concerns. She argues that the traditional distinction between the natural and the unnatural is irrelevant to environmental ethics--because the products of human industry, she argues, are as natural as plants and animals. Whether we are talking about non-human eco-systems or thoroughly urban environments, the question we must constantly return to is whether or not the system is sustainable. To flesh out this thesis, Kaitlyn turns to both Aldo Leopold’s theory of deep ecology and to Deleuze’s writings on the seventeenth-century philosopher, Baruch Spinoza. Drawing on Spinoza’s theory of ethics, Kaitlyn argues that the goodness or badness of any relationships is relative to the positive or negative outcomes for the entities involved. When applied to the environment, the measure of these outcomes is usually understood in terms of sustainability. However, as Kaitlyn argues, we must be careful, nature is not as sustainable as we like to imagine. After all, the extinction of the dinosaurs could hardly be called a sustainable event, yet it was clearly a "natural" one. In fact, by the end of the paper, Kaitlyn has shown us that our concept of sustainability, which grounds so much of environmental ethics, is almost always accompanied by a deeply rooted anthropocentrism.
Read: Ethical Sustainability
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