Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D
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Values in Nature: An Exchange

 

By Ernest Partridge and Holmes Rolston, III

www.igc.org/gadfly

 

We present here here three separate papers: "Values in Nature: Is Anybody There?" (EP), "Values at Stake: Does Anything Matter?" (HR). and "Discovering a World of Values"  (EP).  The first appeared in Philosophical Inquiry in 1986 and was reprinted in the second edition of the Wadsworth anthology, Environmental Ethics, edited by Louis Pojman (1998). Prof. Pojman invited Holmes Rolston to respond to that article, and The Gadfly to reply in turn to Rolston.  Prof. Rolston has given us permission to include his paper.
 


 

Values in Nature:  Is Anybody There?1


Ernest Partridge
 

Abstract: Many Philosophers, in a determined attempt to refute an anthropocentric environmental ethic, have asserted what seems an extreme axiological assumption; namely, the notion that values can exist in nature apart from and independent of a conscious reflection, or even a minimally sentient awareness, thereof. In opposition to this view, I argue that the very logic of the concept "value" requires the existence of an evaluator -- a being aware of the evaluated issue to whom that issue "matters." In addition I contend that, despite the qualms of many ecological moralists, this dyadic view of values does not entail anthropocentrism, or even "sentiocentrism." On the contrary, this conventional axiology leaves ample room for a nature-centered ("eco-centric") ethic. Moreover, by insisting upon the natural origin and sustenance of the subject of evaluation, and upon the natural context of evaluation, an ecological morality employing the "dyadic view" is quite capable of removing the evaluator from the central focus of environmental ethics

 

I

Is extremism in the defense of the natural environment a virtue? I think not. In a reasoned defense, extremism is rarely an intellectual virtue. Yet many philosophers, in a determined attempt to refute an anthropocentric environmental ethic, have asserted an extreme axiological assumption; namely, that values can exist in nature apart from and independent of a conscious reflection, or even a minimally sentient awareness, thereof. In opposition to this view, and in concert with what seems to be the prevailing philosophical opinion, I will argue that the concept of "value" requires an evaluator -- a being aware of the evaluated issue to whom that issue "matters." In addition, I will contend that, despite the qualms of many ecological moralists, this dyadic view of value does not entail anthropocentrism, or even "sentiocentrism." On the contrary, this conventional axiology leaves ample room for a nature- centered ("eco-centric") ethic.

There are, in fact, three basic viewpoints to be considered here: (1) "Value" is an objective quality to be discovered in natural things --I'll call this the "objective-monadic theory" (or briefly, "O-M"). (2) Evaluation is dyadic, but the value- bearer ("evaluator"?!) need not be conscious or sentient; e.g., something can be "good for" a plant or a rock "itself," "in its own right." I call this the "object/object-dyadism" (or "O/O- D"). (Because these views agree in their denial of the necessity of a subjective evaluator, they will often be treated together in this paper.) Finally, (3) the "subject/object-dyadic view (S/O- D), which I accept, holds both that values are essentially relational, and that one relatum (the "evaluator") must be at least sentient.2

According to the S/O-D view, O-M is describing, not "values" but properties of things that may be value components (or "valuegens," as Holmes Rolston calls them);3 and O/O-D is describing, not "values," but causal relationships or functions.4

The careful reader will notice some terminological awkwardness in the previous paragraph, which, I suspect, may be of more than semantic significance. The difficulty is that there appears to be no term which fits both the "object-relatum" and "subject- relatum" in O/O-D and S/O-D. In the first case ("O/O-D"), "value-bearer" seems the best of a number of bad choices. "Evaluator" is troublesome here, since it suggests cognition (hence "subject-object dyadism"). "Subject-of-values" is unacceptable for the same reason. "Beneficiary" fails on the ground that an "evaluator" is not necessarily a "beneficiary" -- (e.g., "I commend Jones for his kindness to Smith"). Furthermore, to call an object (say a rock) a "beneficiary" is to beg a point that I wish to dispute (namely, that an inanimate object can be "benefitted" in "its own right"). The best solution that I can devise for "O/O-D" is to stipulate that the alleged "value for" is "for" an object which "has" that value (or interest), hence the term "value bearer." But notice that "value-bearer" will not do for S/O-D, while "evaluator" is just what is called-for, since the latter term directly describes the subjective component of S/O-D. But for the same reason it also begs the (exclusively) S/O-D position, since, as noted, the comparable relatum in O/O-D can scarcely be called an "evaluator." "Value bearer" (adopted for O/O-D) is unacceptable for S/O-D, since it fails to convey the "spectator capacity" in S/O-D evaluation (cf. the "Jones- Smith" example, above). Is it perhaps significant that, over the ages and despite countless ethical discussions and analyses, no concept has evolved that fits both the "value-bearer" (in O/O-D) and "evaluator" (in S/O-D) relata? Perhaps this constitutes an "ordinary language argument" for (though not a proof of) the S/O-D view.

One of the crucial tests of the significance of philosophical dispute follows the question: "Does this make a difference?" I believe that these various views of natural evaluation do make a significant difference in our evaluations of natural things. In support of that claim, I offer these thought experiments: (a) Imagine a planet, orbiting the double stars of Castor and Pollux, with several moons as various in composition and appearance as the moons of Jupiter. This planet has a corrosive yet often transparent atmosphere. These conditions all combine to create landscapes, sunrises, lunar phases and so forth which would be of incredible beauty were there anyone to enjoy it. But there never have been and never will be observers of these scenes, since the planet is totally and forever inhospitable to life. Are these conditions, in fact, "beautiful"? Have they any value at all if they are of value to no one? Suppose an asteroid collides with the planet, so altering its physical and chemical conditions as to shroud it in an opaque atmosphere and thus obliterate all sunsets and landscapes forever. Is this collision a calamity? To whom? To no one! But if to no one, why regard it as a calamity? Or is it, in some sense, a calamity "in itself?" Did the asteroid destroy something "inherently beautiful" and "inherently valuable?" Could it be so with no one for it to be "beautiful" or "valuable" to? Is the destruction on this planet in some sense a value "loss" to the natural universe?

(b) Suppose we commit the ultimate folly of total nuclear war and, as a result, within one hundred years all that remains of the biosphere is what Jonathan Schell calls "a republic of insects and grasses" -- no life form more complex than a cockroach (presumably insentient). Suppose too that sentient life will never again evolve on the Earth (due to the subsequent expansion of the sun), and that intelligent life forms will never visit. Given all this, does it matter that such architectural monuments as the Taj Mahal will crumble to ruin? Suppose the government of India had erected a protective dome around the Taj Mahal so that, two hundred years after the death of the last sentient being, it stood erect. Other things equal, is the uninhabited planet "better" for having an intact Taj Mahal on its surface?5

(c) Some brief questions: Was the Grand Canyon "magnificent in itself," before it was seen by any human beings? Has the surface of Venus been "littered" and "despoiled" (made less valuable) by the spacecraft that have recently struck its surface? Does the sugar sit sweetly on the cupboard shelf?

These cases seem to indicate a difference in the theories. Defenders of O-M and O/O-D, believing that values can exist without sentient evaluators, will answer affirmatively to at least a few of the above questions. To all these questions, the proponent of the S/0-D position will answer "no". Those who hold that position, and yet feel an intuitive tug toward assent, might dispel that inclination by noting that their discomfort at the thought of the Taj Mahal in ruins, or of steel, titanium and semiconductor rubbish strewn on Venus, results from a violation of the stipulated conditions. They "cheat" by importing themselves into the landscape through their imaginations. Unfair! The ghostly presence of the hypothetical evaluator evokes, not value, but "hypothetical value." The S/O-D proponent insists that we take the stipulation and challenge seriously: no sentient or intelligent beings are to observe or be affected by these events or circumstances. Do values apply? To whom? If values are alleged to "apply," but to no one, then just what might this mean? Can we make sense of this assertion?
 

II

A monadic response to these challenges is offered by Tom Regan, who insists that "non-conscious natural objects can have value in their own right, independently of human interests" Such "inherent value," as he calls it, "is independent of any awareness, interest, or appreciation of it by any conscious being," and "the inherent value of a natural object is an objective property of that object."6

The literalness of this interpretation is apparent as Regan applies it to specific cases:

The inherent value of a natural object is an objective property of that object. . . Certain stretches of the Colorado River, for example, are free, not subjectively, but objectively. The freedom expressed by (or in) the river is an objective fact. . . The value of the river's being free is also an objective property of the river. If the river is inherently good. . . then it is a fact about the river that it is good inherently. [Regan's emphases]7

Accordingly, natural processes may diminish the value of a river. "For example, because of various sedimentary changes, a river that is now wild and free might in time be transformed into a small, muddy creek," which may call for efforts to "improve upon" nature.8

The appeal to the eco-moralist of Regan's notion of "inherent natural value" is immediate and compelling, for the concept suggests a "hard," substantial and objective status for such values -- a status safely and securely founded independently of the shifts and drifts of human culture or personal taste and preference. By this account, "inherent natural values," like objective facts, are simply "out there" to be discovered (not invented), and obstinately "there" (in nature) whether or not we manage to perceive and appreciate them.9

Unfortunately for those finding comfort in this view, there are problems. Consider, for example, Regan's attempt to apply the notion of "inherent value" to cars:

[It will not] do to argue that cars cannot have a good of their own because what characteristics are good making in cars depends on what our interests are. For a car has those characteristics it has, including those that are good making, quite independently of our taking an interest in them.10

The second sentence simply asserts what is not in dispute; namely, that cars have properties. It does not support Regan's contention that some of these qualities are "inherently valuable." Of course these "good-making qualities" (e.g. of cars) exist independently; but the value of these qualities are not "independent" of our taking an interest in them. He writes, "cars do not become, say, comfortable or economical by becoming the objects of our interest." Granted, but the value of being "comfortable" or "economical" is a matter which requires our attention and interest.11

A "good" luxury car is not economical; and a "good" racing car is not comfortable. The characteristics are independent, but the "goodness" of those characteristics depends upon our interest in these characteristics. (Better, perhaps, our "appropriate" or "reasoned" interest in them). Continuing:

If a good car was produced by purely natural means . . . that would not make it any less a good one. It would make it an unusual one. . . If we were to transport a good car from our world to a world inhabited by beings who did not have the interests we have, it would not cease to be a good car, though it would cease to be valued as one. A good car does not lose its goodness if we lose our interest in it.12

Again, it would be better to say that the car would not cease to have the qualities deemed (by us) to be good. Once again, Regan is confusing here certain properties of an object with the (subject/object-dyadic) judgment (of value) made of those properties. Shouldn't we instead say that in this strange case it would cease to be "a good car," even if it's properties were not altered. When he writes, above, "a good car does not lose its goodness if we lose our interest in it," all this means is that the car would keep the properties that we would prize if, contra the example, we were there to evaluate it -- or, for that matter, would keep the properties that we now value from our hypothetical standpoint as hypothetical observers of this fanciful world.13

Next, consider Regan's attempt to apply his concept of objective "inherent" value to Gardenias:

A luxuriant gardenia, one with abundant blossoms and rich, deep, green foliage is a better gardenia than one that is so deformed and stunted that it puts forth no blossoms at all, and this is quite independently of the interests other beings happen to take in them.14

If the flower in question is to be found in a florist shop, it is worth noting that it is an artifact -- an artificial creation, by a botanist, "assembled" from natural (genetic) "media," and designed to appeal to human tastes. As such, the "better" gardenia must mean "better for us," since we (or better, "our horticulturists") selected these qualities for us. Another plant with less blossoms and foliage might produce more pollen -- better for a bee. Or more seeds -- better for a finch. It might be "better for" the gardenia and/or its species (whatever that means) if it were allowed to go to seed and reproduce! And would this cultivated plant survive in the wild as well as it's wild relatives? Probably not. Does that mean that it is not, after all, a "better gardenia"? Note that these alternative "evaluations" apply differing contexts to our analysis of the gardenia "per se." Without context, and a relatum, it just makes no sense to talk of something as blankly "better."

There is still worse ahead. Consider Regan's claim that the gardenia is "good," not to the florist, or the bee, or the finch, or even the ecosystem -- but just "good," period. What, then, is a "bad gardenia"? A bad (or good) anything! How can we begin to answer such a question, without placing an evaluator into the picture, at least hypothetically (thus deriving, presumably, a "hypothetical value"). Without an answer to such a question, or at least a decision procedure, the notion of "inherent value" is unbounded. If the concept lacks bounds, then everything is "inherently good," and "goodness" fails to qualify anything at all. "That which denotes everything, connotes nothing."

Has Regan an answer to this objection? While he asserts that "Not everything in nature is inherently valuable,"15 he offers us no means of distinguishing what is from what is not "inherently valuable." His neglect of this task could not be more explicit: "Two questions that I have not endeavored to answer are: (a) what, if anything in general, makes something inherently good, and (b) how can we know, if we can, what things are inherently good?"16

Unfortunately for Regan's argument, and his concept of "inherent value," these are precisely the questions that he must answer if we are to make any sense of what he is saying. Without answers to these questions, his theory has no meaning or justification. He has, in effect, declared conceptual bankruptcy, by admitting that he is unprepared to "cash in" his concept of "inherent value" in the commerce of practical moral judgment and experience.

We turn next to the "object/object-dyadic" view which affirms that "evaluation" implies an "evaluator," but allows that the evaluator might be non-sentient animals or plants (Kenneth Goodpaster, Paul Taylor), ecosystems and landscapes (Holmes Rolston, Christopher Stone), or even rocks (Roderick Nash).17

O/O-D is implied by the view that non-sentient life, even things, have "goods of their own" and therefore interests. (Again, "O-M" holds that "inherent" values are "in" objects; while "O/O-D" states further that these "values-in" may also be "values-for" the object). Accordingly, the argument continues, since such entities can be harmed or benefitted "in their own right," they are qualified "holders of value." Christopher Stone makes the case for plants: "The lawn tells me that it wants [or "needs] water by a certain dryness of the blades and soil . . . the appearance of bald spots, yellowing, and a lack of springiness after being walked on."18

Rolston, like Goodpaster, finds value in the basic processes and functions of life itself: "Every genetic set is a propositional set, a normative set, proposing what ought to be, beyond what is, on the basis of its encoded information. So it grows, reproduces, repairs its wounds, and resists death.19

Goodpaster finds "moral considerability" in "tendencies" of life forms "to maintain and heal themselves."20

A recurrent criticism of this approach is that it is difficult to restrict "value," so conceived, to life forms, and yet if this restriction is not successful, the concept of "value- bearer," by escaping such confinement of application, will lose significance; i.e., if everything "has value," then nothing does, since "value" applied to everything would fail to qualify (distinguish) anything.21

(This is the "denotation/connotation problem" encountered above with Regan's concept of "inherent value"). But can we "draw the line" at life itself? Consider the above cases. First, Stone's description of what the lawn "wants" seems much closer to the description of a car "wanting" a wash- and-wax, than that of a dog or a human "wanting" a drink of water. Common to the lawn, dog, and human are some biochemical functional "needs." However, unique to the dog and the human are neural, sentient "awarenesses" of that need -- in effect, an additional "need," not for water, but for relief from the felt discomfort of thirst. Goodpaster's account of the "tendencies to maintain and heal themselves" applies to physical phenomena as well. For instance, a desert lake with no outlet has a "tendency to maintain and heal itself." When overfilled, it extends its area, thus increasing evaporation, and when "undernourished," it retreats, decreasing evaporation. Do, say, the Dead Sea, or the Great Salt Lake have a "need," still more an "interest," in maintaining their levels? Do they, therefore have "goods of their own"? Do they thus have "rights" and deserve "moral considerability"?
 

III

At the outset, I listed two basic tasks of this paper: (a) to prove that "the concept of 'value' requires an evaluator (i.e., "S/O-D), and (b) to indicate that S/O-D need not entail an anthropocentric environmental ethic. That second task will be facilitated by recapitulation and elaboration, and by explicating a distinction within the subject/object-dyadic view.

Monadic and dyadic views of value are distinguished by the insistence of the defenders of the dyadic views (i.e., S/O-D and O/O-D) that values cannot stand alone, but must be "values for" something -- a "value-bearer" (O/O-D) or "evaluator (S/O-D). Thus, the dyadic view insists, talk of something being "just valuable, but to nothing" is simply incoherent, like saying "its not bigger than anything in particular -- just bigger;" or, to use an ecological analogy, like attempting to explain "adaptation" in terms of either "organism" or "environment," but not both.22

S/O-D parts company with O/O-D with the further insistence that the concept of value implies an evaluator that is at least sentient (in order to display "non-moral value preferences"), if not reflective and self-conscious.23

Why this insistence upon sentience (at the very least)? Because, without at least minimal feeling and awareness, nothing can "matter" to a being.24

Though commonplace in philosophical literature, the argument bears repeating: insects, plants, "mere things" may be said to be "good" in the sense of having properties "deemed good" by others. But "goodness of" these beings cannot be "goodness for" them, if that "goodness" makes no difference to them. To make a difference to them that is a good (or bad) for them (for them to have "sakes" or "interests"), beings must at least have what Feinberg calls "rudimentary cognitive equipment."25

Conversely, nothing that happens to X, matters to X, if X is irrevocably insentient and non-conscious. In short, if a being has no "stake" in events which affect it (having no "good of its own"), it has neither "standing" nor "capacity" to evaluate. It thus makes no sense to speak of such a being as an "evaluator."

Varieties of S/O-D might be distinguished by their variable emphases upon the relative importance of the two relata of the dyad. "Soft S/O-D," which emphasizes the subjective component, is more likely to be associated with relativistic, subjectivistic, anthropocentric and non-cognitive theories of value, and with personal preference and aesthetic taste. In contradistinction, "hard S/O-D," which emphasizes the objective component, is more likely to be associated with categorical, objectivistic and cognitivist theories of value. It is, of course, the "hard," object-oriented S/O-D which is best equipped to claim compatibility with a nature-centered environmental ethic.

How, then, might "hard S/O-D" be conceived to be compatible with ecological morality? We might do so by comparing "evaluation" with two other types of subject/object-dyadic relations; namely, knowledge and perception. (a) In the first case, according to "hard S/O-D", both "valuing" and "knowing" are dyadic ("evaluator/evaluated," and "knower/known"). Both "valuing" and "knowing" identify "hard," recalcitrant components which do not bend to our will ("facts" in knowledge, and "valued objects" in evaluation). In both valuing and knowing the objects are "discovered," and not arbitrarily and subjectively invented. In both cases the "subject" being ("knower" and "evaluator") cannot be a lifeless or insentient being. (b) In the second case, the exponent of "hard S/O-D" might compare "valuing" to the perception of Lockean "secondary qualities." In both instances "valuing" and "knowing" the activity is directed "outward," and engages the objective world (in matters of our concern, the "natural"). As before, in both instances the content is "recalcitrant" to the will of the subject, and the "subject" cannot be lifeless or insentient. In all cases, both relata are necessary: without subject and object there are no values, no knowledge and no secondary qualities. (A "fact" is not "known" by itself; the sugar is not "sweet" unless tasted.

With these considerations in mind, the "hard S/O-D view" is ready to accommodate the eco-moralist who wishes not to make man the "measure" of his environmental ethic. Consider some of these eco-moralistic "concerns." First from John Laird:

There is beauty . . . in sky and cloud and sea, in lilies and in sunsets, in the glow of bracken in autumn and in the enticing greenness of a leafy spring. Nature indeed, is infinitely beautiful, and she seems to wear her beauty as she wears color or sound. Why then should her beauty belong to us rather than to her? [My emphasis].26

"Hard S/O-D" might be willing accord to such natural values as "beauty," all the "objectivity" of "colors and sounds" -- which, as secondary qualities, "exist" only when perceived, and when the subject is in a position to be receptive to the natural properties and circumstances which evoke these perceptions.

Holmes Rolston rhetorically asks: "How do we humans come to be charged up with values, if there was and is nothing in nature charging us up so?"27

The S/O-D view has no trouble whatever acknowledging, and even identifying, natural sources and validations of "natural values" -- and likewise, our percepts, knowledge and adaptations. Rolston also observes that we realize the wilderness "to be valuable without our will."28

In light of the foregoing analyses and analogies, hard S/O-D can agree that wilderness may be "valuable without our will," but not, the theory insists, without our awareness -- not that is, without an evaluator. Analogously, something is "red" without our will but not without our awareness.
 

IV

We return at last to our opening question: Does nature, by itself, have value? Can there be "natural values" without at least a sentient, and better still a personal, evaluator? Perhaps we are now prepared to identify a naive realism, similar to that described by epistemologists, at work in both the monadic and the object/object-dyadic theories of natural value. For when someone asks: "Does nature, 'by itself,' and/or apart from persons or sentient beings, have value significance?", the next, crucial responsive question might be: "Who Asks?! Of course a person asks. That the question of "the inherent value of nature" be asked at all means that a person is part of the landscape, if only in imagination. In a sense, then, inquiring, morally conscious persons have a "Midas touch" in that by simply inquiring about the value significance of an object or a landscape, that object or landscape gains at least potential value significance -- whether the inquiry by a potential beneficiary, or simply by a disinterested "value spectator."

The "naive realism," just suggested, may thus reside in the notion that one can regard nature, or even imagine or describe it "apart from persons," and then inquire as to whether it has value "apart from persons." But in such cases, nature is not "apart from persons." Even to identify and describe a part of nature places that part of nature in the context of personal attention and notice -- to render it, ipso facto, NOT "apart from persons." To put the matter in the "organic" and "contextual" terms preferred by eco-moralists, in the evaluation of nature, persons become necessary ingredients of the nature to be valued. However, to still the qualms about "anthropocentrism," we might reiterate that nature too is a "necessary ingredient" of the evaluation. Thus the error of anthropocentrism may reside not in the acknowledgment that the existence of values presupposes a subject ("evaluator"), but in a further insistence that the "subject" of values need be the "center," even the arbitrary "creator," of values. This inference is gratuitous. To say that a reflective (or, minimally, a sentient) being must be "in the picture" for there to be evaluations, even in imagination, does not mean that all values are to be justified in terms of their beneficial effects upon those beings, nor does it mean that all values exist directly "in behalf of" persons. Both anthropocentric and nature-centered systems of environmental ethics are defensible within the conceptual bounds of S/O-D axiology. It is the further task of the proponents of these opposing positions to defend their theories, and refute their rivals, within these bounds.

To summarize: The S/O-D position claims that the scrupulous and rigorous philosopher will be unable to avoid the conclusion that "permanently unperceived and unimagined nature" is valueless -- "inherently," "intrinsically" and "instrumentally" valueless. Such a conclusion, the theory insists, is forced upon us by the logic of the concept of "value." But this is only half the story. The other, "redeeming," half is that "permanently unperceived and unimagined nature" is, ipso facto of no interest whatever to evaluating creatures. Is this an anthropocentric view? Not necessarily. For the attempt to "deal" with nature as if it were perceived, known, or valued without human beings is ultimately inappropriate, even incoherent. Any nature we deal with is touched, Midas-like, with value or value-potential.

Accordingly, for those concerned with environmental ethics, the question "are there values without evaluating beings?" is an idle question. For the core question of environmental ethics is "What shall we do with regard to nature?" By its very formulation, the question requires an evaluator. It makes little sense to claim, on the one hand, that we are seeking a code of conduct toward nature, and then to pretend that there is any practical significance to speculation about the ontological or axiological status of entities in nature that are forever uninvolved with persons -- or with any sentient beings.

If all this is not enough to reassure the eco-moralist that his environmental ethic need not be subjective, relativistic, and anthropocentric, then he might be enjoined to take his preferred "holistic" perspective and contextual methodology seriously. He should, in a word, be reminded that evaluation itself takes place in a context -- a natural context. He might further reiterate his insistence that human beings, and particularly their psychological components (their "selves"), are natural entities. These selves evolve from natural sources, and are sustained by natural processes. In the evaluation of nature, the subject does not "encounter" its object, spectator-like, as much as it is "encompassed by" its object. In short, in natural evaluation, the human subject is both "within" the natural context of evaluation, and the personal and phylogenetic product of natural contexts.29

Surely all this provides ample conceptual and theoretical resources for a non-anthropocentric environmental axiology.30

 

A Metaethical Postscript:

An anonymous critic asks: [Isn't S/O-D really] "an ethical theory that provides a unified setting for (and thus an account of) various ethical notions? Other theories (other proposed organizations of concepts, e.g. Regan's) are possible, and the question is then: which is preferable?"

I reply that this essay is an attempt to display the "preferability" of S/O-D. But to respond directly to the question: by describing "value" as he does, Regan is not describing something that is coherent with normal usage of "value." Of course, he is entitled to use value in his own way, provided his unique sense of "value" (as property, or causal function, or disposition) is clearly defined and seen to be distinct from the ordinary use of "value." But it isn't. While Regan's notion of "inherent value" may have a "solid core" of acceptable meaning (akin to Rolston's 'value-gens'), he attempts to attach thereto some connotations, senses, qualities and implications of the conventional sense of "value" (as values to someone), thus "exporting" the notion of "mattering" into the objective world. That this is more than a terminological dispute is demonstrated by the "science-fiction thought experiments" early in the paper. I claim that my concept of value ("S/O-D) is "preferable" in that it coheres better with (a) our general understanding of the nature of the physical world, (b) our understanding of the encounters of living organisms and nervous systems with that world, and (c) the clear, conventional and functioning usage of such "value talk" as "subjective," "objective," and, yes, "values" and "evaluation."


Values at Stake: Does Anything Matter?
A Response to Ernest Partridge

Holmes Rolston, III



In this essay, Holmes Rolston responds to Ernest Partridge's "conventional" or "normal" account that something only has value if there is a valuer to value it. He characterizes Partridge's position as a "light-in-the-refrigerator” theory. “Nothing inside is of value until I open the door and the light comes on.” He asks us to consider growth and maintenance that, without any sentient awareness, still possess a good and can be benefitted. He then develops his points in terms of evolutionary ecosystems.

Environmental ethics cares about nature, and this requires an account of values in nature. Ernest Partridge develops the “conventional" or “normal" account: Values are at stake if and only if something "matters" to somebody there. He worries about "environmental extremists" like myself, who have a more radical account, claiming (as I do answering the question "Are values in nature subjective or objective?") that significant natural values are already there before anybody, such as an environmentalist, comes along to evaluate these things. Though Partridge is a friend of many years and though we both care a great deal about conserving nature, I worry that his dyadic position is extraneously narrow, a product of lingering Cartesian dualism, separating mind and matter, too long dominant in Western philosophy. Let's sort this out.

Certain kinds of valuing indisputably require humans, who are "subjects" in the philosophical sense, beings with subjective or experiential life. This is true with artifacts, like cars, which do not have a good of their own but only a good conferred on them their owners, and even gardenias, if these are cultivated by florists. This is true with aesthetic experiences of nature, as of the beauty of autumn leaves. But is it true with all values in nature, for instance, in the genus Gardenia., with its sixty wild species, evergreen shrubs in subtropical parts of China, Japan, and Africa? I will set aside astronomical and geomorphological nature, the moons of Jupiter, or rocks deep in Earth, or some lifeless canyon or river, and focus on our native range landscapes, where there is always some biotic community.

Here humans value, or evaluate, various things, and events, such as whooping cranes or the hydrologic cycle; they take an interest in them. A value relationship comes into being where it did not exist before. Such valuing cm be either anthropocentric (the hydrologic cycle as
instrumental to our water supply) or anthropogenic, generated by humans but not centered on humans (a whooping crane valued by humans as good by itself without our making any use of it). Such valuing also requires properties in nature that are objective (water recycles; the endangered cranes migrate annually); Partridge wants to be “hard” about these properties.

Are all values in nature of this kind? The answer I am defending is: No, some values are discovered, found “inherent” in nature (to use the term Partridge dislikes), and not generated in the interactive experiences of the conscious human subject. The general strategy of "Are values in nature subjective or objective?" is to lead the reader across a spectrum of values that, while remaining relational through much of the course of the argument, shifts toward less of the human contribution and more awareness of "properties" that are found in nature, until at length the reader is forced to ask whether these processes and their products might not be already valuable before humans are “in the picture.”

Consider a whooping crane defending its own life, or the wild gardenias synthesizing glucose using photosynthesis, converting this to starch, and storing energy. The animals, sometimes, will be subjects of their own lives, and they too will have their preferences, simplified perhaps, but in some respects more or less like our own. So the humanistic account does have to be extended to sentient animals – and this will include the cranes. So far, Partridge will agree. But most animals (crustaceans, insects) have little or no subjective life, and all plants have only objective life, being devoid of nervous systems and felt experiences.

Such a living organism is, I maintain, a being with a good of its own. Something is of value in the biological though not the psychological sense. This claim Partridge finds extreme and incredible. "Is anybody there?" If the answer is no, if there is no conscious evaluator, no subject of experience, not even possibly, then all possibility of value lapses. When human subjects are not present, the subjectivists give a dispositional twist to value, Partridge's “hypothetical value." To say that n is valuable means that n is able to be valued, if and when a human valuer, H, comes along, but n has these properties, whether or not a human arrives. Intrinsic and instrumental values in the realized sense emerge relationally with the appearance of the subject-generator.

But is nothing of any value to, or for, or in a plant? Plants, like all other organisms, are self actualizing. A plant is not a subject, bur neither is it an inanimate object like a stone. Plants, quite alive, arc unified entities of the botanical though not of the zoological kind – that is, they are not unitary organisms highly integrated with a centered neural control, but they are modular organisms with a meristem that can repeatedly and indefinitely produce new vegetative modules, additional stem nodes and leaves when there is available space and resources, as well as new reproductive modules, fruits, and seeds.

Plants make themselves; they repair injuries; they move water, nutrients, and photosynthate from cell to cell; they make tannin and other toxins and regulate their levels in defense against grazers; they make nectars and emit pheromones to influence the behavior of pollinating insects and the responses of other plants; they emit allelopathic agents to suppress invaders; they make thorns, trap insects. They can reject genetically incompatible grafts. Such capacities can be "vital," a description with values built into it.

Partridge protests: Nothing "matters" to a plant; a plant is without "minimally sentient awareness." But, though things do not matter to plants, a great deal matters for them. We ask, of a failing plant, what's the matter with that plant? If it is lacking sunshine and soil nutrients and we arrange for these, we say, “the tree is benefitting from them"; and benefit is – everywhere else we encounter it—a value word. Objectively, biologists regularly speak of the "survival value” of plant activities.

Consider, more fundamentally, the evolutionary ecosystems out of which we human valuers originated, along with myriads of other species, including those plants. Can we not view ecosystems or, more broadly, the planetary biospheric system as value-generating systems, and in a real sense value-able, able to generate value? In this connection, I use the word projective to move beyond subjective and objective, a wordplay intended to stimulate analysis. Project suggests some activity "thrown forward'; earthen nature is projective nature.(31) Nature generates the diverse marine and terrestrial environments; solar energy irradiated over matter produced, primevally, the chemical incubation of life. Over the millennia, there is natural selection for adapted fit; there appear the myriads of species filling up their habitats. There is extinction and respeciation. Forests repeatedly evolve, and so on. That is not subjective nature; but such nature is not mere object, not passive or inert until acted upon; it is “projective nature." This generativity is the most fundamental meaning of the term nature, "to give birth.”

This self-organizing has been called autupoiesis, and there are excellent scientific analyses of this spontaneous generation of complex, living order.(32)

Partridge's mistake is to insist on the "necessity of a subjective evaluator' for all these values, "a sentient, and better still a personal, evaluator.” I too insist on subjective evaluator for some kinds of natural values, such as a person enjoying a sunset. But not for all kinds. "The sugar is not 'sweet' unless tasted,” but the sugar is valuable to the plant whether or not we ever capture it for our tastes. I do hold that '"’value' is [sometimes] an objective quality to he discovered in natural things" {what Partridge terms an O-M theory). I also hold that "something can be 'good for' a plant 'itself,' in its own right” (what Partridge terms an O/O-D) theory). I prefer here just to say that the plant values its own life intrinsically (or inherently for those who prefer that term) and makes instrumental use Of the nutrients and the sunshine. (Even crystals can he harmed, and some of the earthen generativity that we value is prebiotic, but let's stay with biology for the present. That will suffice to get us out of Partridge's psychological fixation.)

Partridge insists that only sentient beings will count as evaluators or valuer bearers, and preferably those that are "reflective and self-conscious," his S/O-D theory. There must he somebody there. Value thus requires subjectivity to coagulate it in the world – the legacy of Cartesian dualism. But this confuses someone who evaluates and realizes that value is present whether or not value found to be present was previously there. In technical terms, this confuses the epistemology of value with the ontology of value. Those issues can sometimes overlap, with the kinds that do come into being as and when they are realized and known. But the two do not always overlap. Value may first be there ontologically and only later consciously, epistemologically evaluated.

In less technical terms, Partridge has a light-in-the-refrigerator theory. Nothing inside is of value until I open the door and the light comes on. Put a little differently, we humans carry the lamp that lights up value, although we require the fuel that nature provides. In Partridge's metaphor, humans have "the Midas touch";(33) nothing is worth anything until our touch turns it into gold. Actual value is an event in our consciousness, though natural items while still in the dark of value have potential intrinsic or instrumental value. Perhaps with refrigerators, what's inside is only of value because the person desires the food. Perhaps with gold, we humans have to light up a desire for it. But in nature a great deal is going on in the dark, outside of our evaluating consciousness.

Well, yes – the subjectivists may reluctantly admit – you have a point that, in a biological sense, there are functional values in nature, and natural selection is for survival value. But nevertheless the "scrupulous and rigorous philosopher will be unable to avoid the conclusion that 'permanently unperceived and unimagined nature' is valueless." The careful philosopher will put this kind of "value" in scare quotes. This is not really value at all, because there is no felt experience choosing from alternatives, no preferences being exercised, nobody there enjoying anything. Such so-called value is not of interest to philosophers because it is not a value with interest in itself. These are only "properties" in plants or in evolutionary ecosystems, not "values" located there.

But why is the organism not valuing what it is making resources of? – not consciously, but we do not wail to presume that there is only conscious value or valuing. That is what we are debating, not assuming, and the scrupulous philosopher will insist on better analysis. The "no value without a valuer" account can seem persuasive, just as there are no thoughts without a thinker, no tickles without somebody there. The claim is indeed true of some kinds of value. But values are not always felt, unlike tickles; and values do not always have to be thought about. Insentient organisms are the holders of value, although not the beholders of value.

Partridge's account is too psychological, too personality. Though his subjective evaluators are sufficient for value, a sentient valuer is not necessary for value, not in a more biological, ecological, evolutionary account. Another way is for there to be a life defended, in an individual and in a species line. Another way is for there to be a value-generating system able to generate value., such as the panorama of natural history. If you like, this introduces a revised meaning of valuer; any x is a valuer if x is value-able, able to produce or defend values.

Man is the measure of things, said Protagoras. "Persons become necessary ingredients of the nature to be valued," says Partridge, with emphasis. True, humans are the only evaluators who can reflect about what is going on on Earth and what they ought to do to conserve it. When humans do this, they must set up the scales; and in thus sense humans are the measurers things. Animals, organisms, species, and ecosystems can not teach us how to do this evaluating. But the axiological judgments that we make do not always constitute the value, any more than the scientific scales we erect create what we thereby measure.

Humans are not so much lighting up value in a merely potentially valuable world as they are psychotically joining a planetary history, finding themselves "encompassed by" life ongoing. The valuing subject in an otherwise valueless world is an insufficient premise for the experienced conclusions of those who value such natural history. The "naive realism" is not in those environmental extremists who find values really there; it is in the humanists who think only persons are somebody enough to bring real values into the world.

 


 

Discovering a World of Values

Ernest Partridge


Rarely have I felt more troubled while composing a paper, than I felt while at work on "Values in Nature," for that analysis of the concept of "value" led me toward a conclusion that I dearly wished to avoid, and away from positions that I cherished -- positions defended and expounded by first-rate eco-philosophers such as Holmes Rolston.

And yet, how could I make any sense of a "value" without an "evaluator" that was in any significant sense different from a simple "property"? Try as I might, I could not. And so, what remained was a steadfast attempt to avoid the traps of anthropocentrism and subjectivism that seemed to be entailed by the "soft S/OD" to which my argument apparently led me. If I was to avoid those "traps," it would be by insisting that a sentient "evaluator" was not the center of evaluation but rather a necessary ingredient thereof ("hard S/OD"); in other words, that nature is indeed rich in valu-able things, properties, potentialities and events, ready to be discovered -- all of great worth, once an evaluator enters the picture, even if only hypothetically and in contemplation.

Holmes Rolston replies that this is not enough -- that I remain trapped in my "extremely narrow" anthropocentrism and bewitched by Cartesian dualism. But is it not possible that our positions are in fact closer than he contends, and that neither of us are "extremists"?(34)

That will be my contention.

Just what is the nature of our difference? Is it factual, terminological, or in some sense deeply ontological/epistemological?  Rolston sees a "deep" disagreement. I'm more inclined to see much if not most of our difference to be a matter of language, and scarcely, if at all, factual.

That our differences are not factual can be recognized at once by my failure to find any dispute as to the facts presented by Rolston. All that he reminds us about the properties of plants -- that they "repair injuries; they move water, nutrients and photsynthate from sell to cell" (etc.) -- I grant. Similarly, I accept without qualification his description of the properties of animals, and his eloquent account of evolution. How could I do otherwise and be scientifically informed?

Still more, I do not for a moment deny that "in nature a great deal is going on ... outside of our evaluating consciousness," and I fully endorse the naturalistic view that human life, culture and consciousness have evolved out of, are contingent upon, and are in constant commerce with natural events and process -- indeed that human life culture and consciousness are "natural processes." Thus I find the accusation of "Cartesian dualism" to be extremely puzzling.

However, when, from my "non-Cartesian" naturalistic perspective, I encounter Rolston's description of life-processes as "self-actualizing, I am put on my philosophical guard. While, in a loose, descriptive sense, I will accept that term of "self-actualizing," I have some qualms about the Aristotelian baggage that the term carries with it. Instead, I accept the rather conventional "history of science" view that Aristotelian "final causes" (at least in the realm of natural objects and processes) proved to be much more a hindrance than an asset to scientific inquiry. The explanatory scheme, "things happen in nature because that's what they are supposed to do" has proven, historically, to be a thought-stopper, and the development of modern science has amply demonstrated that we are well rid of it. The more modern Darwinian view, which I accept, is that variant individuals with traits conducive to self-repair and effective defense, have thus survived to pass these traits on to their successors -- and that these so-called "self-actualizing vital processes" are therefore the result of prior conditions ("efficient causes") rather than a fundamental "entelechy" or "final cause." If it is the latter view that Rolston defends, then our differences are deep and ontological, and he posits a foundation for "objective value" that I find groundless.

Early in his rebuttal, Rolston elects to "set aside" examples of "astronomical and geomorphological nature .. [or] some lifeless canyon or river..." If find this unfortunate, since these are paradigm cases for my argument. Is this "setting aside" a concession to my argument? While I would like to believe so, I will leave that for the reader to judge. For the rest, let us accept Rolston's ground rules and deal with putative "values" in the "biotic community."

That Rolston accepts at the very least an "object/object-dyadism" might be seen through a close examination of his example of the life of a tree. The so-called "values for" that tree (note my "warning quotes") are conditions that conduce to the health and long-life of the tree, including defense and repair mechanisms that will make that same tree inhospitable to invading fungi and beetles. All this is "good for" the tree, but "bad for" the beetles. And if the beetles succeed in invading the tree this is both "bad for" the tree, and "good for," not only the beetles, but also the woodpeckers which will feast on them, and the squirrels which will make good use of the woodpecker holes, and so on. To cite another arboreal example: fire is a "disvalue for" shade-tolerant trees such as oaks, and a "value for" cottonwoods and aspens. But all this is commonplace: any good ecologist, such as Rolston, knows that in nature "you can not do just one thing," and, to state its axiological corollary, "in nature, there are no simple, unqualified 'goods' and 'bads'." I would go further: the only so-called "values" in the biotic community, are "values-for" some organism, and by implication "disvalues-for" some other. There are no detached, ownerless "values-as such." "Object-monadism" is thus rejected. (Recall that Rolston has chosen to "set aside" a consideration of abiotic nature).

So, it seems to me that Rolston is committed to dyadism at the very least. What remains is the question of whether we have a substantive dispute regarding the alleged distinction between "subject/object" and "object/object" dyadism.

Rolston contends that there are "values for" organisms without interests, such as plants and insects, though not for artifacts. Recall his argument:

"But though things do not matter to plants, a great deal matters for them. We ask, of a failing plant, "what's the matter with that plant? If it is lacking sunshine and soil nutrients, and we arrange for these, we say, "The tree is benefiting from them; and benefit is -- everywhere else we encounter it -- a value word.

Unfortunately, this test of our linguistic sense accomplishes too much for Rolston, for don't we also say as much for artifacts: for example, "it is good-for your car if you change the oil," or "it will benefit your car if you keep the ignition tuned up."

It seems, then, that "values talk" migrates from its home base of "values-to interested beings," to colonize discourse about insentient life, or even abiotic nature and lifeless artifacts. But does all this linguistic drift have much bearing on our essential question: namely, "Is there a significant difference between "values for" sentient and contemplative beings (i.e., beings with interests), and "values for" insentient beings;"  a difference that is worth the attention of philosophers -- whatever terms we might use to denote this difference."

I submit that there is. Quite simply, the former array of values matter -- to identifiable beings with interests (which must exist, if anything is to "matter" at all). The latter set of "values," until they are (contra hypothesis) noticed or contemplated by sentient or reflective beings, matter not a bit to anyone or anything. It does not "matter" to a tree if it is struck down by lightning, though its vital processes end -- in a manner well explicated by the science of botany. And it is of little if any concern to a beetle if it becomes woodpecker food. That these events are described as "bad for" the tree or beetle, while perfectly clear in their meaning, does nothing to erase the value distinction between, on the one hand, the rotting of a live tree on an undiscovered island, and, on the other hand, a fatal infection of a human being.

If Rolston wishes to describe the former as a "disvalue for" the tree, I am content with this -- as his chosen usage of the word "value." (Indeed, I'll say as much in my unguarded and casual conversation). However, to retain this essential distinction, I would prefer to call such terminal circumstances in the lives of the hypothetical tree or beetle as "events" or "sets of properties," and confine the term "value" to contexts which include "evaluators." But whatever the exigencies of vocabulary, it is philosophically essential that this distinction, with the criteria of "interest" and "mattering" be maintained.

In sum, I remain convinced that the sort of "values" to which an ethicist should take special note, require an evaluator -- minimally sentient, but with regard to values of most concern to human beings, an evaluator that is reflective and rational. Though apparently anthropocentric and subjective, on closer inspection, the "subject/object dyadism" that I defend is a generous conception that is less subjectivist, less anthropocentric, and more compatible with an "ecological point of view" than Rolston contends it to be. For while evaluators are necessary to evaluation, they are not sufficient.(35)

As "ingredients" in the "evaluation transaction," evaluators do not create or invent values, they discover them -- a point of emphatic agreement with Rolston. Our disagreement appears to be my contention that things unnoticed by and unaffecting of evaluators are, as such, without actual value, though they may be of great potential value -- or of hypothetical value when contemplated.

In this sense, I argue, values are very much like such secondary qualities as colors, which are "in" things, are discovered, and yet do not exist except when perceived. (The sugar does not sit "sweetly" on the cupboard shelf). Regrettably, this analogy of values with secondary qualities, crucial to my argument, is missing from Rolston's reply.

If values in nature are as I describe them, then they exist all around us, in (by definition) all the nature that we can ever encounter, think about, imagine and cherish. What more value could we possibly need to totally involve our environmental concern, our commitment, and our love?

 Copyright 1984 and 1996 by Ernest Partridge



NOTES

1. Philosophical Inquiry, 1986, 8:1-2, Reprinted in Environmental Ethics, ed. Louis Pojman (Wadsworth, 1997). This paper has benefitted from critical comments by Holmes Rolston, Dale Jamieson, and two anonymous referees for the University of Georgia conference on "Environmental Ethics: New Directions" (October 4-6, 1984) at which it was read.

2. Actually, this is something of a simplification of my view of human evaluation, which is more in tune with Peirce's triadic analysis of meaning. However, that interpretation will not be compromised by an adequate defense here of the simpler subject/object dyadic view, which the triadic analysis builds upon.

3. Holmes Rolston, "Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective?" Environmental Ethics, 4:2 (Summer, 1982), p. 139.

4. S/O-D is open to a wide variety of interpretations, with ethical non-cognitivists emphasizing the subjective component of the relationship, and cognitivists emphasizing the objective component. I make use of this distinction in the final portion of this paper.

5. Dale Jamieson suggests that the answer to this question might be affirmative, due to "the preferences of the dead" (when alive) to have the Taj Mahal preserved. My disagreement with this view may be found in my "Posthumous Interest and Posthumous Respect," Ethics, 91:2 (January, 1981), pp. 243-64.

6. Tom Regan, "The Nature and Possibility of an Environmental Ethic," Environmental Ethics, 3:1 (Spring, 1981) pp 19, 30-1. (Reprinted in All that Dwell Within, University of California Press, 1982).

7. "The Nature and Possibility of an Environmental Ethic," op. cit., pp 199-200.

8. Ibid., 201.

9. Holmes Rolston (who shares Regan's distrust of the S/O-D approach, but not his O-M response) forthrightly expresses the eco-moralists' suspicions of subject/object dyadism:

Values, it is typically said, form no part of nature, but only come with the human response to the world. This seems at once objective about nature and humane toward persons, but it also yields a value structure in the scientific West more anthropocentric by several orders of magnitude than were any of the value systems of classical, Oriental, and primitive world views which have succumbed before it.

Rolston, "Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective?" Environmental Ethics, 4:2 (Summer, 1982, p. 126-7).

10. "What Sorts of Beings Can Have Rights?", op. cit., 177.

11. Because I do not necessarily wish to embrace an interest theory of value here, I would say that "attention and interest" are necessary for value, though not sufficient. Otherwise, we are perilously close to subjectivism and relativism.

12. "What Sorts of Beings Can Have Rights?", op. cit., 177.

13. If these "good" qualities are thought of as "goods of" the car, then the concept is monadic. If "good for" the car, or "in the interest of the car," then they may be thought of as object/object-dyadic values. If this seems a quibble, the triviality of the distinction between "good of" and "good for" only serves to indicate what I already suspect; namely, that the difference between O-M and O/O-D is of little significance.

14. "What Sorts of Beings Can Have Rights?", op. cit., 179.

15. "The Nature and Possibility of an Environmental Ethic," op. cit., 31.

16. Ibid, 33.

17. Kenneth Goodpaster, "On Being Morally Considerable," Journal of Philosophy, LXXV:6 (June, l978); Paul Taylor, "The Ethics of Respect for Nature," Environmental Ethics, 3:3  (Fall, 1981; Holmes Rolston  (as noted here); Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing, Los Altos, CA: Kaufmann, 1974; Roderick Nash, "Do Rocks Have Rights," The Center Magazine, November-December, l977 (Essentially the same essay has appeared in several different publications).

18. Stone, op. cit, 24.

19. Holmes Rolston, "Values Gone Wild," Inquiry 26 91983): 181-20, p. 192.

20. Goodpaster, op. cit, p. 319.

21. Such is the criticism of W. Morton Hunt in "Are Mere Things Morally Considerable?". Environmental Ethics, 2:2 (Spring, l980), pp. 59-65.

22. Defenders of the monadic view ("values in"), such as Regan, are by no means excluded from accepting the dyadic interpretation ("values for") as well. The lines are drawn by the refusal of O/O-D to embrace O-M, or of S/O-D to accept either.

23. These, along with several other traits which constitute personhood, qualify the being to make "moral value judgments". I could say (and have said) much more about the significance of "personhood" to moral evaluation, and of the distinction between "moral" and non-moral" values. However, space limitations forbid elaboration. (See my "Nature as a Moral Resource," Environmental Ethics 6:2 (1984), and the Introduction to Responsibilities to Future Generations (Prometheus, 1981). For views similar to my own regarding the concept of a "person", see Mary Anne Warren's, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion," The Monist, 57:1 (Jan., 1973), pp. 52-7. My views regarding "moral values" and "non-moral values" are reflected in William Frankena's Ethics, 2nd ed., (Prentice Hall, l973), Chs. I and IV.

24. Feinberg, op. cit., p. 54.

25. Ibid.

26. Study in Realism, Cambridge England: University Press, 1920, p. 129. (Quoted by Rolston in "Are Values In Nature...," loc. cit, 126.

27. Rolston, "Are Values in Nature...," p. 138.

28. Rolston, "Values Gone Wild," p. 199.

29. For a splendid account of the "ecology" and the "natural history" of natural evaluation, see Rolston, "Are Values in Nature ...," especially pp. 134-8.

30. These closing considerations open up a rich panorama of axiological, ethical, and other philosophical issues, which we cannot pursue this late in the presentation. I can only note, at this conclusion, that the literature on the topic of the "natural" origins and affinities of the self, and of "the ecology of evaluation" is rich, extensive, suggestive and, I believe, ultimately supportive of at least the possibility of both a subject/object- dyadic theory of value and a nature-centered environmental ethic. In my judgment, the best contemporary work in this field of "environmental axiology" is by Holmes Rolston, notwithstanding my disagreements with Rolston, explored below.

31. "Projective nature" is also meant contrast with those who take value to he a "projection" of humans of humans onto nature, something that humans generate when they encounter an otherwise valueless nature, rather like Partridge's dyadic account.

32. Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realiztion of the Living (Dordrect/Boston: Reidel, 1980; John Tyler Bonner, The Evolution of Complexity by Means of Natural Selection (Princeton, NJ; Princeton University Press, 1988); Stuart A. Kauffman, The Origins of Order; Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

33.  Perhaps not a happy metaphor, since the fable is about person who tragically mislocates the sources of value.

34. I hereby repent of the provocative opening sentence of my 1986 paper, with it's allusion to Barry Goldwater's generally forgotten 1964 acceptance speech ("... extremism in the defense of liberty is no sin..."). Perhaps my rhetorical enthusiasm got the better of me.

35. Yet note Rolston's remark: "Though [Partridge's] subjective evaluators are sufficient for value..." Either he has misread my argument, or I have presented it poorly. Let the reader decide.


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .