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Benevolence as an Environmental Virtue

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In this paper I will present a general account of benevolence and then show how this virtue can be understood as an environmental virtue. After addressing some possible objections I develop an account of the environmental vices that hinder the
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  1 “Benevolence as an Environmental Virtue”Published in Environmental Virtue Ethics , Ed.by Sandler and CafaroIntroduction: In 1988 the most prominent story in Alaska was not the attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil drilling, nor the problems salmon sheries faced, nor the general economic downt!rn in Alaska, b!t the attempts to resc!e three gray whales trapped in the ice near "arrow, Alaska # $ %he episode demonstrated the way important traits of character can be e&tended from the world of interh!man relations to the nonh!man realm$ %hat so many people with s!ch seemly diverse environmental views co!ld be motivated to contrib!te time, money, and e'ort by a sense of benevolence, a concern for the s!'ering and possible death of three whales, indicates a need to e&plore the nat!re of benevolence as a central environmental virt!e$In this paper I will present a general acco!nt of benevolence and then show how this virt!e can be !nderstood as an environmental virt!e$ After addressing some possible ob(ections I develop an acco!nt of the environmental vices that hinder the development and e&pression of this virt!e$ I concl!de with a disc!ssion of why s!ch a virt!e sho!ld be c!ltivated by environmentally minded persons$ I recogni)e that providing a f!ll acco!ntof benevolence *a pro(ect that I reserve for a later time+ will involve the additional development of the specic environmental virt!es that fall !nder the general category of environmental benevolence, s!ch as the environmental versions of compassion, friendship, kindness and gratit!de$ Nonetheless, the acco!nt of environmental benevolence presented here allows the reader to !nderstand what are the common feat!res s!ch virt!es will have  $ he Possibility of Benevolence as an Environmental Virtue:  "enevolence has been widely e&plored in philosophy as well as religion$ -et the literat!re in environmental philosophy concerning benevolence and its related virt!es is not e&tensive$ Not s!rprisingly, writers on the topics of eco.theology /  have written on the role of benevolence in shaping environmentally desirable attit!des$ 0onald !ghes 2 , for instance, has arg!ed that in3!ence of 4t$ 5rancis plays an important, positive role in shaping 6hristian attit!des towards nat!re$ In addition to recogni)ing the goodness of all of 7ods creation, incl!ding the animals, 4t$ 5rancis held that the fact of biodiversity in this creation and the delight 7od takes in this diversity represents 7ods benevolent presence$ 5rom this !ghes arg!es that we have a d!ty not (!st to abstain from harming 7ods creations, b!t also to adopt an attit!de of respect for them$Also writing on iss!es of 6hristianity and the environment, omes Roston III   points o!t that "iblical based faith is fo!nded !pon the belief that the covenanted :romised ;and was sacred and good, separate from any instr!mental val!e it might have for h!mans$ In spite of this intrinsic goodness of the created world, Rolston worries that the 6hristian ethic that advocates virt!o!s treatment of h!mans may not easily be e&panded into virt!o!s treatment of the nonh!man world and its inhabitants$ e arg!es, however, that central tenets of 6hristian faith, incl!ding the promise of redemption, can be fo!nd in an ecological !nderstanding of the land$While these acco!nts s!ggest that it is possible to c!ltivate a benevolent relationship with nat!re they leave !ndeveloped the act!al nat!re of benevolence as an environmental virt!e and why we wo!ld want toc!ltivate the virt!e$ <ore helpf!l is =ennifer Welchmans >%he ?irt!es of 4tewardship,> @  who arg!es that benevolence and loyalty are necessary feat!res of good stewardship for the land$ ne co!ld, she arg!es, vol!ntarilyact as good stewards for the land even if motivated by an enlightened anthropocentrism$ Acts motivated by enlightened self.interest co!ld still incl!de preservation of reso!rces, biodiversity and nat!ral bea!ty$ "enevolent interests in o!r own descendents is a strong motivator for action, 2  b!t what abo!t motivation for the well being of nonh!man othersB 4he arg!es that compassion alone is not eno!gh to provide s!ch a motivation$ Welchman concl!des that benevolence, in the form of compassion for sentient beings m!st be co!pled with loyalty, in the sense of loyalty to onesmoral integrity, in order to complete the necessary virt!es of stewardship of nat!re$ Cnfort!nately for the pro(ect at hand , she foc!ses all her attention to providing a well developed case for this loyalty to oneDs moral integrity as needed for stewardship and leaves the notion of environmental benevolence !ndeveloped$4till more helpf!l to o!r pro(ect is 5rank 4chalow 8 , who takes the position that, from a eideggerian perspective 9  the di'erences rather than the similarities between h!mans and animals provide an obligation for !s to act in benevolent ways toward animals$ 4chalow arg!es against those who take an egalitarian view based on recogni)ed similarities between h!mans and animals and foc!ses on two distinctive feat!res of h!man lifeE freedom and lang!age to develop a notion of obligation to the welfare of animals$ In fact it is these di'erences between h!mans and animals that makes possiblebenevolent actions by h!mans towards animals$ :roviding s!pport for Welchmans call for stewardship for the nonh!man world, 4chalow arg!es fora nonanthropocentric perspective that emphasi)esthat the abilities which disting!ish !s most from other creat!res are precisely those with which we are endowed *rather than possess+, and hence their e&ercise e&tends beyond the satisfaction of e&cl!sively h!man interests$ 1F  %h!s freedom is viewed as a gift that allows for the possibility to simply let animals be instead of treating them as mere property for the satisfaction of h!man interests$ !r capacity to !se lang!age makes it possible for h!mans to speak for the animals who cannot artic!late directly what is in their own interests$ 4chalow gives f!rther s!pport to Welchmans call for stewardship when he claims that 3  we are most f!lly h!man or >a!thentic> when engaged in acts of stewardship rather than ine&plotive p!rs!its$ In becoming g!ardians, we display the >care> * Sorge + which sit!ates !s within nat!re as a whole and fosters the possibility of a harmonio!s relation to those domestic animals dependent on !s$ 11 4!ch care is possible also regarding wild creat!res beca!se of o!r capacity to!se lang!age to disclose what is there, what is o!tside of !s$ %hro!gh my !se of lang!age to provide a word for a thing is to indicate it as that which is other than the GmeH who does the naming$ And thro!gh the process of ac!iring, rather than simply !sing, lang!age it is possible for !s to >ac!ire it in harmony with an att!nement * Stimmung + that disposes *h!mans+ to foster the manifestness of things, nat!re, and welfare of their animal co!nterparts$> 1#  "y recogni)ing the signicance of the di'erence between h!mans and animals it is possible to develop what I have called a >proper h!mility> towards animals and the nat!ral world$ With s!ch h!mility we can then tr!ly speak for those who might s!'er beca!se of o!r actions$ %hese two acco!nts make the case for benevolent treatment of nonh!man entities as a necessary attit!de for good stewards of the land$ "!t they havenot spelled o!t in detail what are the characteristics of a benevolent steward of the land, nor do they show why we sho!ld be good stewards and c!ltivate this virt!e$ I rst present an acco!nt of benevolence in an inter.personal conte&t then e&pand the notion to incl!de h!man.nat!re relationships showing how benevolence can be considered an environmental  virt!e$ What we will nd is that what is generally the case for interpersonal benevolence can be e&tended to the h!man.nat!ral world relationship$ An acco!nt of the vices associated with the absence of green benevolence is then presented$ Inish by making the case that an environmental form of benevolence is needed for people to be environmentally good people and that the c!ltivation of this virt!e makes it possible to live an environmentally good life$ he Virtue of Benevolence !s Such: 4  Benevolence  as s!ch is a gen!s or family of virt!es that involve a direct concern for the happiness and well being of others$ 1  ?irt!es of benevolence incl!de compassion, friendliness, kindness, and generosity$ 4!ch a concern for the good of another is similar to a concern for ones own good where we deem it appropriate to have a concern for ones own good, to work at determining what that good is and to take actions to promote that good$ 5eelings of a'ection need not be present for there to be a benevolence, tho!gh the two traits are often fo!nd together$ %he related vices of benevolence incl!de (ealo!sy, selshness, greed, and pro3igacy since these are traits that compete with the tendencies to promotethe good of others$ %his lack of concern for the welfare of others can be e&pressed in hatef!l emotions or in grasping and self.centered behaviors that ignore or t!rn a blind eye to their welfare$ What we nd ob(ectionable isthat ones own good is so!ght witho!t a concern or care for how ones actions may impact others$ A greedy, selsh person or pro3igate person is one who is willing to e&pend irreplaceable reso!rces to f!rther his own good witho!t any real concern for how his actions might impact the ability of others to f!rther their own good$ A (ealo!s person may go so far as to hope for another to fail at attempts to promote her own good beca!se it is believed that s!ccess by the other will fr!strate oneDs own goals$ %h!s the (ealo!s person is not merely envio!s of the 3o!rishing of others, b!t often actively seeks to harm the other, if only to keep the other from 3o!rishing$ 1/ "enevolence virt!es are not forms of conscientio!sness *which involve a commitment to social action+, b!t the same action may be done o!t of sense of benevolence and conscientio!sness$ 4ome one may take an active role in civic life, giving genero!sly of her time and energy to help needy members of the comm!nity$ %his help may be motivated partly o!t of sense of concern for the needy and also o!t of sense that s!ch help makes for better comm!nities$  %he benevolent person does not merely seek to avoid wrong actions b!t seeks to act o!t of concern for the good of others$ It is not eno!gh to 5
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