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Katherine Elliot Environmental Ethics and Policy Professor Stephens 30 January 2018 The Right Relationship to Nature At different points in time, different thinkers advocated for different approaches to nature. All developed varying views in terms of how other creatures compare to the likes of humanity, specifically how other creatures deserve to be treated. Many modern scholars claim that Plato’s theory of forms prevented the development of
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    Katherine Elliot Environmental Ethics and Policy Professor Stephens 30 January 2018 The Right Relationship to Nature At different points in time, different thinkers advocated for different approaches to nature. All developed varying views in terms of how other creatures compare to the likes of humanity, specifically how other creatures deserve to be treated. Many modern scholars claim that Plato’s theory of forms prevented the development of an ecological perspective. 1  However an account from Gabriela Roxana Carone states that these scholars are simply drawing incorrect conclusions from Plato’s premises. Plato  advocated for the view of the earth as a whole and claimed that if people understand things as a part of a unified whole, it could bring excellence to the entire world. In terms of Plato’s approach to animals, he did believe that animals were inferior to human beings however he believed that animals still had the power of choice and responsibility. Because of this, both human beings and animals must learn to operate with a dominating sense of reason. 2   Plato’s account of nature was incredibly influential in the development of later thinkers, including Augustine and Francis of Assisi. Plato influenced both Augustine and Francis but both developed different qualifications for a correct relationship to nature. Augustinian thought emphasizes the idea that nature  possesses ontological goodness. Augustine viewed living things as naturally good and a way to return and understand the influence of God. 3  To Augustine the right human relationship to the world of nature requires three things: (1) an understanding of the goodness in which all things exist participate in their own way (2) a love and appreciation of these creatures for their own 1 Gabriela Roxana Carone, Plato and the Environment,  Environmental Ethics  20:115-116.  2   Ibid.,120. 3  Madonna R Adams, Augustine and Love of The Environment, 76-77.     sake and (3) the need for human beings to order their own nature according to virtue. 4  Another famous thinker, Francis of Assisi, epitomized a way of appreciating and treating nature. He saw the diversity of nature as an expression of God’s “creativity and benevolence.” 5  He also advocated for the view that all living creatures had “srcinal blessing” which meant that all animals are innocent and good and thus be treated with respect. 6  His ethical application of reverence to all of nature, living and non-living, is why he is so closely associated with nature and influential in current ecological thought. All of the approaches to the natural world apply to different modern environmental problems of today, including the issue of animal rights and factory farming. Rene Descartes, considered the first “modern” philosopher, denied the existence of animal rights on the account that animals cannot feel pain and operate like mechanical robots. With this, animals cannot reason and thus, are not deserving of compassion. 7  Since this declaration, this pattern of thinking has seeped into the mainstream and become the norm, despite increasing scientific evidence that demonstrates the intelligence of different animal species. This mindset is extremely prevalent in the widespread factory farming systems set up around the world today. At these farms, animals undergo significant amounts of unnecessary  pain during the process of slaughter. Animals are no longer viewed as living things but instead, objects for human consumption. By eating mass produced meat, everyday people are keeping these systems in places of power. These factory farms additionally create massive amounts of waste and environmental harm. Approximately one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agricultural practices. In the long run, we need to stop applying Descartes’ approach to 4  Ibid.,77. 5 J. Donald Hughes, Francis of Assisi and the Diversity of Creation,  Environmental Ethics  18:312.  6  Ibid.,314. 7  Rene Descartes and R. G. Botzler, Animals are Machines, ed. S. J. Armstrong,  Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence , 1993.     animal rights to common agricultural practices and instead again adopt the practices of figures like Augustine; who understood the need for certain animal products as long as they as long as they are not taken in excess and the animals are treated humanely. 8  In modern times, we do not all need to take more extreme actions, like becoming vegetarian or vegan, but instead become more cognizant and conservative in our use of animal products that cause unnecessary harm to the animals themselves and the environment as a whole. Word Count: 645 Question: Who should we draw most inspiration from when developing a way to think about nature? Is there one person that epitomizes how we should think of the earth? Or should we look to various figures? 8 Madonna R Adams, Augustine and Love of The Environment, 79.    Works Cited Adams, Madonna R . Augustine and Love of The Environment. 73-84. Carone, Gabriela Roxana. Plato and the Environment.  Environmental Ethics  20:115-33. Descartes, Rene , and R. G. Botzler. Animals are Machines. Edited by S. J. Armstrong.  Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence , 1993, 281-85. Hughes, J. Donald . Francis of Assisi and the Diversity of Creation.  Environmental Ethics  18:311-20. The Canticle of the Sun. Canticle of the Sun. Accessed January 30, 2018. http://faculty.webster.edu/barrettb/canticle.htm.
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