Respect for the world: Universal ethics and the morality of terraforming

York, Paul Francis (2005). Respect for the world: Universal ethics and the morality of terraforming PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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n01front.pdf n01front.pdf application/pdf 136.70KB 4
n02introduction.pdf n02introduction.pdf application/pdf 125.82KB 4
n03chapter1.pdf n03chapter1.pdf application/pdf 181.55KB 2
n04chapter2.pdf n04chapter2.pdf application/pdf 236.07KB 2
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Author York, Paul Francis
Thesis Title Respect for the world: Universal ethics and the morality of terraforming
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2005
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Damian Cox
Total pages 204
Collection year 2005
Language eng
Subjects L
780199 Other
440103 Ethical Theory
Abstract/Summary This dissertation aims to develop an ethical system that can properly frame such questions as the morality of large-scale efforts to transform inanimate parts of nature, for example, proposals to terraform Mars. Such an ethics diverges from traditional approaches to ethics because it expands the class of entities regarded as morally considerable to include inanimate entities. I approach the task by building on the environmental ethical theory of Paul W. Taylor, as developed in his 1986 book Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics. I discuss various criticisms of Taylor and propose two extensions to his theory: an expansion of the scope of moral considerability to include all concrete material objects and the introduction of the concept of variable moral significance (the notion that all entities have inherent worth but some have more than others). Using Taylor’s modified and extended theory as a foundation, I develop something I call universal ethics. This is an ethical framework whose key elements are a fundamental ethical attitude of respect for the world and a principle of minimal harm. Universal ethics regards all concrete material entities, whether living or not, and whether natural or artefactual, as inherently valuable, and therefore as entitled to the respect of moral agents. I offer a defence of this ethical framework and discuss a number of practical applications, including criticism of proposals for the terraforming of Mars. I conclude that terraforming Mars or any other celestial body at this point in our history would be morally wrong. I also suggest that universal ethics provides an ethical foundation for efforts to protect Antarctica, and that it has implications for our relations to other inanimate parts of our world, including artefacts.
Keyword environmental philosophy
environmental ethics
inherent worth
moral considerability
moral significance
moral standing
principle of minimal harm
imperative to knowledge
inanimate nature
Paul W Taylor

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 16:50:02 EST