On the possibility, necessity, and practicability of Leopold's land ethic

Özer, Mahmut
In this work, I scrutinize Leopold’s land ethic and Callicott’s interpretation of it both from normative and meta-ethical perspectives by making textual and conceptual analyses. Leopold suggests that an ethic which makes us responsible for the protection of whole nature is evolutionarily possible and ecologically necessary. Callicott tried to buttress Leopold’s land ethic by developing a nonanthropocentric axiology and some meta-principles. Moreover, in his view, Leopold’s views are not only compatible with nonanthropocentric axiology but also imply it. I show that Leopold did not build the land ethic on nonanthropocentrism and he did not enforce attribution of intrinsic value to nature and its constituents. I argue that weak anthropocentrism is quite compatible with Leopold’s views, and it provides a way to maintain normative power of land ethic without being ecofascistic. Furthermore, I discuss that Leopold might not have objected attribution of intrinsic value to nonhuman beings although he primarily referred to instrumental values of nature. Moreover, I argue that Leopold preferred a middle position between the concepts of preservation and conservation. As a man of practical wisdom Leopold has always tried to find middle and practicable ways between opposing extremes to harmonize human realm with nonhuman one and to grow the embryo of the conservationist movement. Finally, I argue that Leopold’s land ethic is a human ethic which requires human moral agents to accept responsibility for protecting whole nature in order to attain good life.


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Citation Formats
M. Özer, “On the possibility, necessity, and practicability of Leopold’s land ethic,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2012.