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Conference paper2009

Ius naturalis: Debating sustainability and conservation, can ethics based on evolutionary arguments provide a platform of mutual understanding?

Nylund, Jan-Erik


Since the collapse of 19th century idealism, it has been considered bad taste in axiology and moral philosophy to refer to Nature as providing guidance to normative ethics. Only the Catholic Church has insisted on Natural Law as a moral principle, as developed on an Aristotelian base by St Thomas Aquinas, and valid for believers and non-believers alike. However, that line of thought presupposes some kind of purposeful Creative Power or Intelligence, albeit not necessarily the God of the monotheistic religions. Much of he environmental movement - including inspiring profiles such as Aldo Leopold and Arne Naess - seems to argue in line with deontological idealism, even if an effort is made at defending the 'survival value' of their eco- or biocentric world views. Logical positivism, - an example being the Uppsala school of ' value nihilism' - reduces their fundamental values to subjective opinions. It seems as if purely deductive moral philosophy is leading to a dead end. Yet, evolutionary biology and etology ('sociobiology' in Wilson's sense) give biologists courage to claim what last generations of moral philosphers have been lacking: certain moral behavioural patterns have a positive selection value among highly social vertebrates, including humans, and human moral capabilities and even values may be based in genetically condittioned mental patterns, just as language capability seems to envolve mental structures and not only anatomical facilities for speech. In a notable installation lecture, the new incumbent on Uppsala University's ancient Chair of Theoretical Philosphy, Folke Tersman, presented his predecessor Hägerström’s influential school while opening up for a new synthesis of life sciences and traditional philosophy. The present presentation will explore some lines of thought with reference on environmental and forestry ethics, without making any claims on original ethical theory development


Natural law

Published in

Title: Change in governance as a collective learning process - management, politics and ethics in forestry
Publisher: AgroParisTech ENGREF


Change in governance as a collective learning process - management, politics and ethics in forestry. IUFRO 6.05, 6.12

      SLU Authors

    • Nylund, Jan-Erik

      • Department of Forest Products, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

    Permanent link to this page (URI)