PHIL 224, Week 4

Wild Nature

Exam 1 is Thursday, Oct. 6. The questions will be very similar to the review questions found at the end of the lecture notes for weeks 1-4. There will two kinds of questions:

  1. Short-answer questions (do 4 out of 5). Write about 1/4 page each.
  2. Short essay (do 1 out of 2). Write 1-2 pages.

Because of Ian Hacking's lecture, office hours for Oct. 4 will be 2:30-3:30, HH 368.

Assignment 2 will require drawing value maps concerning 1. a carbon tax, or 2. the Keystone XL pipeline. Details to come.

Future Generations

Why should we care about future generations?

  1. People care about their own descendants.
  2. Future people will have rights.
  3. Future people will have pleasure and pain.
  4. Future people will have the same needs as current people.

Should we care as much about future generations as we do about current ones?

Why Care About Preserving Wild Nature?

1. Provide benefits for current and future generations.

2. Animals, plants, mountains, and other parts of nature are good in themselves (intrinsic value).


  1. Is conservation elitist?
  2. Can value (utility) be reduced to money?

Genetically Modified Organisms

Consequentialist arguments against

  1. Health dangers
  2. Control of agriculture by a few large companies, e.g. Monsanto
  3. Loss of genetic diversity leading to future disasters

Consequentialist arguments for

  1. Reduce world hunger
  2. Increase profits for farmers

Medical experiments with non-human animals

Rights-based arguments against

Animals have rights, and can't consent to experiments.

Consequentialist arguments against

  1. Animal pain and suffering.
  2. Results don't transfer to humans.

Consequentialist arguments for

  1. Improve human health.
  2. Increase biological knowledge.

Review Questions for Week 4

  1. Why is the question of future generations a problem for both consequentialist and rights-and-duties approaches to ethics?
  2. Why is Bell skeptical about human-centered approaches to conservation?
  3. What reasons support the view that animals, plants, and mountains have intrinsic value?
  4. Essay: Considering arguments for and against, should economic needs take precedent over conserving nature?

Phil 224

Paul Thagard

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

This page updated Oct. 3, 2011