Attending to the Full Moral Landscape: The Role of Affect in Revealing Obligations to the Other-Than-Human World

Date

2023-03-17

Authors

Sanford Beck, Christopher

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Abstract

This project explores the idea of recognizing ethical obligations to the other-than-human world. In particular, it emphasises understanding emotional responses to other-than-human beings as reflecting a proper apprehension of the moral landscape that allows insight into our obligations towards other beings. Although there is overlap with other work in environmental ethics, I specifically relate Margaret O. Little’s moral epistemology to our emotional experiences and illustrate how a gestalt shift from ‘humans as apart-from’ to ‘humans as embedded’ makes the issue of how we live with and in this world a more complicated moral picture. My argument is that when we attend to our experiences with nature in an open, caring way, we can more easily and accurately ascertain the moral significance of other-than-human parts of nature. Affective responses reveal important details of the moral landscape. Recognizing a gestalt of deep interrelatedness with the other-than-human world, our emotional responses to other-than-human beings enable us to appreciate moral obligations to care for the rest of nature and consider our relationality with the other-than-human world as a moral issue.

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Keywords

gestalt shifts, affective attitudes, moral epistemology, obligations, environmental ethics, eco philosophy

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