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A Critique of Deep Ecology

A Critique of Deep Ecology
Richard Sylvan

Part I
Deep ecology appears to be some elaboration of the
position that natural things other than humans have value
in themselves, value sometimes perhaps exceeding that of
or had by humans. But which elaboration is quite another
matter. Indeed deep ecology has not just been rapidly converted (in part through overuse) into a conceptual bog, but
is well on the way to becoming all things to all interested
parties. This is undoubtedly a drawback; it makes communication, and theoretical and persuasive use of the notion,
that much more difficult, though it does not condemn an
afflicted notion, such as deep ecology undoubtedly is, out
of hand. For several important and fruitful notions, which
have survived, have encountered very much of this sort of
problem – force, mind, energy, differential, infinitesimal, to
take some older examples; paradigm and culture to take
relevant recent examples . On the other hand, many
notions no more afflicted than deep ecology, such as societ ism, timocracy and ungrund, have been assigned to the
historical scrap-heap. These include the sort of neo-Hegelian panpsychism which deep ecology will turn out to

What is the evidence of conceptual murkiness and
degeneration? The trouble begins with the introduction of
the terminology. Arne Naess – rightly applauded as founder
of the movement, though, as he implies, only setting down
in one codification what was already in the air – wrote
only of the ‘Deep Ecology movement’ and set down what he
has subsequently described as a ‘Deep Ecology platform’.

The suggested notion of Deep Ecology, the underlying
notion that informed the loosely-knit and open-ended movement and platform, was not extracted; that extraction task
fell primarily to West Coast intellectuals, and it was done
Author’s note
It was with considerable ambivalence and some serious
misgivings that I undertook this critique. In brief, my ~­
dicament arises as follows: while I applaud much about the
deep ecology movement, and what it stands for, I cannot
find my way to accept deep ecology as formulated by any
of its main exponents. The reason IS not merely that deep
ecology is less than a fully coherent body of doctrine,
with, furthermore, many problematic subthemes, and that a
good deal of it is rubbish. Yet I feel deep ecology is a
worthwhile enterprise (carried on by dedicated and good
people), and that something along the lines of a replacement for deep ecology, green theory, is very much on the
right track. Or put in terms of a different image, I agree
with much of the general drift of much of deep ecology as
(I think) it is intended, and with virtually all the qualified
applications of deep ecology.


differently by different proponents of Deep Ecology. The
trouble was accentuated through rapid evolution of the
notion. Thus Naess’s account of the movement in 1983 is
significantly different from the account he outlined in
1973; seven principles are replaced by six different themes,
only two or so of which have much in common with the original principles . And this instability in the notion has
been ~ccentuated on the West Coast, where a tan~le of
metaphysical and psychological themes have been ddded,
and essential linkages with religion discovered or forged.

Although deep ecology was in origin part of value
theory, and basically concerned with environmental values
, it has been presented as a metaphysics, as a consciousness movement (and as primarily psychological), and
even as a sort of (pantheistic) religion. Popular Australian
sources will help in indicating some of the spread. The
Deep Ecologist, a network newsletter, sees Deep Ecology as
metaphysical at base, as part of a natural philosophy of
humans’ place in nature (though many of its correspondents
see it as a matter of deep experiences, often of a religious
cast, too often decidedly anthropocentric, obtained in or
through Nature). According to its manifesto, carried in
each issue on its title page,
Deep ecology is the search for a sustaining metaphysics of the environment, it represents ‘a deep
understanding of our unity with other beings and
living processes’ (Drengson); it is biocentric, not

Though we shall come to modify or reject this manifesto
phrase by phrase (deep ecology is not a search, but a position or platform; ‘sustaining’ shuld concern the environment, not the metaphysics; depth lies elsewhere than
understanding; unity too is a metaphor for integration; ‘biocentric’ is misleadingly restrictive), the present enterprise,
My attempted resolution is along the lines of critical
rationalism. Deep ecology is subject to severe criticism,
with a view to obtaining thereby an improved, more
acceptable formulation, which at the same time meets
other desirable criteria. Among these is a desideratum
often lost sight of, the need for environmental pluralism.

However to resort to such critical methods is already to
type oneself, and to risk alienating part of the deep movement. So, in the end, when it comes to applications, to
lifestyles and policies, the rational ladder is set slightly to
one side: it offers only one distinctive way among many.

Though the applications of deep ecology to real-world
problems are very important, we shall only reach them and
not try to develop them. The final parts of the background
paper on population (Routley 1984) provide one application
in detail, an application expanding on some remarks of
Naess (1983). And several other examples which Naess has
outlined there can be similarly elaborated. Gare has
attempted a major elaboration applying to science.

illustrating the degenerative spread of deep ecology, is different. Let us hasten on to the strikingly dl fferent explanation John Seed prefers in introducing and arlvertising his
anthology Deep Ecology , a person- and consciousnessoriented souffle (drawn from Bill Devall):

What I call deep ecology… is premised on a
gestalt of person-in-nature (an image Naess had
rejected at the very outset of the enterprise <6».

The person is not above or outside of nature. The
person is part of creation on-going. The person
cares for and about nature, shows reverence
towards and respect for nonhuman nature, loves,
and lives with nonhuman nature, is a person in the
‘earth household’ and ‘lets beings be’, lets nonhuman nature follow separate evolutionary destinies. Deep ecology, unlike reform environmentalism,
is not just a pragmatic, short-term social movement
with a goal like stopping nuclear power or cleaning
up the waterways. Deep ecology first attempts to
question and present alternatives to conventional
ways of thinking in the modern West.

Deep ecology understands that some of the ‘solutions’ of reform environmentalism are counterproductive. Deep ecology seeks transformation of
values and social organisation.

J)eep ecology is liberating ecological consciousness…. Consciousness is knowing. From the perspective of deep ecology, ecological resistance will
naturally flow from and with a developing ecological consciousness (Devall, ‘The Deep Ecology

Again, much of this will have to be rejected or rectified
(for example, shallow or reform ecology need not be shortterm, insofar it may take account of many future generations of humans; it may well not be pragmatic; shallow ecology is better pluralistically combined with deep ecology,
as in Naess’s original platform, than denigrated; etc.). It is
to Devall, more than anyone, that we are indebted for a
confusing myriad of formulations of the driving notion, several of them however extending Naess; for instance, deep
ecology is first of all deep questioning; deep ecology is ultimately self realisation and biocentrism; in deep ecology
the most important ideas are ‘the wholeness and integrity
of person/planet together with biological egalitarianism’; it
is also much else – that again we shall want to modify or
reject – including a new psychology and new philosophical
anthropology . But Devall has been much encouraged by
George Sessions, and it is Sessions especially who has tried
to convert Deep Ecology into a new religion, with main
texts drawn from pantheism, Spinoza and Buddhism. Thus
according to Sessions,
If the promise of American pantheism and nature
mysticism is to be fulfilled, it will occur in the
deep ecology social paradigm which is based upon
pantheism and the idea of ecological egalitarianism
in pr inciple (Ecophilosophy Ill).

gut although Sessions refers immediately to Naess, there i ‘)
nothing in Naess about American pantheism and nature
mysticism. At most Naess would allow that pantheism, along
with other comprehensive positions. like Christianity or
ecos.)OIIY, Cdn be an underlying base for the Deep Ecology

Small wonder that John Passmore (hardly one to be
philosophically baffled given his immense experience in
comprehending Continental philosophy) goes astray in yet
another account, in which he conveniently pushes the
shallow/deep contrast into the unsatisfactory conservation/preservation boxes (of his 1974):

Deep ecophilosophers •.• are mainly interested 111
the preservation of species and wilderness even
when preserving them is not immediately advantageous to human interest. In order to pr0vide
intellectual support for such preservation they are
prepared to break with traditional Western ethical
principles and metaphysical beliefs (Passmore 1983).

Again, most of this will have to be rectified, since the
pres0nt3tion is clecidedJy ,nisleading, not to say biaSed. As
initial explanations of the deep ecological movement
straightaway show, and applications reveal, deep ecology
has always concerned, and deep ecophilosophers have always been interested in, much else as well, especially in
human population levels and human interference, and in
quality of life and technological and organisational structures. While this of course requires breaking with some
Western traditions – which are in no way sacrosanct Western tradition is far from uniform, and there are other
traditions: deep ecology can remain, and is, rooted in tradition, though much about it is as new and fresh as anything
of this sort can be.

There is, in short, a serious problem with deep ecology
in finding out exactly what it is, and even the clearer
accounts offered differ in significant ways. But the problem may not be devastating. For many subjects face similar
difficulties, philosophy for one. With movements, which is
what deep ecology is often presented as, the situation is
normally much worse. Consider the difficulties in saying,
with much precision, what some political movement (such as
green politics) represents, what some party stands for and

And despite the accelerating diversity of accounts
there appears to be substance to the deep ecology notion.

Several important interconnected distinctions, which look
to be worth disentangling, are marked out, and an important group of ideas is assembled. Rather than being junked
(something my conservative inclinations rise against with
notions, as with the premature discarding of material
‘goods’), the notions involved should be disentangled and
renovated or recycled.

More generally, it would be valuable, and is essential
in serious intellectual assignments, to indicate what deep
ecology is and isn’t – for lots of purposes, including explaining it, arguing from it, and applying it. What can be
done? One resolution can be obtained along· the lines of
critical rationalism. The fuller formulations of deep ecology, after reorganisation into more tractable form, are
subject to severe criticism, with a view to obtaining thereby an improved, more satisfactory, thinner and fitter formulation, which at the same time meets other desirable
criteria. Among these is a desideratum often lost sight of
in the ferment of environmental action, the need for environmental pluralism.

To begin with this rather analytic approach involves
separating out the different components of the deep ecology messages, and isolating core themes of deep and
shallow ecology from wider positions and paradigms which
they inform. The core is (as Naess indicated) essentially
normative. Fortunately the core themes have already been
isolated, in a previous application of deep ecology to population theory , and this work can be taken over largely
intact. For the extensive remainder, the following pretty
complicated sort of picture starts to emerge {see Figure O.

Given the picture S’)iTI~,BjX dnd serious sets of problems with deep ecology begin to appear at once. First, the
value core arrived at already substantially transforms that
suggested by the literature, with, for instance, biospecies
impartiality improving on biospheric egalitarianism. Secondly, both the bases and the encompassing theories usually
indicated (those diagrammed) are not just highly problematic but are detachable from the core and can be avoided.

For example, the various, rather different, epistemic and
metaphysical theories that have been proposed as underpinning deeper positions are, to say the least, very dubious.

So it is fortunate that the deeper value core is independent
of them all – though that is not to say that it is independent of every account, since some (plausible) story of value
qualities in the natural world, and our perception and
knowledge of them, has to be told, sooner or later.

But perhaps the weakest part of the larger deep eco3




( INTR INS le)










theoret~cal underp~nn~ng)































PQPulat~on, (~nd~vtdual) consu”pt~on,

‘”pact, resources, technotogy, pottut~on,
econo”~c growth and qualtty-of-ltfe, culture, or9an~sat,on,
sc~ence, educat,on; and to the vartety of natural (and
so”e art~f~cal) for”s, such as land, oceans, at”osphere,
arct~c regtons, swaHps, forests, sotls, ….



f’OLIT les

unrestrained pOSItIOn, all these pOSItIOns would conserve
and maintain things – materials, creatures, forests, etc. The
shallow (conservation) position differs frolT) the unrestrained position primaril~ in taking a longer-term view
and taking account of future humans, their welfare and so
forth. It is more enlightened than the unrestrained position
in taking a longer-term perspective: hence its alternative
description in the literature as resource conservation.

Though this conservation position is only a step away from
the unrestrained position, it does pass the test of morality
in that future people are not treated unfairly; so it is a
very significant step.

The shallow and unrestricted positions are closely related by an important feature they share – and which justifies lumping them together as shallower positions. They are
both highly anthropocentric; they do not move outside a
human-centred framework, which construes nature and the
environment instrumentally, that is, simply as a means to
human ends and values. Thus they take account ultimately
only of human interests and concerns; all environmental
values reduce to these. It is in this respect especially that
these shallower positions differ from deeper, less resource
and management and exploitation oriented, positions.

According to deeper positions, humans are not the sole
items of value or bestowing value in th~ world, and not all
things of value are valuable because they answer back in
some way to human concerns. But deeper positions differ in
the weight or relative importance they assign to human
concerns. According to the intermediate position serious
human concerns always come first; and while other things,
such as higher animals, have value or utility in their own
right, their value is outranked by that of humans. The deep
position rejects this assumption, and maintains that even
serious human concerns should sometimes lose out to environment:t! ‘values.

logical story as usually told concerns the embedding of
deep ecology inn a broader philosophical theory, such as
Naess’s system ecosophy T or nature mysticism or whatever. What is true is that, as with shallow positions, which
can be supported by most of the mainstream, more comprehensive, philosophical theories (for what· they are worth),
so several very different unorthodox philosophical theories
can support deeper positions, for instance. Whitehead’s
process theory and (adaptation of) Meinong’s object theory.

But, for reasons we shall come to, such theoretical frameworks as ecosophy, pantheism, Christianity and Buddhism do
not include thoroughgoing deep positions, but sustain rather
intermediate positions, and a properly deep picture is not
derivable from them. This suggests that the proposed derivation of deep ecology from ecosophy is substantially astray
(and that so, more sweepingly, is the whole derivational
pyramid regularly presented by Naess). So it will prove to
be; the success of these derivations would depend upon
importing analogues of shallowness into deep ecology.

1. Explaining the core: types of environmental positions. What distinguishes an environmental position IS a
certain level of constraint with respect to the environmental, the natural environment especially: not anything
goes with respect to nature. In this regard environmental
positions contrast with a dominant theme of Western cultural heritage, namely, that (provided it does not interfere
with acknowledged people, such as property holders) people
can do more or less what they like with the land, and with
what grows and lives there. It is even there for humans to
exploit or manage.

-This unrestrained position imposes few or no constraints upon treatment of the environment itself. Under it
there would, for example, be little compunction about using
up matNial resources, forests, etc., immediately or even










(of hUMsn aparthetd)

destroying them. But, because it grants such entitlements
to exploitation, the unrestrained position can be excluded
from properly ethical positions . For it fails to meet
person, place or time, a requirement which implies that
persons of different races, colours, sexes or ages, or at
different places or times, are not treated unfairly or seriously disadvantaged. Insofar as the unrestrained position
would permit the exploitation, degradation and even destruction of all present resources and environments, it
places future humans at a very serious disadvantage. The
position is thus one of expediency, not morality, typically
yielding, like economics, evaluative assessments based on
short-term narrow local (or national) interests, rather than
assessments appropriately based on long-range values.

Opposed to the unrestrained position are various environmental positions (what Leopold saw as the land ethic
is just one of these). Such positions can be classified – conveniently for subsequent development bu~t in a way that
already refines and extends Naess’s classification – into
three groups: shallow, intermediate and deep. Unlike the



(of hUMan supreMacy)

The watershed principle which divides the shallow from
the deeper positions is the sole value assumption. According to this major assumption, which underlies prevailing
Western social theory, humans are the only things of irreducible (or intrinsic) value in the universe, the value of
3.ll other things reducing to or answering back to that of
humans in one way or another. This assumption is built into
most present political and economic arrangements; for
example, only aggregated preferences or interests of certain (present) humans are considered in democratic political
choice, and likewise in economic decision making; other
creatures and natural items are represented at best through
the preferences or votes of interested humans .

Similar assumptions are made in mainstream ethical
theories. Typical are reductive theories which endeavour to
derive ethical judgements from features of closed systems
of humans. Examples are provided by presently fashionable
~thical theories, such as standard utilitarianism .

According to utilitarianism what ought to be done, as well
as what is best, is determined through what affords maxi-


mum satisfaction (preference-fulfilment, pleasure, absence
of pain, and so on, for other satisfaction determinates) to
the greatest number of individual humans. In theories like
utilitarianism, the outside world of nature does not enter
through direct inputs or outputs, but only insofar as it is
reflected in the psychological states of individuals. Such
ethical theories are appropriately described as those of
apartness or human apartheid. Man is, or is treated as,
a)art from Nature; there is virtually total se3re~ation.

Nature orthe land enters only as a remote experiential
backdrop, and onstage is the drama of human affairs and

However, humans cannot be entirely insulated fro· n
their environment; for example, volcanoes affect temperatures, thus affecting climate, thus affecting crop yield and
food supplies. At least limited intercourse with the environment has to be admitted as a result. So, in economics,
ethics, and poiltical theory, secondary theories, dealing
with linkages to the environment, have been appended
(thus, for example, externality theory in economics, some
allowances for ‘side’ constraints in more sophisticated utilitarianism, and so on). But the environment remains treated
as an awkward or tiresome afterthought or backdrop, when
it is considered at all.

There is, however, another approach also with historical standing, vying with (and indeed often confused with)
human apartheid which can accommodate secondary theories a little more satisfactorily. That is the position of~­
eriority or human supremacy, according to which Man,
though included in Nature, is above the rest of Nature,
meaning ethically superior to it. While human supremacist
positions can incorporate the sole value assumption and
thus remain in the shallow ethical area, they have the option of rejecting it in favour of the less objectionable
greater value assumption: other things being equal, the
value of humans is greater than other things; the value of
humans surpasses that of all other things in the universe.

This assumption allows that other objects, such as some
higher animals, may have irreducible value; what it insists
upon is that, at least for ‘normal’ members of respective
species, this value never exceeds that of humans. What is
generally presupposed is that other objects – animals,
plants and their communities – are never of very much
importance compared with humans. Though human supremacy has appeared in variants upon utilitarianism (from
Hutcheson and Bentham on), where animal pain is taken
into consideration along with human, Western ethics and
associated social sciences such as demography, economics
and political theory, remain predominantly apartheid in
form. So in practice does most utilitarianism .

It is the repudiation of the greater value assumption
that separates deep from intermediate positions. Perhaps
the most familiar example of an intermediate position
is that of Animal Liberation, in the form in which animals
(but not plants, forests, ecosystems, etc.) are taken to have
value in their own right, though in any playoff with humans, humans win. Under the deep position such an outcome
is by no means inevitable; in cases of conflict of animal or
natural systems with humans, humans sometimes lose.

There are various arguments designed to show that the
deep assessment is right, that humans do not always matter
, and, more pertinently, humans should sometimes lose
out. A typical one takes the following form: Some humans
lead worthless or negative lives, lives without net value.

The point, though not uncontroversial , can be argued
even from a shallow utilitarianism. Take for instance a life
of pain and suffering and little or no happiness: it has a
substantial net negative utility. However, some small natural systems do have net value; one example would be an
uninhabited undisturbed island (a live example might be a
tropical island before Club Mediterannee depredation). Now
consider the situation where the considerable value of a
small natural system is to be sacrificed (in a way that
shallowly affords no ethical impropriety) on behalf of a set
of humans whose lives each have no positive net value. For

instance, the system is to be exploited, just for Lie cvntinued maintenance of these humans, or for their addition (as
new settlers) to an established population. Then in such
circumstances, these humans lose out; the natural system
takes precedence. Similarly, trivial satisfactions of humans
do not dominate over the .integrity of rich natural environments.

Such arguments deliver outcomes like those correctly
assumed by deep ecology, or occasionally argued for on the
basis of ecological egalitarianism. But such egalitarian arguments rest on very slippery ground, and, in a way symptomatic of other troubles, especially as to coherence, deep
ecology tends to help itself to such results without much or
any of the requisite argument (argument often not being
considered in the proper style of such a nonanalytical
enterprise as deep eCQlogy).

Such arguments, designed to show that human values,
interests or concerns, do not always outweigh those of
other creatures or the natural environment, also expose the
inadequate depth of some of those styled as ‘followers of
.-lee:) ecolo~~y’. For (after proper preparation) they make the
wrong responses on the crucial tests of depth. A conspicuous casualty who fails to negotiate ‘these tricky slopes’ is
Drengson, behind whose genuine ecological sensibility lies a
human supremacist position with humans occupying ‘a
unique position ••• in the scheme of things’, at the summit
of that old-consciousness hierarchy, ‘the great chain of
being’ . According to Drengson, circumstances
might force us, sometLnes, to choose between the
life of a fish or a cow and that of a human child.

We do not hesitate to choose the child. Our priorities are a result of our position in the scheme of
things, with a spectrum of species (p. 7).

Not even followers of medium-depth ecology need respond
in this reflex fashion, for instance where the child is
seriously defective. Certainly, in a range of duly elaborated imagined circumstances of forced choice, deeper
thinkers would hesitate – since such situations tend to pose
moral dilemmas – and sometimes at least their priorities
would be different; for example, the fish is rare and the
child ordinary, the cow occupies a unique place in an
important ecosystem .

More damaging to the movement is that several of the
advertised prophets of deep ecology verge on the shallow
. One example is Murray Bookchin, much of whose
recent bringing-it-together book, The Ecology of Freedom,
is a celebration of humans in very much the old (enlightenment) style. Insofar as it gets to grips with deeper environmental issues, Bookchin’s material amounts to an extension
of shallow ecology . Ecologically Bookchin, like some
of the other prophets, buys into vitalism by way of extended consciousness. Ecological ethics is said to render
nature self-conscious; the mechanistic alternative is presented as deadness, an entirely false contrast. Indeed, part
of the problem with the selection of prophets is that mechanism is seen as the main bogey – when it is only one of
the forms metaphysically underpinning sltillower positions,
Cartesian dualism being another – with the result that work
that simply attacks mechanism and its variants and also
advocates some sort of environmental way, gets accounted

In fact there is a considerable lack of discrimination
among the pace-setters of the movement about who and
what is accounted within deep ecology, and some unwarranted discrimination from this exclusive club. Many of the
people classed as within or associated with deep ecology
are shallow. And some who are excluded are not. For
example (in 1975), Naess presents a long list of people he
associates with the movement, many of whom are rather or
even entirely shallow in their environmental orientation.

Elsewhere (in 1983) Naess proceeds to identify with deep
ecology several other positions or movements which only
overlap it, and which may be substantially shallow (such as
green politics and new natural philosophies). Some of the
predominantly American lists Devall and Sessionis assemble

are not so artless. To some extent, this combined discrimination and lack of discrimination again reflects the conceptual murkiness of deep ecology; to some extent it is symptomatic of other old-consciousness malignancies, both within
the notion and as regards its use.

2. Reformulating the value core: modifying biological
egalitarianism. What is the excuse for so tampering with
the very core of Naess’s dualistic classification? The reason is now evident; from its inception the shallow/deep
contrast represented a false dichotomy, along several dimensions: First and most important, the contrast is not
exhaustive, as there are significant intermediate positions.

The intermediate positions include all those with accounts
of value (erroneously) based on perception, experience,
consciousness, sympathy, interests, needs, or the like,
which do not illegitimately restrict these to humans but
which see the relevant ones more highly manifested in
‘normal’ humans than elsewhere in the world. (Of course all
of these intermediate stances mistake some things sometimes of value for the whole of the value.) Secondly, shallow ecology so-called, or the shallow ecological movement,
is not restricted in the way Naess and others have suggested. Naess’s characterisation is very brief: ‘Fight against
pollution and resource depletion. Central objective: the
health and affluence of people in developed countries’

(1973, p. 95). But shallow ecology commonly operates on a
much broader front, and for such things as parks, endangered species, etc. And oothe other contrasts suggested,
namely developed/developing world and the shorter-term/long-term, there are shallower environmentalists on both
sides. As to the developed/developing world problem, there
stands on the one side of proposed redistribution divides,
Hardin, Ophuls and the neo-scdrcIty theor is ts, some of
vhom propose nation-state triage , while on the other
side of these divides stand the new internationalists, well
represented in third-world aid organisations. As to the
l:~ngth of term, that depends in particular on the (‘moral’)
,iiscount rate imposed, if any, and there moralists and (enlironmentaI) economists tend to divide.

The bursting apart of the shallow/deep dichotomy is
only one of several troubles with the value core of deep
ecology as it has been presented. A major source of trouble
has been the biocentric and egalitarian assumptions included in earlier formulations of deep positions. So vulnerable was the main egalitarian theme – that of biospheric
egalitarianism, according to which everything (alive) has
‘the equal right to live and blossom’, that it has gradually
disappeared or been suppressed from formulations of deep
ecology. So, for example, it appears neither in the later
account of tenets of Naess (in 1983) nor in the NaessSessions formulation (in 1984). Nor is it implied by the core
(despite a suggestion in the later discussion that it is, p.

6); for having irreducible value (what is really assumed)
does not imply having equal irreducible value, anymore than
having weight implies having equal weight.

Accordmg to Naess, a biospheric egalitarian principle,
of equal value of all life, is ‘an intuitively clear and obvious value axiom’, at least ‘to the ecological field-worker’

(1973, p. 96). But empirical surveys would almost certainly
not sustain Naess’s claims. The principle seems generally
neither intuitive nor obvious, and in several ways it
appears incompatible with the wider deep ecology platform.

It is not even obvious that something has value by virtue of
having life. On the contrary, value seems, like yellowness,
to be much more patchily distributed across the universe.

Special places, for instance, are especially valuable. Nor is
value always distributed on living things, but colours tombs
of the dead; and sometimes it flakes off constellations of
living things, for example things in excess, such as locusts
or rats in a plague.

But even if every living thing were assigned value, it
would not follow (in the way sometimes in validly argued)
that every thing has it equally. While it could be said that
things are equal ~ having it, this is rather like pretending
tha t people are equal in an inegali tar ian society where all
have some money – a subterfuge. Indeed proposed principles
of deep ecology inform us, correctly, that some ecological
items are more valuable than others. For instance, a certain sort of complexity is a virtue (Naess, 1972, principle
(7», so presumably an item with that complexity is more
valuable than a simple biological item. Similarly, diversity
of system is a virtue, a prime ground of value (principle
(2». The upshot appears to be that a highly diverse ecosystem is more valuable than a simplified and impoverished

Furthermore, biospher ic egali tar ianism is inconsistent
with the holistic, anti-reductionistic, anti-individualistic
ethos which deep ecology imports from holistic ecology (see
e.g. Naess, 1973, principle (1) concerning the total-field
image). To generate inconsistency, whether of values or
rights or whatever, suppose that one living thing, such as a
forest, consists of several other things, 1000 trees for instance, and suppose moreover that the equal. unit assigned
to each living thing is 1 unit. Then, by virtue of the composition of the forest, 1 unit equals 1000 units, 1 = 1000.

This unit problem appears in a particularly severe form in
Snyder’s account of deep ecology, where ‘all land deserves
equal attention. Every bit of land is nature at work and at
play’ (see Ecophilosophy VI, p. 50). But a 1000 acre bit is
composed of 1 acre plots; so again, 1000 = 1. To be sure,
by restricting equality to atomic individuals, whichever
they are, such inconsistency can be avoided. But it is a
heavy cost to pay. It involves qualifying egalitarianism anyway to some given atoms, and it is out of keeping with the
spir it of deep ecology. It is better to start again.

Analogous conclusions can be reached for ‘equal right’)’

formulations. For one thing, equal rights are characteristically based on equal merit or equal worth. For another, ar:suments like those given can be rerun with rights supplanting values. As a theoretical principle, biospheric egalitarianism has to be scrapped. The immense difficulties of such
a principle in practice Naess had already partially recognised, qualifying egalitarianism to equality in principle
‘because any realistic praxis necessitates some killing,
exploitation, and suppression’ (p. 95). The extent of erosion
in equality this affords remains obscure; but it could be
close to total, with theoretical equality lapsing whenever
conflict of rights or values loomed. Such egalitarianism
would be like a maxim of honest) in principle, which
applied in practice only when it was not inconvenient; that
is, an empty maxim.

Whatever Naess’s intended qualification , it still
seems to people with much practical experience on the land
or in gardening, especially in places where the surrounding
natural environment has not been totally transformed, that
he has considerably underestimated the extent of qualification needed, and that due qualification does begin to
strangle the principle. Biospheric egalitarianism in practice
is for people who do not supply their own shelter or sustenance, but pass the business of ecosystem interference

and modification on to others (as they typically pass the
butchery of their meat and the like on to others <22».

Even were it desirable, universal hunter-gathering is no
longer possible or feas.ible, with so many mostly unsuited
and ill-adapted humans; and even hunter-gatherers terminate the lives of many creatures – a substantial interference
with their rights to live and blossom – and, more important,
substantially modify their environments, thus interfering
directly and indirectly with enormous numbers of living

Whatever rights simpler living organisms, especially
ones such as bacteria and viruses, have to live and blossom,
they have heavily qualified and much attenuated ones. With
biospheric egalitarianism (in principle) the deep ecology
movement has latched onto a principle which is both too
powerful, and yet, if the ‘in principle’ qualification is
applied so as to cover typical lifestyles of deep ecologists,
a principle so riddled with exceptions as to barely hang But without some of the intended force of biospheric” egalitarianism, deep ecology is in danger of collapsing (like m.any of its followers) into an intermediate
position, as no other part of the platform adequately sustains its separation. Part of what is sought with the egalitarian principle – limited interference, human interference
to an extent and on a scale far below tnat present prevailing – is already afforded a basis in the theme of values-innature and outside the human sphere, since interference
with what is of value is (ipso facto) limited. Such a principle of Limited Interference deserves, in any case, separate formulation (which it usually gains in Deep Ecology
platforms). But even so it hardly achieves the requisite
separation, since intermediate positions can, and do, grant
or maintain some such principle of limited or reduced interference (thus e.g. Birch, Attfield, Singer).

What is required is a positive equivalent of the separating feature, of the rejection of the greater value assumption, and therewith of the rejection of human supremacy,
of the value picture of humans as always number one. What
is needed, more generally, is a principle telling against the
favouring of one species – humans in particular – over
others simply on the basis of species, a principle of biospecies impartiality, to give it a similar grandiose title.

There is some reason to suspect that, as elsewhere, a
requirement of impartiality has been hardened into one of
egalitarianism, that fairness, because often difficult to
assess, has been mistakenly taken to involve equality. Biospecies impartiality implies the avoidance of species chauvinism, that is the avoidance of unfair treatment of items
outside the given species. Because unfair, the treatment
concerned lacks any sufficient justification. Hence, the
avoidance of species chauvinism involved is effectively that
previously explained as a special case of class chauvinism. Similarly, the requirement of biospecies impartiality
is a special case of the requirement of class (or natural
group) impartiality,. for which the arguments are the same
as those for the avoidance of class chauvinism.

The danger of species partiality, of favouring some
species, is much encouraged by a species fallacy, which is
commonly invoked in favouring humans. This is the error of
concluding that because a few members of the species have
accomplished something of (immense) value, all members of
the species therefore are (highly) valuable; all members of
the species manage t9 free-load for the ride, obtained by a
few members, so to say. The argument, once challenged,
usually falls back on an argument that goes by way of capacities: the remai’1ing members of the species have the
capacity to achieve these sorts of things also . But,
firstly, that is not true: intelligence, skills, and the like,
vary somewhat within species, and from our narrow per’:’

spective, vary considerably among humans, some of whom
have no capacity for advanced mathematics or music.

Secondly, it requires more than capacity: it requires circumstances, a favourable environment to exercise them
(hence, in part, the folly of more humans in decidedly sub8

optimal ci ties), together with a will and drive actually to
follow through appropriately on capacities.

3. Rectifying the mistake of biocentrism. Biospheric
egalitarianism is intimately tied to biocentrism, a prominent
theme of such deep ecology. One of Sessions’S regular criticisms, for example, is that other environmental positions
are not biocentric. But the biocentric emphasis of much
work in deep ecology, though a welcome palliative to thousands of years of still-persisting anthropocentrism, itself
represents a mistake of the same chauvinistic type, though
of vastly less magnitude. For it risks, and effects, unwarranted exclusions from the class of items of irreducible
value. The impression that comes through from much West
Coast deep ecology, as with that of certain insufficiently
penetrating intermediate positions, is that what is important is life, raw life, life and nothing but life. This is not
so: not all life is particularly valuable or even valuable at
all . But more significant here, much that is not alive
(and not dead either) is valuable, and irreducibly so, not
merely because of reflection back to things that are alive.

Many of the natural items revered by deep ecologists
are not alive: mountains, waterfalls, wild rivers, sunsets,
and so on. Naess and Sessions try to escape this difficulty
flowing from their biocentr ic restriction of intrinsic value
to life by stretching the term ‘life’ beyond its ordinary and biological use to include favoured natural objects
that are not alive.

The term ‘life’ is used here in a more comprehensive non-technical way to refer also to what biologists (and also dictionaries) classify as ‘nonliving’; rivers (watersheds), landscapes, ecosyste~s.

For supporters of deep ecology, slogans such as ‘let
the river live’ illustrate this broader usage so
common in most cultures.

Of course the metaphor is intelligible, as is ‘Let the river
run free’ (and there is a different literal use of ‘live river’

and ‘,jead river’) . But a convincing theory had better
not :)e built only on metaphorical assignment of value to
inanLndte things or by appeal to dubious’ or discredited
mythol’)r~ies of other cultures in which natural things are
(considered) alive. For one thing, this looks too like the
anthrop()centricism that biocentrism is supposed to be a
major 1<2<:1:) beyond; and indeed many of the mythologies
that brirh~ out the river as alive are of this anthropocentric
type. The river is alive because of the river god or river
nymphs or like (nonexistent) projections of humans. Presumably then – and this should show much of what is wrong
with the 'life' extension – an analogous stretch of the term
'human' can be justified by appeal to other cultures: 'The
term "human" is used here ••• to refer also to what deep
ecologists classify as non-humans: bears, wolves, mountains,



The extension of spirit or the like to landforms, rivers
and rocks takes even stranger form in Snyder, for whom
such 'non-living beings' 'have a right to survive and blossom' (Ecophilosophy VI, p. 10). To exist, in some cases, perhaps; to survive, in the sense of going' on living, no; to
blossom, certainly not. These breakdowns are, moreover,
not mere contingent failings, but represent category mistakes; rocks are not the sorts of things that can significantly blossom.

Given that the category of intrinsically valuable ite’n’;
does include things like mountains and caves that are (bi,)logically) not alive, there can be no objection to reforl1ulating key’ principles of deep ecology in a literal non-biocentric way, to include also such natural things-which,
though they may exhibit diversity, complexity and richness,
cannot (significantly) be said to flourish or blossom, or to
have interests or well-being. (These literal reformulations
should also, presumably, be extended to encompass artificial things like buildings and works of art?) Clarity and
informativeness alone would justify such an attempt at

In this reformulation the first principles of most recent
formulations of deep ecology are swept away. For they are
narrowly biocentric. Thus Naess tells us (in 1983, principle
(1» that’ life on earth and its well-being has a value in itself’, which becomes, in Naess and Sessions (principle (1»
that ‘the well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman Life on Earth have value in themselves’. It is surprising that these parochial formulations have gained
ground: why life on Earth, when there is no such local restriction in Naess’s original preentation? When some life
elsewhere may be as valuable? Part of what they are no
doubt worried about are the monstrosities scientists may
turn out in test-tubes, and perhaps the perhaps evil things
that have evolved elsewhere in the universe, things that
may be even exceeded in demonosity and devilry by noncarbon-based (inorganic) life. The underlying assumption
seems to be the highly contentious one that what (life)
occurs naturally in this part of the universe is always of
value, or more generally, Nature is benign and good, at
least hereabouts. There seems no reason to subscr ibe to
such dubious assumptions, no matter how widely intrinsic
value is seen to be distributed, and how accordingly diluted. Moreover, it is unnecessary to go beyond local
Nature, or human nature, to find evil life flourishing;
human life provides examples in comparative abundance.

The nonbiocentric first principle can simply be a (deliberately vague) version of the wider values of values-inna ture theme:

(1) Much in nature beyond humans and their features
has irreducible value, namely such animate and inanimate
things as …

Different valuers will fill this out in somewhat different
ways, for instance with different lists of valuables. But
biocentric elaboration which restricted the list to living
creatures would be inadequate, and inadequate on familiar
deep ecological grounds. There are several arguments for
these claims against biocentrism – arguments which also
tell against defenced intermediate positions, since these
are contained within biocentrism .

A first style’ of argument, familiar from utilitarianism,
compares two worlds and asks for their comparative value
rankings. Let one world contain a complex diverse and rich
system of self-programming computers (perhaps their
makers have died or been exterminated, perhaps the system
simply evolved from late generation computers), and let the
other world be simple uniform and poor but contain in one
isolated area an elementary single celled organism. On the
usual grounds of value offered in deep ecology – richness,
complexity, diversity, etc. – the first world should rank
above the second, but biocentrism would be forced to the
reverse ranking. (Such putative counterexamples to biocentrism are designed by evading the standard assumption,
generally satisfied hereabouts, that living systems are the
‘TIost complex syst~:-ns to be found: cf. Naess, 1973, p. 97).

A second type of argument takes advantage of the
assumption (a mistaken one) that deep ecological principles
emerge, indeed are derivable, from a range of different
ideological positions: Christianity, Buddhism, and Philosophy
are the three working examples Naess usually offers (e.g. in
his pyramidal diagram) . Let us take Christianity, and
consider its standard account of the Creation. In this way
it should become evident that Christianity, so far as it informs a value theory that is not homocentric, does not support a narrow biocentrism either. To push Christians and
fellow-travellers beyond the usual homocentric ethics, the
following First Man (or People) argument was used. The
argument, deliberately contrasted with the Last Man argument (of EP), was also designed to show intrinsic value independently of humans. The argument is this: in Genesis,
Chapter 1, it is recorded that God created the universe
and all that is in it over several ‘days’. Only on the final
day is man introduced and given dominion. But at each
earlier day, before man appeared on the scene at all, God
surveyed his work and saw that it was good – not that it
would be good when man appeared, but that it was good.

The obvious inference is that other parts of the universe,
such as the heavens and the earth and its seas, and the
plants of’ the earth and fishes of the sea, had value independently of man. Suppose further that God had somehow
been interrupted il’) his work before the last day and not
managed to .create ‘l1an. The remainder of the universe
would have remained good: thus value does not depend on
humans or answer back only to them. As a general persuasive argument, this has a couple of serious weaknesses,
namely the appeal to authority aspect, though many nonChristians would grant premises of a similar sort, and the
role of God as sort of super-human. However, in a broad
Christian setting, such as we are temporarily supposing,
these assumptions are not damaging. Now observe that the
argument has a First Creature variation, since it was not
until the fourth day that God created life. The intended
consequence is that a universe such as God created was
already good before life appeared, and an entirely similar
universe (to that of the third day) without life would
accordingly also be valuable. Thus a narrow biocentrism
concerning value is mistaken. No doubt other religions, including pantheism, also sustain cases against such biocentrism.

A scientific variation on the First People argument
onsiders things before man, and generally before life. Consider the Earth itself. Before 4000 million years ago there
was no life on earth. But still the earth was valuable and
exhibited value (as in beautiful red volcanoes), and not
merely by virtue of its potential. Even if chemical evolution had been blocked or gone astray value would still have
been there. TheJ:e is value in existence of certain sorts though again existence does not exhaust value, since what
doesn’t exist can also be valuable, as for instance a splendid theory. The theme ‘to be valuable is to exist’ thus fails
in both directions, as does its biocentric mate ‘to be valuable is to be alive (or, worse, as in its anthropocentric
analogue, to be human)’. These are all fallacious in connected ways. The restriction to life, rather like Moore’s
restriction to consciousness and Attfield’s to concerns,
imposes a difficult and unbelievable seri&s of reductions
straight off. And that is simply the beginning of its

The problems with the natural nonliving environment
reappear, in slightly different guise, with the fab”ricated
environment. The attempt to dispose, by some kind of reduction, of a wide range of artificial (‘aesthetic’) objects,
such as works of art, buildings, cities, cemeteries, _pre’cious
stones, etc., does not work. For these do not reduce, their
value does not reduce in plausible ways, to that of living
creatures. Consider, for example, landscapes of works of
art and insects (such as Schell’s post-nuclear republic). In
any case, once again such reductionism is incompatible with
the spirit of deep ecology, with the nonreductionist metaphysics .


Ecosophy T is pretty much an old-fashi.)ned hy?ot:leticodeductive system (on one of Naess’s own accounts) ,
disconcertingly like classical (Bentham) utilitar ianislll,
which also starts from the top down with a similar single
objective function, perhars asfJlIo’;/3 (see Figure 4).

And as a way of trying to ground Jeep ec)logy, ecosophy T
is open to a range of fundamental objections similar to
those that a thorough-going deep ecology would direct
against utilitarianism, namely:

01. The initial objective function, that of universal
self-realisation, or total utility, is off-target.

02. The whole systemic framework, especially that of
maximizing a (quasi-measutable) objective function, is passe,
old dominant paradigm stuff, out of keeping with an alternative environmental paradigm.

Both ecosophy and utilitarianism are resolutions, compatible with the value core of deep ecology , of the
starting point of optimization theory, namely, in unconstrained form:

Maximize the objective (function)!

To be sure, biocentrism could mean (and could be interpreted to mean) something much weaker and fairly accept3ble, for instance, that we should focus more on life and
less on humans, while not excluding other natural things (or
even the fabricated environment). Something like that is
what Naess sometimes seems to mean . But it is not
what his theses say, nor what he elsewhere says, nor what
the enormous emphasis he puts on self-realisation as the
fundamental theme suggests. Nor is it what the West
Coasters generally mean. But nothing very much stronger
can be justified. And the worst excesses of biocentrism
should certainly go, as they parallel those of anthropocentrism, for instance, that the universe was made, or
designed, or evolved for life, that that is what, and ail,
that is valuable in it.

4. The grounding of the value core of deep ecology in
ecosophy and elsewhere. With the rejection of narrower
biocentrism, Naess’s proposed derivation of deep ecological
themes from his ecosophy, and in particular from the fundamental principle of (maximum) self-realisation, is cast into
serious doubt. The general idea is that the grounds of intrinsic value – such (ecological universals) as diversity,
complexity and richness, and also more biological attributes
like symbiosis, which are what make life systems valuable are derived from more fundamental principles, specifically
from the fundamental normative principle of maximizing
self-realisation. A relevant part of a block diagram of the
system Ecosophy T looks like this (after Naess, 1977, p.


But what is the fundamental objective in normative
matters, in value theory? Rather obviously, value. And, it
becomes clear, ecosophy and utilitarianis.ll are attempted,
but faulty, apDlications of value:

J~ft3.xi ‘nizc value!

that is (?)
that is (?)









of pain

Diagram of part of the system Ecosophy T.





se Lf-rea L Lsat Lon


M.:!x LI”IL2e


COMP Lex i, ty
i..1″I i,z:es




1“1 <!I X



Max i,f" L2e

COl"lp I,ex L ty




tlax i.M i.2e



exa;n:)ies of V3]UE’ which fall beyond self-realisation, as
earlier argul1ent :,as revealed. The picture is as follows:

_ – – – – – – – …… ,4–Value



Uti., LLty for


al..l. senti..ent






nUMber of happy





A top-down utilitarian replica! of part of
Ecosophy T.

What exception can possibly be taken I to the over arching
directive to maximize value. That is a story which is told
elsewhere ; but, in brief, directives are like obligations
{in fact imperatival analogues thereof), and there is no obligation to try to fulfil or satisfy such objectives. Even if
it would (analytically) be best for value to be maximized,
there is no obligation on anyone (or on nature: God is different, He’s a maximized to endeavour to do so; that would
be extensive, and ridiculous, and probably counterproductive, supererogation. A more relaxed alternative, more in
accord with the spirit of deep ecology and natural practices (though perhaps still too analytic in formulation), is
Satisize value!

That is, the alternative directive to turn out a maximu.ll is
to turn out enough.

Some of the merit of satisizing shift appears immediately with questions of population. Maximizing self-realisation appears to imply maximizing as far as possible the
population of self-realisation capable creatures, and since
(on usual perceptions) humans are among such creatures par
excellence, maximizing (self-realising) humans. But this is a
directive contrary to other tenets of deep ecology, concerning reductions in world (human) population. So some
awkward back-tracking, familiar from utilitarianism ,
has to be done. Satisizing avoids all this.

But what is wrong with the widely applauded attempt,
running through much idealistic and Eastern thinking, to
explicate value through self-realisation? Firstly, like utilitarian explications, such as those through happiness and satisfaction, it is much too experiential. It renders value a
feature of those who experience value – roughly of valuers
– rather than of what is valued, and bears value. It is like
saying that colour is a matter of those (humans) who perceive colour, not of the (composition of) things that are
coloured. And remove the experiences, those undertaking
self-realisation, as in the days before life appears, and
value disappears. And that too is wrong.

Secondly, even if self-realisation is always worthwhile
and never tied to evil – by contrast with life – there are

A certain sort of direcTronis
(in biochemistry texts interested in explaining life) as a minimal
condition of life of an organism or system: call that direction, self-direction. Thus, deep ecology, insofar as it values
(just) life, values (just) self-direction. In these terms, the
contraction from self-direction to self-realisation, as in
ecosophy T, looks like a mistake. A similar mistake appears
to underly contractions to ecological consciousness (as in
Devall); for self-realisation looks remarkably like conscious
self-direction, roughly an intersection of self .. direction with
consciousness. (The more sweeping West-Coast-inspired
conversion of deep ecology into awareness psychology, to a
certain sort of exercise in self-realisation and consciousness raising, is rejected below.)
The arguments assembled thus undermine both of what
Devall presents as the ‘alternate norms of deep ecology’,
namely self-realisation and biocentrism. ‘These are not
proved but “felt'” (1983, p. 5). But they are not felt at
least by those who perceive value beyond what lives, but
rather disproved, by a series of counterexamples to both as
ultimate norms.

The derivation of the deep ecology core from ecosophy
is not the only derivation that fails with the fall of biocentrism. Those from Buddhism and other than exotic
strands of Christianity are in trouble or fall. This is
especially evident with Buddhism, which emphasizes experience and personal valuation and appears in the end, to
admit the reality of consciousness only. So, as it leaves no
room for intrinsic value beyond conscious experienced life
, it founders in much the way that ecosophy does.

The failure of suggested ideological bases for deep
ecology, though it casts reasonable doubt on the pluralistic
ideological appeal of deep ecology, does not mean that the
movement is left without bases. Presumably suitable modifications of such difficult philosophical systems as those of
Whitehead and Spinoza can be made to work; certainly
adaptations of Meinongian object-theory will do. But along
with expected bases, there are some less welcome and
simpler systems, which will serve to ground deep ecology,
especially the biocentric egalitarian form already rejected.

The Benthamite model for the value core of deep ecology just one of many consequentialist modellings – simply
assigns an equal utility to each atomic life form . In
this way both sole and greater value assumptions are avoided, biocentrism is satisfied, and even egalitarian requirements are met (in a curious Benthamite way: bacteria are
as good as banyans and bats).

The Benthamite model, and variants which assign value
more widely, show that the value core of deeper positions
can be combined with highly individualistic theories. Indeed
elaboration of such models reveals that the value core is
substantlally independent of metaphysical issues concerning
individualism, that to maintain the value core it is not
essential (contrary to what is sometimes suggested) to
adopt a holistic metaphysics involving the wholesale rejection of all forms of individualism, i.e. analyses of complexes and wholes into individual atoms.

The Benthamite model has some systemic appealing
consequences, despite its atomistic basis: any forest is
much more valuable (because of higher utility count) than a
mere human; Brazil is far more valuable than the USA; and
so on. But with its reductionist atomistic features it is in
diametric opposition to the nonreductionist holistic metaphysics characteristically included in deep ecology.

To be continued in our next issue •••








In case it is supposed this sort of conceptual muddiness is limited to
less exact science, consider such recent notions as the anthropic principle, from physics, and nonmonotonic logic, from computer science.

See Naess, 1973, p. 98ff.

The claim is documented below. Naess’s larger presentation, in his
book (1974, available only in Scandinavian languages) is different

Thus, according to Naess (1973, p. 99), ‘ ••• the significant tenets of the
Deep Ecology movement are clearly and forcefully normative. They
express a value priority system ••• ‘

This is one’ of three different collections with this title which have
been circulated or announced recently: see references.

See Naess, 1973, p. 95; but Naess’s rejection is rejected below.

Devall, 1979, p. 83.

In Routley, 1984.

This is a substantial, and controversial, claim, especially since it
accounts much economic activity unethical, as involving practices of
expediency, not morality. For the fuller case for obligations and commitments to future humans, see, e.g., Routley, 1981, and other essays
collected with it in Partridge, 1981. This section is drawn from my
‘People vs the Land’ (1984).

The points are explained in more detail in EP, where too account is
taken of the shift from humans to persons (which would be important
were it taken seriously and adhered to). With value for natural items
goes, of cours’e, concern and sensitivity with respect to them.

But the same holds for other fashionable theories, on the Americandominated ethical scene, namely contractualism and libertarianism.

More broadly based historical utilitarian isms, which allow for some
input from other sentient creatures, are considered below.

Here practice contrasts with what the theory allows. Utilitarianism is
like much pollution control, where regulations are on the books or part
of the law but only occasionally or never applied.

Other examples are considered below. Two of the four forms of ecological consciousness considered by Rodman fit here (as Rodman has
remarked). For instance, falling into the intermediate range are the
types of environmental positions adopted by Birch and Cobb, and by
Attfield and by many other consequentialists.

See the arguments of EP, beginning with the Last Man argument.

The point is argued in detail in Routley and Griffin.

See The Trumpeter 1 (4) (1984), pp. 6-7. Drengson is not the only
casualty; Berry, whose criticism Drengson is trying to meet, is another.

Differently, the child is Hitler or the President who chooses to press
the nuclear button. Such cases were considered in Routley (1974).

See, e.g., B. Devall and B. Sessions, ‘The books of deep ecology’, Earth
First! 4 (8) (1984). A number of these books do not penetrateVery
deep ecologically, or even sometimes otherwise.

See especially p. 344, with remarks like ‘and wherever possible the
wildlife they may support on their fringes’. The paragraph portrays a

R. Attfield, The Ethics of Environmental Concern, Blackwell, Oxford, 1983
R. Attfield, Review of D. Scherer and T. Attig’s Ethics and the
Environment, Metaphilosophy 1984, to appear
C. Birch and J.B. Cobb, The Liberation of Life, Cambridge University
Press, 1983
M. Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom, Cheshire Books, Palo Alto, 1982
F. Capra, The Tao of Physics, Fontana, Glasgow, 1976
B. Devall, ‘The deep ecology movement’, Natural Resources Journal
(University of New Mexico) 20 (1979), 299-322
B. Devall, ‘Stone/sky: Reflections on the “real work” of deep ecology’,
Environment, Ethics and Ecology, typescript, Canberra, 1983
B. Devall and G. Sessions, Deep Ecology, Peregrine Smith Books, Lay ton,
Utah, 1984
B. Devall and G. Sessions, ‘The development of natural resources and the
integrity of nature: contrasting views of management’, typescript,
Rocklin, California, 1984
B.S. DeWitt and N. Graham (eds.), The Many-Worlds Interpretation of
Quantum Mechanics, Princeton University Press, 1973
A. Drengson, Shifting Paradigms, Light Star, Victoria, BC, 1983
A. Drengson (ed.), The Trumpeter, Light Star, Victoria, BC; several issues
W. Fox, ‘The intuition of deep ecology’, The Ecologist, 1984, to appear
A. Gare, ‘The shallow and the deep, long-range critique of science’,
typescript, Murdoch University, 1982
N. Griffin and D. Bennett, ‘The ethics of triage’, Discussion Papers in
Environmental Philosophy, 8, Research School of Social Sciences,
Australian National University, 1984
G. Hardin, Exploring New Ethics for Survival, Penguin, 1977
W. James, Essays in Radical Empiricism
D. Mannison and others (eds.), Environmental Philosophy, Research School
of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1980
P. Miller, ‘Value as richness’, Environmental Ethics 4 (1982) 100-114
A. Naess, ‘The shallow and the deep, long-range ecology movement. A
summary’, Inquiry 16 (1973) 95-100
A. Naess, Okologi, Samfunn og livsstil, Oslo, 1974
A. Naess, ‘Notes on the methodology of normative systems’, Methodology
and Science 10 (1977) 64-79
A. Naess, ‘Philosophical aspects of the deep ecological movement’,
typescript, Oslo, 1983
A. Naess, ‘What is basic in deep ecology?’, typescript, Canberra,
September 1984








‘.’ery human-centred (and conquered land) picture. See also p. 342,

Such triage positions are severely criticised in Griffin and Bennett.

See Routley (1982).

In EP, p. 96. Thus the value core arrived at fits snugly into the framework of an environmental philosophy already outlined, viz. that of EP.

A similar defence is often tried for evil members of species, an
assumption being that there are no irremediably evil creatures.

So it has already been suggested. For a detailed case see Routley and
Griffin. Here we ~ seem to weave a dizzy course between shallow
and deep ground. For it is usually shallow ground that nonhuman life is
not intrinsically valuable. But it is often mistakenly taken to be elitist
ground that not all human life is (equally) valuable.

See principle (1), Ecophilosophy VI, p. 5; also principle (2).

Some of the metaphors projecting life into natural things, favoured by
deep ecologists and Zen Buddhists, are more perplexing, e.g. ‘the
mountain is thinking’, ‘the mountain walks’, ‘the blue mountains are
walking’ (Dogen).

For what is valued – whether, variously, rationality, consciousness,
sentience, central nervous systems of backbones, (having) interests,
concerns, or just being alive – is always some feature confined to
(individual) living things. Thus the arguments are also directed against
such ecophilosophers as Birch and Cobb, Fox, Singer, Attfield, and
many others. Attfield, for example (1984, p. 16), claims that ‘it is
where life enters that we detect the presence of value’, and tries to
use this as an argumentfor his value atom ism (but inconclusively, e.g.

because of symbiosis). As some sort of empirical claim, which it purports to be, this is surely several ways astray: we? (irreducible) value?

Recently Taoism has been added to the list. Philosophy is short for
ecophilosophy, or ecosophy, and is not to be approximated by uncongenial positions such as Humanism.

The spirit of deep ecology corresponds, more or less, to what gets into
the wider deep ecological paradigm, sketched below.

Thus in 1983 he remarks, as a sort of aside, that ‘life, but not only
life, has inherent value’. But most of his 1983 is committed to a
thorough-going emphasis on life and life conditions.

It is old-fashioned in other ways as well; for it is largely a biocentric
adaption of neo-Hegelianism, perhaps most strikingly that of Green. In
Green, as in other neo-Hegelians committed to organism and holism and
opposed to materialism and individual reductionism, self-realisation is
each person’s goal, complete self-realisation that is, which thus includes that of other persons.

Devall’s contrast (in 1979) of utilitarianism and deep ecology, though
accurate for standard utilitarianism, fails for a broader utilitarianism.

This is important beyond the core, where holistic elements appear. But
his claim (in 1983) that shallow ecology is utilitarian is seriously

See DEP, 1110 and 117.

As presented, e.g., by Singer, where the theory is modified to maximise the happiness of those sentient beings that do exist – or some

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and rational behaviour under rival paradigms’, Discussion Papers in
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of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1984
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R. and V. Routley, ‘Nuclear energy and obligations to the future’, in
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Partridge), Prometheus Books, Buffalo, 1981
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