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Environmental Values

Reconciling Realism and Constructivism in Environmental Ethics

Richard J. Evanoff

Environmental Values 14(2005): 61-81. doi: 10.3197/0963271053306113

This paper outlines a constructivist approach to environmental ethics which attempts to reconcile realism in the ontological sense, i.e., the view that there is an objective material world existing outside of human consciousness, with the view that how nature is understood and acted in are epistemologically and morally constructed. It is argued that while knowledge and ethics are indeed culturally variable, social constructions of nature are nonetheless constrained by how things actually stand in the world. The 'realist' version of constructivism proposed here can be linked to dialectical forms of reasoning which see knowledge and ethics as arising out of human interactions with an objectively real environment, and contrasted with strong constructivist views which see nature as 'nothing more than' a social construct. While both the physical environment and human attitudes towards it are in part socially constructed, nature also retains a measure of autonomy, or 'wildness', apart from human constructions.

KEYWORDS: Constructivism, guiding visions, autonomy of nature, dialectics

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Rethinking the Relations of Nature, Culture and Agency. Patrick D. Murphy

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

De-Domestication: Ethics at the Intersection of Landscape Restoration and Animal Welfare. Christian Gamborg, Bart Gremmen, Stine B. Christiansen and Peter Sandøe

Bruno Latour and the Ontological Dissolution of Nature in the Social Sciences: A Critical Review. Jacques Pollini

This article is available online (PDF format) from Ingenta Journals. Access is free if your institution subscribes to Environmental Values. Reprints of this article can be ordered from ingenta or the British Library

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