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Environmental Values

Artefacts and Functions: A Note on the Value of Nature

Eric Katz

Environmental Values 2(1993): 223-232. doi: 10.3197/096327193776679909

This paper examines and compares the ontological and axiological character of artefacts - human creations - with nonhuman natural entities. The essential difference between artefacts and natural entities is that the former are always the result of human intention and design, while the latter are independent of human purpose. Artefacts have functions; natural entities do not.

The connection to human intentional purpose implies a different kind of value for artefacts. Artefacts are evaluated solely by their instrumental (and anthropocentric) use, while natural entities can be appreciated for their independent and autonomous existence.

This distinction has normative implications, especially for environmental policy and the development of an environmental ethic. Intervention in natural processes, even to 'improve' nature, must be limited, for human action changes natural entities and systems into artefacts. A moral imperative requires respect for the autonomy of nature and resistance to the human domination of nature.


KEYWORDS: Ecological restoration, environmental sustainability, biological function, environmental ethics, natural value, artefacts, autonomy CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

The Nazi Comparison in the Debate over Restoration: Nativism and Domination.Eric Katz

Moral-Material Ontologies of Nature Conservation: Exploring the Discord Between Ecological Restoration and Novel Ecosystems.Mick Lennon


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