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Value, Beauty, and Nature: The Philosophy of Organism and the Metaphysical Foundations of Environmental Ethics

Much of early environmental ethics was born out of the belief that the ecological crisis can only truly be solved by overcoming a pernicious worldview that limits all intrinsic value to human beings. Returning to this originating impulse, Value, Beauty, and Nature contends that, to make progress within environmental ethics, philosophers must explicitly engage in environmental metaphysics. Grounded in an organicist process worldview, Brian G. Henning shows that it is possible to make progress in key debates within environmental philosophy, including those concerning the nature of intrinsic value; anthropocentrism; hierarchy; the moral significance of beauty; the nature of individuality; teleology and the naturalistic fallacy; and worldview reconstruction. A Whiteheadian fallibilistic, naturalistic, event ontology allows for the recovery of systematic, speculative metaphysical thought without a revanchist movement toward a necessitarian philosophia perennis. Thus, in contrast to the claims of environmental pragmatists, Value, Beauty, and Nature demonstrates that environmental ethics would greatly benefit from an adequate metaphysical foundation and, of the candidate metaphysical systems, Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy of organism is the most adequate.

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