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Aristotle’s Powers and Responsibility for Nature

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Stephan Millett

This book addresses the theme of what «nature» is and humans’ obligations toward the natural world. It demonstrates that an approach based in metaphysics can help us to understand better what nature is and our obligations to the natural world. Beginning with ideas traced from Aristotle through some of the signifcant figures in European philosophy, the author shows that each living thing is a unique source of value.
He then argues that this value puts humans under an obligation and that adopting an attitude of responsibility to living things is an essential part of what it means to be human.

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CONTENTS

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Introduction ........................................................................................... 9 Part I: The Heritage of Aristotle 1 Aristotle’s Biological Teleology ....................................................... 23 Introduction .................................................................................... 23 The Concept of Teleology in the Philosophy of Biology ............. 24 Aristotle’s Teleology ..................................................................... 31 Three Key Aristotelian Concepts ................................................... 34 Aristotle’s Powers and Change ..................................................... 42 The Nature of Phsis ..................................................................... 48 Conclusion ..................................................................................... 50 2 Persevering in Being: Conatus and Dnamis.................................... 51 Introduction .................................................................................... 51 Origins of Spinoza’s Conatus ........................................................ 52 Desire and Will: a Taxonomical Comparison ................................ 74 Conatus and ‘Change’ in Aristotle ................................................. 80 Physics B and an Internal Principle of Movement ......................... 87 Part II: Moral Considerability 3 The Status of Organisms and Ecosystems ......................................... 95 Introduction .................................................................................... 95 Parts and Wholes ........................................................................... 98 Ends-in-themselves ...................................................................... 108 Intrinsic Value ............................................................................. 112 Interest ......................................................................................... 115 6 Intrinsic Value Theories in Environmental Philosophy .................... 121 Third-order Autopoiesis and Ecosystems .................................... 127 Summary ...................................................................................... 137 4 Nature, Moral Considerability and Respect .................................... 139 Introduction .................................................................................. 139 Taylor’s Biocentric Ethic ............................................................. 140 Moral Considerability .................................................................. 144 Living Things as (Aristotelian) Teleological Centres of Activity ....................................................................... 151 Addressing the Paradox of Individual ‘Unity’ ............................. 155 Inherent Worth and ‘Good’ .......................................................... 161 Moral Persons .............................................................................. 166 Conflict and Resolution ............................................................... 168 Moral Significance and Merit ...................................................... 173 Conclusions .................................................................................. 175 5 Selves, Conatus and Aristotle .......................................................... 177 Introduction .................................................................................. 177 A Cosmological Approach ........................................................... 178 Individuation ................................................................................ 184 Conatus ........................................................................................ 191 Interest ......................................................................................... 195 Individuals ................................................................................... 198 An Aristotelian Umbrella ............................................................. 202 Part III: Value and Responsibility 6 Value, Complexity and Obligation .................................................. 205 Introduction .................................................................................. 205 Value Enters the World ................................................................ 206 Complexity is Relevant ................................................................ 209 Responsibility .............................................................................. 223 7 Human-nature Dualism ................................................................ 230 Forms of Substantive Responsibility ........................................... 234 7 Feeling, Responsibility and Virtue .................................................. 241 From the Nature of Things to an Ethical Standpoint ....................... 241 Responsibility, Virtue, Feeling ................................................... 248...

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