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Aristotle’s Powers and Responsibility for Nature


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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Part I: The Heritage of Aristotle


PART I THE HERITAGE OF ARISTOTLE 23 1. Aristotle’s Biological Teleology Introduction There is no doubt that we recognise some things as morally important and that there are many reasons for this. But what is it that makes something morally important? There is a wide sense in which we can address this question and a narrow sense. In the widest sense we would look at human psychology, social connectedness, personal context and a host of other issues. And, we would focus on the thinking of moral agents. The focus of this book, however, is not to answer this question in its widest sense, but to address it in a narrower sense, a sense that looks to what might be inherent in an object that makes it morally considerable and which, in effect, announces a need to those around it. The story, if it can be called such, begins with Aristotle’s notion of internal teleology and shows that this internal or, more correctly, immanent teleology is an undeniably important basis from which to understand moral considerability in the natural world. Once we understand this immanent teleology we can come to understand that it sits at the heart of contemporary environmental metaphysics—and ultimately at the heart of an ethic of responsibility for the environment. Why begin with Aristotle? The are several reasons for this, some of which will become apparent in the coming chapters, but first among the reasons is that the teleology referred to is immanent (indwelling) in some living,...

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