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New Horizons in Philosophy and Sociology

Edited By Hülya Yaldir and Güncel Önkal

What is our responsibility as scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences in the face of global issues threatening humanity today? This book provides a platform for an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural dialogue among philosophers and sociologists on the most pressing global issues facing humanity today. Combining the critical thinking of philosophy with sociological methods and researches, this volume offers fresh and stimulating perspectives with regard to various issues including environmental degradation, democracy, gender and economic inequalities, religion, war and peace.

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Environmental Destruction as a Philosophical Problem

1 Introduction

The prevalent approach to environmental problems is to resort to technology, science, politics, or economics for their solution. It is, however, ironic to expect solutions from what causes the deterioration of the environment in the first place. The cause of a problem may sometimes present itself as the very solution for it. For example, if high salt intake is what causes the hypertension, then cutting down on salt will decrease the blood pressure. Nonetheless, some problems have more than one underlying cause and thereby may require a more nuanced solution. Environmental problems are a paradigmatic example of such problems. As Attfield puts it, “environmental problems cannot be explained by any single factor, neither population, nor affluence, nor technology, nor capitalism, nor lack of markets, nor patriarchy, nor growth, nor religion” (Attfield, 2003: 25). Despite their complexity and broad scope, it is beyond dispute that environmental problems are fundamentally ethical problems. For one thing, the remedial question raised by them—the question of what we ought to do in order to prevent environmental destruction—has ethical connotations. For another, there is harm involved and human beings are the main agents responsible for it. Viewed this way, it would be a grave mistake to see environmental problems as solely a concern of technology, science, politics or economic, and disregard its philosophical dimension.

Nonetheless, philosophers have been surprisingly silent on the environmental problem until recently. The reason for this neglect may lie in philosophy’s reputation for being theoretical and abstract. However, just as philosophy is driven by theoretical considerations, it is also concerned with practical and concrete questions. Presumably, the reason is linked to traditional ethical thinking which has been profoundly influential until recently. According to traditional thinking, the circle of moral concern consists of only human beings. Then, it is quite understandable why philosophers have not given the issue of environmental destruction its due consideration so far. After all, the traditional view implies that humans have no morally binding duties to beings other than themselves. However, this view has been challenged recently by the so-called “environmental ethics”. Environmental ethics is driven by the desire to extend the scope of moral ←147 | 148→circle beyond human beings. It assigns value to non-human beings, the environment or the whole ecological system. Depending on the sort of value assigned to beings and its extent, different approaches have emerged within environmental ethics, namely, human-centred and life-centred ethics. Considering environmental destruction as fundamentally a philosophical problem, this chapter will dwell on environmental ethics. More particularly, it will explore how human-centred and life-centred ethics treat environmental problems and whether these two approaches adequately address them.

2 Environmental ethics

In the 20th century, humanity came to understand its contribution to the destruction of environment and began to make efforts to overcome this situation. Due to the increasing population, scarcity of resources and people’s wasting of scarce resources for many reasons, it is time for new decisions to be taken. These decisions take place in the internal regulations of the states in the form of conferences and strategies, and they are put forth via interstate protocols. The conferences that unite people on a common ground in the acquisition of environmental awareness and those conventions that draw the most attention among the protocols and whose results are widely accepted by the countries are Stockholm UN Human and Environment Conference, UN Rio Earth Summit, 1997 Kyoto Protocol. It is very important to take and implement these types of decisions in the legal and political arena to prevent environmental degradation.

On the other hand, another important area in the protection of the environment is science and technology. People often resort to these two resources in their struggle to cope with environmental problems and eradicate them. It seems to be the most reasonable way to solve the existing environmental degradation through science and technology. For example, the best way to prevent landslides or erosion could be to prevent afforestation using the right calculations. Likewise, in order to increase the fertility of the soil, following it or leaving the land uncultivated is only possible with the knowledge of science and technology. In Egypt and Mesopotamia, astronomical and mathematical calculations to prevent the floods of the Nile serves as an important example to increase the production, and to prevent environmental degradation. The refinement of factory wastes with new devices and the recycling of wastes (pet bottles, batteries, and chemical substances) that cause a great destruction in nature through developing technology also prevent environmental destruction. Despite all these things being done, environmental destruction remains a problem facing us. So these factors alone are not sufficient. In this case, we should get to the heart of the issue, make ←148 | 149→changes in its source, or awareness should be gained. This awareness will be a philosophical awareness.

From a philosophical point of view, the environment has been dealt with in an ethical context. Ethics requires “a self-conscious stepping back from our own lives to reflect on what type of life we should live, how we should act, and what kind of people we should be” (Jardins, 2006: 34). We need to develop a similar approach to environmental degradation or destruction and think about “what to do” and “how to live”. For if the philosophical background of this problem (ethical side) is not taken into consideration, the problem will be solved only with science and technology and this would not be a complete solution even though it means progressing a lot. Jardins implies that environmental problems are far more than to be solved solely with science and technology by saying “although we might be required to turn to science and technology for a quick response, environmental problems are not merely problems peculiar to science and technology” (2006: 35). As the environment is the ecological area in which people live, this area needs an ethical view and philosophical awareness in addition to the contributions of science and technology, in fact even more than their contribution. What is meant here is that science and technology are inadequate, not useless. When science and technology are combined with philosophy and its sub-field ethics, it is possible to prevent environmental degradation.

Philosophy tries to solve the problems of increasing and insuppressible environmental destruction through the discipline of environmental ethics. First of all, ethics, which is the basic discipline of philosophy, fundamentally aims at preserving the values of human beings, while environmental ethics moves from the assumption that all entities in the environment have a “value”. Çüçen indicates the scope of environmental ethics by saying “historically, despite the fact that the theme of environmental ethics is usually consisted of wildlife, animals that live in nature, organisms, ecosystems and biodiversity, the close environment that humans live in and their relationship with it has become the subject matter of environmental ethics especially in recent years” (2011: 3). According to others, environmental ethics are explained as follows: Attfield writes: “environmental ethics includes forestry ethics (the sphere from which environmental ethics historically emerged), agricultural ethics, […], business ethics, biomedical ethics, ethics of genetic engineering, and population ethics. Other adjacent fields are transport policy, planning policy, and policies concerning recreation and tourism” (2003: 15). Jardins identifies environmental ethics as “the systematic account of moral relations between human beings and their natural environment” (2006: 46). Kışlalıoğlu and Berkes maintain that “environmental ethics is generally a systematic examination of the moral relations between people ←149 | 150→and their natural surroundings”, “[…] the responsibility of the human beings in the protection of nature is both a philosophical and an ecological concept” (1993: 13). Cevizci defines environmental ethics as “a sub-discipline of applied ethics that discusses the duties and responsibilities of human beings towards nature” (2013: 121). In other words, environmental ethics is incorporated into the ethics, which is a sub-field of philosophy, and while the ethics concerns with the duties and responsibilities of human beings and imposes certain responsibilities on them, environmental ethics similarly deals with the duties and responsibilities. The key concern of environmental ethics is about how to set forth what the duties and responsibilities of human beings are, what the source of these duties and responsibilities is and where they are originated from (Ibid., 122).

The concept of ethics cannot be considered independently of the concept of responsibility. The concept of responsibility is a concept that includes what we do as much as what we will do. In this regard, our environmental responsibility is the responsibility in the sense of a legacy to future generations, who will prevent environmental destruction (Keleş et al., 2009: 270). Environmental degradation is not a problem present only at the time we live in and that will be lost afterwards. There is continuity in the environment. Thus, any mistake made will affect not only today but also our future. On the other hand, there is also an inadequate understanding of what environmental problems are. Attfield has very well expressed the breadth of the field by claiming, “Ultimately, environmental ethics can be regarded as concerned with a variety of practical issues arising from human interactions with the natural world” (2003: 16). It seems as though only applying pesticides in an unconscious manner, polluting the environment, using the resources wastefully are environmental problems. However, the environmental problem has a broader scope than all these. Ünder states this point as follows:

“Air pollution, sea pollution, river pollution or the contamination of drinking water; toxic or non-toxic wastes; radiation or radiation hazard; deforestation, erosion of arable land and desertification as a result of it; depletion of non-renewable natural resources; rupture of the ozone layer; destruction of natural beauties for economic or other purposes; drought; acid rains; the extinction of animal and plant species or natural habitats (reduction of biological diversity); deaths of thousands of test animals in laboratories; extremely restrictive conditions imposed on pets to obtain nutrients” are some of the countless “disturbing situations” we are constantly facing. Besides these, problems like “traffic, inflation, drug addiction, terrorism, alcoholism” are environmental problems as well (1996: 1, 2).

In this sense, environmental problems have social, political, economic and cultural dimensions and the philosophical dimension is what handles them all ←150 | 151→together. Environmental problems are problems regarding the environment and the region in which the person lives, and more importantly, the person’s own self. In this respect, they are local. On the other hand, an entire humanity will also be affected by an environmental problem that has been or is occurring at any time or place in the world. In this sense, environmental problems are global. Attfield illustrates this by saying “environmental problems arise from human dealings with the natural world, and can be either local or global, and either cumulative or systemic” (2003: 25).

Another important distinction at this point is the difference between nature and the environment. The concepts of nature and environment have been used interchangeably over time, but these two concepts are different. The concept of nature has come to the forefront, especially with the contribution of Natural Philosophers. However, the environment is a concept that was introduced later and whose content was tried to be filled in. Jamieson treats the scope of these concepts in the following way:

While the scope of the environment is very broad, contemporary environmentalists are especially concerned to protect nature. Often the ideas of nature and the environment are treated as if they were equivalent, but they have quite different origins and histories. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘environment’ as “the objects or the region surrounding anything,” and traces its origin to an Old French term, ‘environner’, meaning “to encircle.” The word ‘nature’ has much deeper roots, coming to us from the Latin natura. While disputes about the environment have occurred mostly in the twentieth century and after, arguments about the meaning and significance of nature are as ancient as philosophy (2008: 1–2).

Today, awareness concerning environment is developing rapidly. There are environment-friendly waste boxes in almost every corner or this expression is seen on many product packages. Of course, the significance of developments in science and technology cannot be denied in this sense. Nonetheless, the Industrial Revolution, the Electronic Revolution and the Information Revolution make human life easier on the one hand, and they destroy human roots on the other hand, for the resources available are rapidly destroyed. These damages not only affect people living at that time but also the lives of the organic and inorganic and future generations. For this reason, every argument to be developed, every decision to be made concerning the environment should be decisions that include tomorrows. Otherwise, the world would become a garbage of calculating minds in so far as the humans are the sovereign in every period and they tend to do what they want to the environment. Here the goal of the environmental ethics is evident; it should aim to make neither the environment nor the humans superior and put the two in harmony with each other. The goal of the humans can be ←151 | 152→revealed as far as they perceive themselves as an “Ecological Citizen”, as “ecological citizenship is a concept that intends to reduce the ecological impacts of our behaviour (choices) on others in our everyday lives and questions how we should live” (Karalar & Kiracı: 2011, 66). In other words, the solution of environmental problems requires the presence of a person who has environmental awareness and is equipped with ethical values in relation to the environment. However, at this point, we are faced with the important question of whether we should start with humans or living beings in our search for a solution to the environmental problems.

In environmental ethics, we encounter two different approaches, namely, human-centred and life-centred ethics. In environmental ethics, these two types of approaches are ethical views nourishing each other and at the same time, they are against each other. The first takes the humans to be the centre of ethical concern and treats the environmental problems accordingly, while the second places the living beings at the centre. The second is broader in scope and involves humans among any other species of living beings. The arguments of these two ethical perspectives should be carefully scrutinized in terms of preventing environmental degradation. Now, let us consider the basic assumptions of human-centred ethics in the field of environmental ethics.

3 Human-centred ethics (anthropocentrism)

Within environmental ethics, anthropocentrism not only places humans at the centre of ethics, but also treats humans as the only valuable beings in nature. According to Kılıç, anthropocentrism is derived from the Greek term “anthropos”, which means “human”. “According to the anthropocentric environmental ethics, plants, animals and inanimate beings do not have any value by themselves. On the contrary, they only have the right to exist and therefore have a value as long as they serve human beings. […] In an anthropocentric approach, nature is nothing more than a thing surrounding human beings” (Kılıç, 2008: 53). On the other hand, “in the anthropocentrism, people are considered to be valuable only because they exist, regardless of whether or not they contribute to the society. People gain this status of being valuable as soon as they are born” (Ibid: 56). With regard to anthropocentrism, Attfield says “the view just mentioned, that moral standing can be restricted to humanity alone, is called “anthropocentrism”; a term that is also used of the related value-theory that none but human interests or concerns matter, in the sense of having independent value” (2003: 9–10). Ünder states, “Anthropocentrism is the view that ethical principles apply solely to human beings, that human needs and interests have the highest and even have ←152 | 153→a special value and importance. Anthropocentrism is humans’ attribution of more value to their own species than other beings in nature” (1996: 60). Jardins defines anthropocentric ethics as an ethical view that “only human beings have moral value” (2006: 46).

The fundamental thesis of anthropocentric ethics is that that human beings are in a different position from the other beings that exist in nature. According to this, the position of human beings is sometimes determined by mythologies, sometimes by religions, often by sciences. Human beings are an entity that both bring themselves into being and create value for themselves, and also create and change the environment. They are desperate in front of the endless environment and dependent on it in the beginning. According to Özerkmen, “in the process of human evolution, primitive man is entirely defenceless, helpless and alone in nature and against natural phenomena. He is incompatible with and contrary to nature because he is not born with natural shields. For this reason, at the beginning, he yields to nature and tries to adapt to his surroundings” (2002: 170). Over time, human beings begin to live in harmony with nature and have also accelerated the transition to agriculture by making use of science and technology. Transition to agrarian society has increased the available resources, economic independence and has brought ease in meeting day-to-day requirements. It has opened a new way of life and economic avenues where nature and environment can be used for the benefit of humanity.

Science Renaissance, which began in Europe especially in the 16th century, brought about the industrial revolution after nearly two centuries. After this stage, human beings have begun to have control over the environment. In other words, the human race is not satisfied with what it gives, but has come to dominate it with their own talents. Establishing power over nature, human beings have begun to act independently of nature by stepping out of nature. On the other hand, the value of human beings is taken up independently of the value of the environment in this approach, hence one’s value does not affect the other’s value. This approach, which only revolves around human beings and assigns value to only them, does not attribute any value to nature. In order to explain this issue, Ünder makes a distinction between “intrinsic” and “inherent” values, that is, objective value (value in itself), and instrumental value (being valuable as a means to an end). According to him, if something is valuable without needing something else to attribute value to itself, that is, if it is valued in its own right, then it has a value in itself. Something that is objectively valuable does not need anything else to be valuable. Something is instrumentally valuable if and only if it is valuable as a means to some end. It gains value by means of the benefits it provides to other things. It has no value on its own (Ünder, 1996: 59). In this ←153 | 154→respect, it is the human which is the value in itself. Nature is instrumentally valuable for humans. Ünder distinguishes between objective and instrumental values to be human beings and nature by saying, “traditional ethical systems only see human beings as intrinsically valuable. In these systems, human beings are valued independently regardless of the contribution they can make to the well-being of another person or society in general. […] Other entities have no intrinsic values. They are just the tools that people can use for their own good” (Ünder, 1996: 60). Based on this, it is accepted that not only nature has no value in itself, but also the view that humans have mandatory responsibilities towards nature is rejected. In this approach, human is only an entity that forms himself and works for the preservation of his own value.

It is claimed that “Western World View” lies at the basis of such glorification of humans by anthropocentric ethics. When the Western philosophy tradition is considered, it will be seen that human beings are preferred in the case of deciding between human beings and the environment in order to ascribe moral responsibility. The reason for this is that human beings are always on top in the diagram about the living things since the Classical antiquity. Many Western philosophers who are interested in ontology place humans in a position above other beings. Human beings have been given great value with the Sophists and Socrates, and philosophical anthropology has now begun to take the place of natural philosophy. Especially with Aristotle, human beings are placed at the top of the pyramid of the living beings. Aristotle puts forth the steps of the pyramid by means of the distinction he makes when he speaks of the capabilities. The main reason why humans are in the foreground is that they are the sole beings of reason. Kant, the philosopher who mostly puts the human mind to the forefront in the history of philosophy, says that “man—and in general every rational being—exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be used by this or that will at its discretion” (Kant, 2009: 45). In this sense, the human-centred ethical view is given a special emphasis in the Western worldview, since humans as an end in themselves are seen as the only entity that can bear ethical responsibility.

The anthropocentric approach is divided into two as “self-centred” and “community-centred”. The self-centred approach is concerned only with the individual and asserts that anything that fits the interests of the individual will be better for society directly. Since the community is at the centre in the community-centric approach, the interests of each individual are kept under control by a number of rules and sanctions (Ünder, 1996: 57–58). The first takes into account only the individuals and their interests, while the latter takes into account both the interests of the society and the individual. The anthropocentric approach seeks to present both approaches with an optimistic point of view, ←154 | 155→regardless of whether they are self-centric or community-centric. It is claimed that this optimistic point of view is also put forth by the “Western World View”. In this approach, there is no room for despair, human helplessness or environmental degradation caused by human’s own hand. The anthropocentric and optimistic beliefs that Western cultures put forward are as follows:

1.Actually, human beings are different from all other beings on which they have sovereignty.

2.Human beings are in control of their fate; they can choose their goals and learn to do what is necessary to achieve them.

3.The world is very wide and hence it provides unlimited opportunities for human beings.

4.Human history is a progress; there is a solution for each problem and therefore progress will never end. (Özerkmen, 2002: 173–174)

The importance of nature in anthropocentric ethics is still undeniable, as human beings are dependent on nature. This is why, nature has basically the “instrumental value” as being beneficial to human beings. This benefit can be in every area from feeding, to sheltering, to having fun, to being healthy. Human beings protect nature to gain these benefits. Nature that has no value in itself is a tool that helps to protect the values of man.

Another important point regarding the human-centred ethical approach is that not all human beings are treated with the same value in it. Although this approach regards man as a more valuable being than other beings in the nature, it does not unconditionally put all of the human beings into the same category. It draws a distinction here. This distinction is not a political distinction as slave–master, ruler–ruled. It is rather a distinction with respect to the biological existence of human beings. For example, “a fetus or a baby, a patient in a vegetative state, a mental patient, and very old human beings” are distinguished from biologically mature and healthy human beings (Ünder, 1996: 61). This distinction among humans is determined by their biology. That is, ethical responsibility is only assigned to those who are biologically competent. On this basis, human beings are divided into “moral agents who are morally competent and can enter into mutual ethical relationship, and moral patients who cannot enter into mutual ethical relationship” (Ünder, 1996: 60–61). In this case, moral agents as morally amenable beings are responsible towards moral patients who cannot be morally amenable.

As a result, it seems that the view “[…] only humans are worthy of ethical concern […]” is the focal point for scholars in the context of anthropocentric environmental ethics (Jardins, 2006: 198). In this sense, if it is necessary to make ←155 | 156→a decision regarding ethical responsibility in the solution of an environmental problem, humans are the ones to bear this responsibility. One is also responsible towards other human beings who have moral responsibility like himself/herself. The status of other living beings aside from human beings does not matter. The only thing that matters is the gains of the individual who bears moral responsibility or of the human community in general like utility, pleasure and aesthetic pleasure. It does not make sense for an ant to be damaged as a result of human actions against the environment, as the living beings have no moral value except human beings. It is at the initiative of the human beings to respect them. A mandatory responsibility is out of question as we have mentioned before. This approach, however, has not helped to reduce environmental degradation [by means of the value it ascribes to only human beings in the field of environmental ethics]. For “the ones who harm the environment and protect it are human beings who are essentially selfish beings. However, the protection and improvement of the environment necessitates a balance between the personal interests of selfish individuals and the interests of the society in the short and long run” (Keleş et al., 2009: 272).

Otherwise, human beings will always be a being exploiting the environment. A human-centred ethical approach that only considers “the well-being of humans” makes the environment outside of human beings passive and available to use, which would make human beings nothing but a being serving the destruction of the environment if they do not act with a sense of moral responsibility. In this sense, it is obvious that only human-centred environmental ethics cannot produce solutions. This is why, a new approach has been developed with an alternative perspective in recent years. This approach, which is presented as an alternative approach to the human-centric approach in the field of environmental ethics, is called life-centred ethical approach (biocentrism).

4 Life-centred ethics (biocentrism)

The life-centred approach is emerging as a critique of the human-centred approach. This approach seeks to create humans within nature, as opposed to approaches that address the opposition between human beings and nature, and places human beings on top in the classification of beings.

[…] The human being is neither above nature nor outside nature, but rather a part of nature. The human being is a species among species. Some genetic features that the human being has do not make him more valuable or less important than other species or the rest of nature. Species have different forms of becoming and of action, but despite all the differences between them, all living things are dependent on nature. In this respect, ←156 | 157→anthropocentrism, which describes the human being as the master of nature or as the center of life, overlooks the multifaceted and complex relationships that all living beings and the human beings enter into with nature as parts of nature. (Keleş, et al., 2009: 75)

As a matter of fact, Kılıç emphasizes that we should abandon anthropocentric approach and says, “the morality of a human being should not be limited with the human being, it should extend to the universe; he should become aware of the big chain of life that he is part of. He should realize that all beings have a value” (2008: 167). In the life-centred ethical view, the organic world is treated as a whole without regard to one’s being the instrument of the other. “Nature is a value in itself in this ethical approach. In other words, living things in nature are valuable without regard to the value that man will attribute to them now or in the future, and without undertaking any function” (Kılıç, 2008: 162). The point that this approach emphasizes is that the nature or the environment that human beings have transformed for their own benefit will be continually destroyed. For the human being who has the power of science and technology will continue to destroy nature by using his intellect. In this sense, it would be necessary to start from the human beings if we were to talk about the prevention of destruction of the environment. But this beginning should be made by regarding him as a threat, not a master. It can be said that while the human-centric approach is based on the human mind and the products that they create by using their mind, the life-centric approach tries to bring the value of living things to the forefront via the selfishness, greed, malice of human beings and their desire for endless possession.

The goal of the life-centred approach is to reduce the effects of human beings within nature as much as possible. For the living environment cannot be considered independently from the human beings. Since it would be impossible to disregard them, it would be sufficient to try to leave them out as much as possible or reduce their negative effects by increasing their positive aspects.

Albert Schweitzer and Paol Taylor’s approaches are the approaches that come to the forefront in life-centred views. Schweitzer expresses this as follows:

At the same time the man who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give to every will to live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own. He experiences that other life as his own. He accepts as being good: to preserve life, to raise to its highest value life which is capable of development; and as being evil: to destroy life, to injure life, to repress life which is capable of development. This is the absolute, fundamental principle of ethics, and it is a necessity of thought. (Schweitzer, 1998:157)

In other words, just as all moral teachings put a special emphasis on human life, all living things should be given the same respect. Respect for life cannot be a ←157 | 158→subjective matter that concerns the life of a single species. Paol Taylor, another advocate of life-centred ethics, describes it as follows:

The central tenet of the theory of environmental ethics that I am defending is that actions are right and character traits are morally-good in virtue of their expressing or embodying a certain ultimate moral attitude, which I call respect for nature. When moral agents adopt the attitude, they thereby subscribe to a set of standards of character and rules of conduct as their own ethical principles. (Taylor, 1986: 80)

Since the 20th century, as a field, the environment has been extensively studied. It has emerged that as a field it contains many things such as nature, human beings, cultural heritage and future generations and so on. But a human-centred nature or anthropocentrism entirely centred on the interests of human beings. According to this doctrine, all other living things on earth came into being to maintain the existence of humanity, and human beings are the sole bearers of intrinsic value on the earth.

This approach not only praises the characteristics peculiar to one kind of species, but also makes them the master and the tyrant of the universe. Moreover, it is also known that the other living beings have most of the characteristics that human beings have. For example, pain, pleasure, and so on are observed in animals by the zoologists. However, the moral responsibility is attributed only to the human beings, given their capacity of reason. This “human” is able to use his power in a bad way by acquiring a superior and more powerful position over other beings. However, to say that an ant or a dolphin is not of concern for ethics does not mean that we can dominate them in all ways.

These two leading figures of life-centred ethical approach basically emphasize that all the living beings and their desire to live should be respected. Here, in particular, a common ethical view has been sought to be developed for all living beings free from human hegemony. In this sense, the life-centric ethics has a very wide scope, as all the nature that cannot be confined to a narrow space is included in this ethical view. This is why, when its scope is taken into account, it becomes evident that all living things have a value and the human beings who respect this value, are responsible and attain a philosophical awareness. Even if all of these are taken into account, one of the most fundamental problems of life-centred environmental ethics is that it only addresses the environment on the basis of living things. However, it is obvious that the scope of environmental ethics is very wide and it is not possible to restrict this area to only living beings. The environment does not consist of solely living things. Ünder explains this as follows:

The primary aim of environmental ethics is to expand the boundaries of the moral community to include some or all of the non-human beings in one way or another. Some ←158 | 159→will try to expand these borders to include only mammals, some will expand them so as to include animals, some will expand them to include animals and plants, some will include inanimate beings, some will include collective communities. The common attitude of human-centric ethics to the environment is to view it as a tool for the welfare of human beings and not to ascribe an intrinsic value to the non-human world. According to the opponents of anthropocentrism, this leads to a disrespectful, exploitative, disruptive attitude towards non-human beings (1996: 63).

In the final analysis, approaches that consider only living beings or only human beings will contribute to the acquisition of environmental awareness. However, the environment has a wider scope than the life-centric and human-centric ethical approaches. This scope also includes inanimate beings. For this reason, the life-centric ethical view is also inadequate.

5 Conclusion

Environmental destruction is a reality we face today. Every field in which human beings can be included should take the importance of the environmental factors into consideration as the relationship between human beings and their environment is the kind of relationship that the conditions of their existence entail. Human beings cannot be thought independently of the environment. They are born into an environment, influenced by it, shaped by it. The studies carried out in recent years emphasize the influence of environmental factors as well as genetic factors. Human biology, psychology, physiology and cultural heritage are shaped by its surroundings. On the other hand, human beings can shape their environment and act on it as a dual entity. This is where the environmental destruction begins to emerge. Even if all human activities are done with good intentions, they can have negative consequences. For example, the agricultural medicine dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), which is used to increase the yield in agriculture and is banned all over the world today and is banned in our country about 10 years ago, was viewed as a miracle when first discovered. This drug had given hope for the struggle with the famine prevailing in the world by increasing the yield in agriculture and destroying the harmful insects. This joyful weather continued until the next few years when studies showed that the harmful effects of the drug on both the ecosystem and human health constitute enormous threats. There are many examples like this. The same is true for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), for example, which are subject to frequent criticism in recent years. When a plant is planted somewhere that is not suitable for the ecosystem, the desired yield cannot be obtained. In the researches on this, the product yield has been achieved and the product has been ←159 | 160→adapted to the ecosystem by means of seed conversion. However, the fact that GMO products are included in the food chain has been claimed to have a significant impact on the increasing cancer cases in recent years.

Contrary to the pessimistic views, optimistic views in the environmental approach do not hold that natural resources are scarce and they will be depleted at some point, and therefore they think that the concerns are unfounded. According to this view, nature has a structure such that it will always continue its existence. Some scholars who have commented on this issue object to the idea that environment will be eventually subject to destruction, and they assert that this is just doomsaying. One of the reasons for not seeing this as a problem to be taken seriously is that they believe that the measures taken with the contribution of science and technology will always succeed. Another reason is that nature is not something that appears once and then disappears, and it has continuity, hence it is pointless to be hopeless.

On the other hand, human beings have been almost sacred since the beginning of history, and their value is often acknowledged. When we look at the religious views, human beings are the finest creation as the most magnificent of those created especially in Christianity and Islam, and they have been endowed with a very precious power by God. From the perspective of religions, there is already an existing universe established by God in advance. Human beings have been positioned at an important place in this order as rational beings created by God. At the same time, God did not only create man or nature. He created all as a whole. Therefore, human beings are not made superior to nature or nature is not made superior to human beings. Human beings should avoid being wasteful and they should not make use of nature more than they need. However, with the contribution of science and technology, human beings have tried to produce more than they need and they have combined their needs with pleasure. This has led to environmental problems. In the current situation, it is seen that the environmental disasters created with human hands are too much to be underestimated. At this point, it will be necessary to come up with another solution. For this new solution, it is first necessary to correctly identify what causes environmental problems, as revealing the cause of the problem will make it easier to reach the solution. The problem will be solved only by understanding that environmental theories that are developed solely on the basis of human beings, society or nature are not sufficient. For this reason, it has been pointed out that environmental destruction cannot be overcome with the arguments of such approaches as anthropocentrism and biocentrism that try to look unilaterally. Therefore, something else needs to be done. That other thing will be valuing every dimension of the environment. It can be seen that this value awareness ←160 | 161→can be created only through philosophy. “Philosophy is a requisite for human being to know himself, to evoke the desire and aspiration to understand and interpret the world” (Çıvgın, 2016: 179). Through the concept of responsibility that ethics (the sub-field of the philosophy) imposes on human beings, human beings should accept that everything in the environment has a value, they should respect the environment and act accordingly. Human beings should be in harmony with their surroundings. The environmental ethics requires human beings to be in harmony with the environment. Human beings should have earned a sense of responsibility with respect to being considerate towards the environment. Environmental destruction can be overcome only if human beings who act with a sense of responsibility and have philosophical awareness view all other beings in the environment as a value and thereby treat them with respect.


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