What if wilderness is bad for wildlife? This question motivates the philosophical investigation in Wilderness, Morality, and Value. Environmentalists aim to protect wilderness, and for good reasons, but wilderness entails unremittent, incalculable suffering for its non-human habitants. Given that it will become increasingly possible to augment nature in ways that ameliorates some of this suffering, the morality of wilderness preservation is itself in question. Joshua S. Duclos argues that the technological and ethical reality of the Anthropocene warrants a fundamental reassessment of the value of wilderness. After exposing the moral ambiguity of wilderness preservation, he explores the value of wilderness itself by engaging with anthropocentricism and nonanthropocentrism; sentientism, biocentrism, and ecocentrism; and instrumental value and intrinsic value. Duclos argues that the value of wilderness is a narrow form of anthropocentric intrinsic value, one with a religio-spiritual dimension. By integrating scholarship from bioethics on the norms of engineering human nature with debates in environmental ethics concerning the prospect of engineering non-human nature, Wilderness, Morality, and Value sets the stage for wilderness ethics—or wilderness faith—in the Anthropocene.
Joshua S. Duclos holds a PhD in philosophy from Boston University. He teaches philosophy and humanities at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire.
Chapter One: Uncomplicating the Idea of Wilderness
Chapter Two: The Moral Ambiguity of Wilderness Preservation
Chapter Three: Intrinsic Value and Nonanthropocentrism
Chapter Four: Value and Wilderness qua Wilderness
Chapter Five: To Be or Not to Be Prometheus
Wilderness, Morality, and Value by Joshua Duclos presents the best explanation of – and the best introduction to – the philosophical literature on the concept and value of wilderness. The writing is so clear-minded, uncontentious, and informed that it convinces the reader that while there is still much to be written and thought about the subject, Duclos has given us the surest footing we have on current debates about the moral, aesthetic, spiritual, scientific, and other philosophical arguments about the value of wilderness and the reasons for preserving it.
This book, written by a professed lover of wilderness, is a sustained discussion – honest, fair-minded, and undogmatic – of a challenge to wilderness preservation. Wilderness areas are populated with animals whose lives are filled with appalling suffering. We may eventually be able to intervene in minimally invasive but effective ways to reduce this suffering, but the areas subject to this intervention might no longer be wilderness. I know of no better or more careful weighing of the claims of animal advocates and wilderness preservationists than that in Duclos’s lucid and eloquent book.
Does the prevalence of wild animal suffering undermine the value of wilderness? In asking this question, Wilderness, Morality and Value stages an important intervention into current environmental ethics, bringing together two independently contested issues: the value of wilderness, and how we should respond to the suffering of wild animals. Duclos argues –controversially and thought-provokingly– that concern for wild animal welfare gives us a moral reason to oppose wilderness preservation. Whether you agree with his argument or not, this book is well worth reading; it makes an insightful and original contribution to ongoing ethical debates about the idea of wilderness and why we should value it.
Joshua Duclos presents a provocative challenge to all sides in the philosophical debate over the meaning and ethics of wilderness preservation. Firmly rooted in the fifty-year history of academic environmental ethics, his argument is based on the idea that a concern for the welfare of non-human natural beings is a reason to oppose the preservation of wilderness and a reason for beneficent human interference into natural systems. Accordingly, a defense of wilderness in and of itself will require a different kind of argument, perhaps one based on spiritual values. This book will interest students and teachers of environmental ethics and environmental policy, who will find much to consider, question, and debate.
Wilderness, Morality, and Value makes an original and relevant contribution to debates about wilderness, and invites readers to rethink some ideas often taken for granted. Duclos does this by assessing the reasons for wilderness conservation in light of the problem of wild animal suffering. This is a difficult but important topic that has been increasingly addressed from the viewpoint of animal ethics, but not so much from that of environmental ethics. People working on wilderness ethics, whether or not they agree with the views presented in this book, should take very seriously the challenges this book presents.
Joshua Duclos provides a clear, well-argued treatment of an incredibly important and yet largely neglected issue: the tension between valuing wilderness and valuing the wellbeing of the individual animals who live within it. That most sentient wild animals die painfully during childhood is an uncomfortable truth for environmental ethicists, and for wilderness lovers in general. Rather than shy away from it, though, Duclos – a wilderness lover himself – tackles the problem of wild animal suffering head-on, arguing that we have powerful moral reasons to mitigate the natural harms wild animals face. Wilderness, Morality, and Value is an important book for anyone who genuinely cares about wilderness, about the interests of wild animals, and about thinking through the tension between these values without sacrificing intellectual honesty.
There are non-anthropocentric ethical reasons for us to transform the wilder places around us into something more humane. In this ambitious reframing of the wilderness debate, Joshua Duclos sets the bar very high for any philosophical defense of wilderness qua wilderness. While addressing some familiar criticisms of wilderness preservation, he argues that environmental philosophers have largely failed to explain why we should preserve places that are the scene of such vast misery and suffering. Duclos argues that if the value of wilderness turns out in the end to be distinctively religious or spiritual, that could point toward a teleological suspension of the ethical reasons for making the world less wild.
Joshua Duclos’s clearly written, well-argued book Wilderness, Morality, and Value (henceforth referred to as WMV) analyzes the incredibly important and, until recently, almost entirely neglected problem of wild animal suffering. Though it is the second traditionally published moral philosophy book on this subject, and though a third such book is currently forthcoming, WMV is unique… Duclos’ book is specifically about the relationship between the value of wild animals’ welfare and the value of wilderness. By focusing his book in this way, Duclos accomplishes two goals. First, he provides an account of wilderness’s value that doesn’t rely either on rosy assumptions about wild animals’ welfare levels, or on pessimistic assumptions about the effects of beneficent intervention. Second, he sheds light on some important grounds underlying one of the main intuitions against intervening to help wild animals—namely, the intuition that we should leave natural areas (wilderness areas) as they are.
If human beings could responsibly create new habitats where other creatures would suffer less than they do now, would it be a good idea to do so, even if it meant eradicating wild places previously untouched by our activity? Joshua S. Duclos’s Wilderness, Morality, and Value investigates that question provocatively and thoughtfully, building on decades of philosophical analysis… [I] see this book’s central question as important enough to deserve more and wider consideration, with a much broader range of sources. Wilderness, Morality, and Value will help readers to think about what it means to live responsibly in the Anthropocene and should be part of many broader and broadening conversations.