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Engaging NatureEnvironmentalism and the Political Theory Canon$
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Peter F. Cannavò and Joseph H. Lane Jr.

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262028059

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262028059.001.0001

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David Hume: Justice and the Environment

David Hume: Justice and the Environment

Chapter:
(p.117) 6 David Hume: Justice and the Environment
Source:
Engaging Nature
Author(s):

Andrew Valls

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262028059.003.0007

Andrew Valls, through his reading of David Hume, suggests that environmentalist critics may mischaracterize liberalism and unduly foreclose the prospects for a greener liberalism. He argues that Hume’s philosophy may be especially hospitable to an environmental ethic. Because Hume is not limited by the political constraints associated with a Lockean conception of natural property rights, a Humean perspective doesn’t face the same strictures on the regulation of property to achieve environmental justice and other green policy goals. Moreover, Hume emphasizes human beings’ embodied, physically situated natures, and so underscores our commonality with other animals. Although he sees justice as limited to relations among human beings, he also sees human beings as having duties of benevolence toward other animals and in fact sees benevolence as a higher virtue than justice. Finally, via a critique of J. Baird Callicott’s reading of Hume and Aldo Leopold, Valls argues that Hume’s emphasis on our embeddedness in the physical world can open the way to a conception of biotic community not unlike Leopold’s and yet still be open to the humanistic political claims of liberalism.

Keywords:   David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (Hume), environmental political theory, liberalism, benevolence, environmental justice, animal rights, J. Baird Callicott, Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

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