Anthropocentrism: More than Just a Misunderstood Problem

Helen Kopnina, Haydn Washington, Bron Taylor, John J Piccolo
  • Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, January 2018, Springer Science + Business Media
  • DOI: 10.1007/s10806-018-9711-1

Anthropocentrism is a bigger problem than some philosophers have assumed

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

What is it about?

Anthropocentrism, in its original connotation in environmental ethics, is the belief that value is human-centered and that all other beings are means to human ends. Environmentally -concerned authors have argued that anthropocentrism is ethically wrong and at the root of ecological crises. Some environmental ethicists argue, however, that critics of anthropocentrism are misguided or even misanthropic. They contend that criticism of anthropocentrism can be counterproductive and misleading by failing to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate human interests. We refute this and other claims.

Why is it important?

First, redefining the term anthropocentrism seems to be an attempt to ignore behavior in which humans focus on themselves at the risk of the planet. Second, if addressing human inequalities is a precondition for environmental protection, biodiversity protection will remain out of the scope of ethical consideration for an indefinite period of time. Third, anthropocentric motivations can only make a positive contribution to the environment in situations where humans are conscious of a direct benefit to themselves. Fourth, ‘self-love’ alone is an inadequate basis for environmental concern and action.


Dr Helen Kopnina
The Hague University of Applied Sciences

We also explore the question of agency, shared responsibility, and a fair attribution of blame for our environmental predicaments.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Helen Kopnina