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Durham University

Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Dr Simon Paul James

James, Simon P. (2019). Natural Meanings and Cultural Values. Environmental Ethics 41(1): 3-16.

Author(s) from Durham


In many cases, rivers, mountains, forests, and other so-called natural entities have value for us because they contribute to our well-being. According to the standard model of such value, they have instrumental or “service” value for us on account of their causal powers. That model tends, however, to come up short when applied to cases when nature contributes to our well-being by virtue of the religious, political, historical, personal, or mythic meanings it bears. To make sense of such cases, a new model of nature’s value is needed, one that registers the fact that nature can have constitutive value for us on account of the role it plays in certain meaningful wholes, such as a person’s sense of who he or she is.