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Durham University

Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Dr Simon Paul James

James, Simon P. (2006). Human Virtues and Natural Values. Environmental Ethics 28(4): 339-354.

Author(s) from Durham


In several works, Holmes Rolston III has argued that a satisfactory environmental ethic cannot be built on a virtue ethical foundation. His first argument amounts to the charge that because virtue ethics is by nature ‘self-centred’ or egoistic it is also inherently ‘human-centred’ and hence ill suited to treating environmental matters. According to his second argument, virtue ethics is perniciously human-centred since it ‘locates’ the value of a thing, not in the thing itself, but in the agent who is ‘ennobled’ by valuing it. I argue that these charges, though illuminating, are not in the final analysis compelling. The first, I suggest, misconceives the role of motivation in virtue ethics, while the second ultimately rests on a misunderstanding of the place of the human perspective in ethical considerations.