13.4.3 Deep Ecology/Ecocentrism

William Patterson

The phrase “deep ecology” was coined by philosopher Arne Næss in 1972. It focuses on the intrinsic value of nature and all life, irrespective of its value to human beings and is also called ecocentrism or biocentrism. Keith Makoto Woodhouse, in his history of ecocentrism, says this philosophy “ascribed an equivalent value to human beings and nonhuman nature, and rejected the premise that people should occupy a privileged place in any moral reckoning” (2020, p. 1). From this point of view, human beings are no better than any other element of nature, and it is arbitrary favoritism to give any special significance to human beings when making moral decisions about nature.

Figure 13.8. Arne Næss (1912-2009).

Deep ecology takes the Green ideology to its radical philosophical limits, viewing human beings as just one element of nature equal to any other. Human well-being is no more important than the well-being of other elements of nature, and so human beings have no right to destroy nature for their own selfish benefit. Because nature has its own inherent worth that is equal to that of human beings, humans should take the interests of nature into equal account when deciding how to organize society, their own lives, and human economic activity. Human beings are only one part of the vast, interconnected, natural ecosystem and should strive to maintain ecological balance by respecting the intrinsic value of all other aspects of nature.

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Political Ideologies and Worldviews: An Introduction - 2nd Edition Copyright © 2023 by William Patterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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