[Report] The 46th Tokyo Colloquium of Cognitive Philosophy (TCCP)

4 August, 2014 NOBUHARA Yukihiro

The speaker of the 46th TCCP was Kanako Takae (The University of Tokyo). The title of her presentation was “A reconsideration of the concept of intrinsic value in environmental ethics via the moral considerability argument”.

Environmental ethicists try expanding the moral circle of members worth considering (moral considerability argument) by appealing to intrinsic value. Given that harm is something against interests of its own, if entity has no interest, we do not know how we morally consider it (No harm principle). Although we can understand interests by appealing to our sentience, this is only applicable to animals, not to plants. In order to unite them all, environmental ethicists appeal to biological functions, which they perform to preserve themselves and to reproduce (functional goodness).

Even if we shift from sentience to functional goodness, however, we still have certain kind of entities left out, such as transgenic animals who are genetically engineered to be insentient. Since these animals still possess biological functions, they don’t lose moral status completely. But the current framework of environmental ethics shown above cannot provide us a way of arguing the harm done to these animals by making them insentient.

The reason for this insufficiency lies in environmental ethicists’ misuse of the concept of intrinsic value. They mix up two distinctions in goodness (end/instrumental and intrinsic/extrinsic), equating intrinsic values with end values. This confusion, then, restricts our understanding of intrinsic value; it is a property attributed to moral objects. Consequently, we narrow the concept of harm in a way that it is measured only by the intrinsic goodness found in an entity itself, which cannot deal with the harm arising from some characteristics of technological interventions. In order to ethically evaluate these cases, therefore, we have to fundamentally rethink about the argument of moral considerability, constructing a new way of understanding intrinsic value.

(Kanako Takae, Rie Iizuka)

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