Environmental Values through Thick and Thin.

O'Neill, John (2005) Environmental Values through Thick and Thin. Conservation and Society, 3 (2). pp. 479-500. ISSN 0972-4923

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A tension is sometimes evident between some philosophical and anthropological approaches to environmental values, in particular between philosophical aspirations for a thin, cosmopolitan moral language that transcends local culture, and anthropological aspirations to uncover a thick normative vocabulary that is local to particular cultures. The potential dangers in the philosophical project of presenting specific local understandings and evaluations of nature as universal are illustrated in other papers in this volume. However at the same time they also highlight a false a ssumption that underpins the apparent conflict between the two disciplinary approaches, the assumption that wider cosmopolitan conversations require abstraction from thick normative vocabulary. Examples of local resistance to the imposition of particular understandings of nature point in the opposite direction, illustrating the way in which it is as one moves to thicker descriptions with greater interpretative depth that the possibility and actuality of shared conversation around values emerges. The project of engaging in more universal ethical reflection is quite compatible with the project of uncovering interpretative depth. The general critical project of philosophy is enriched by engagement with the anthropological project.

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Conservation and Society
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