Environmental Philosophy, Lecture eight

Environmental Philosophy, Lecture eight

This class covered an article by Sinnott-Armstrong called “It's not my fault: Global warming and individual obligations”

We have a moral obligation not to cause harm

This principle may be rejected because our individual actions do not cause anyone significant harm in relation to climate change. One might say that we contribute harm leading to a contribution principle.

We have a moral obligation not to make problems worse

Here too Sinnott-Armstrong claims that our individual actions do not make climate change any worse.

We have a moral obligation not to emit greenhouse gases

This principle is too restrictive, not even allowing us to breathe.

We have a moral obligation not to increase the risk of harm

Sinnott-Armstrong claims that our actions are not risky because there are no identifiable victims.

Kantian Principles

We have a moral obligation not to perform actions that we wouldn't want to be universal maxims

Sinnott-Armstrong formulates the maxim as: “I will have harmless fun” which relies on his first argument in the “no-harm” principle and does not lead to a literal contradiction.

Virtue principles

We have a moral obligation not to act with vice

However many forms of greenhouse-gas emission do not express vice. Furthermore, we need a principle to express vice.

Collective principles

We have a moral obligation not to perform actions if the ought to be illegal

Sinnott-Armstrong claims that relation between the law and morality is too simple here. Meaning that he doubts whether carbon emissions ought to be illegal.

We have a moral obligation not to perform actions that make us part of a group whose collective action causes harm

This relies on a principle that group responsibility is inherited by its members which would have to be proven first.

Counterfactual principles

We have a moral obligation not to perform an act if it were worse for everyone to perform an act of the same kind

Sinnott-Armstrong claims that even if an action when performed by everyone causes a catastrophe, it does not mean it causes harm when an individual does.

We have a moral obligation not to perform an act if it were worse for everyone to be permitted to perform an act of the same kind

Sinnott-Armstrong claims that disaster only strikes if we are permitted to perform environmentally harmful acts and know that we are permitted. If add this knowledge requirement to our principle, this places the burden of permitting and limiting knowledge on the government, not on the individual.

Reasonable rejection principle

We have a moral obligation not to perform an act if there is a reasonable reason to reject it

Sinnott-Armstrong does not know what it means to reasonably reject something.