Box 72, Item 1: Draft of Against the inevitability of human chauvinism


Box 72, Item 1: Draft of Against the inevitability of human chauvinism


Typescript of draft, with handwritten emendations and corrections with whiteout, undated. Paper published, Routley R and Routley V (1979) 'Against the inevitability of human chauvinism' in Goodpaster KE and Sayre KM (eds), Ethics and the problems of the 21st century, Notre Dame University Press.


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The University of Queensland's Richard Sylvan Papers UQFL291, Box 72, Item 1


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In our enlightened times, when most forms of chauvinism have been abandoned

at least in theory by those who consider themselves progressive, western ethics
still appears to retain, at its very heart, a fundamental form of chauvinism,

namely, human chauvinism.
ethical theories

For both popular western thought and most western

assume that both value and morality can ultimately be reduced

to matters of interest or concern to the class of humans.
Class chauvinism, in the relevant sense, is substantially differential,

discriminatory, and inferior treatment (characteristically, but not necessarily,

by members of the privileged class) of items outside the class, for which there

is not sufficient justification.

Human chauvinism, like other varieties of

chauvinism, can take stronger and weaker forms;

an example of the weaker form

is the Greater Value Thesis, the invariable allocation of greater value or
preference, on the basis of species, to humans, while not however entirely
excluding non-humans from moral consideration and claims.

We will be concerned

primarily with strong forms of human chauvinism, which see value and morality as
ultimately concerned entirely with humans, and non-human items as having value

or creating constraints on human action only insofar as these items serve human

interests or purposes.
In recent years, since the rise of the 'environmental consciousness', there

has been increasing, if still tentative, questioning of this exclusive concern
with, or at least heavy bias towards, human interests;

and indeed, at a time

when human beings are rapidly accelerating their impact on the natural world,
the question as to the validity of this basic assumption is not merely an

abstract one, but is of immediate and practical concern in its implications for

This thesis has, among other unacceptable outcomes, the consequence that,
if there is only room in one's boat for one and one must choose between
saving Adolf Hitler and a wombat which has lived a decent and kindly life
and never harmed a living creature, one is morally obligated to choose the
former. That would not be the choice of the authors.


human action.

In reply to this questioning (which appears to originate largely

from people with environmental interests), modern moral philosophers - fulfilling

their now established function of providing a theoretical superstructure to explain
and justify contemporary moral sensibilities,

questioning fundamental

assumptions - tend to argue that the bias towards human interests, which is an
integral part of going ethical theories, is not just another form of class

chauvinism which it is both possible and desirable to eliminate, but rather a
restriction dictated by the logic of evaluative and moral concepts, and that

there is no coherent, possible or viable alternative to the "human chauvinism"
of standard ethical theories.

series of

In this paper we want to consider and reject a

arguments in the theory of value designed to show that this

is so, and thereby to advance the cause of an alternative, non-chauvinistic,
environmental ethic.
The orthodox defence of human chauvinism argues that it is inevitable

that humans should be taken as the exclusive subjects of value and morality.
Humans are uniquely and exclusively qualified for moral consideration and
attributions of value, according to this defence either because the human
species alone does, as a matter of fact, possess properties which are a pre­

condition for such ascriptions or because, as a matter of the definition or

the logic or the significance of moral concepts in natural language, such
considerations are restricted, as a matter of logic, to the human species.

In the first case the restriction of morality and value to the human species
will be taken as contingent, in the second necessary.

In either case, if the

argument is correct, the bias in favour of humans in current theories is

inescapable, so that, depending on one's definition of chauvinism, either

human chauvinism itself is inevitable, or human bias is, because justifiable,
not a real chauvinism at all.

We shall consider the logical or definitional

approach first.

According to the definitional approach, moral and evaluative terms are,
as a matter of their definitions, restricted in their application to members

of the human species;

only in a secondary way

at best do such terms find a

wider application, according as evaluated items are instrumental to human

The thesis is often backed up by the production of definitions

which are so restricted, for example,

'the value of a thing is its capacity

to confer a benefit on someone, to make a favourable difference to his life'
(Baier, in [13], p. 40), where in the intended context 'someone' is obviously
restricted to humans.

The attempt to preserve human chauvinism in an unchallengeable form
through definitions involves the fallacy of taking definitions to be self­

validating and unchallengeable, and appears to be based on the confusion of
abbreviative definitions with those involving or presupposing substantive

claims, such as creative definitions, which may be accepted or rejected.


definitions as those above, cannot be merely abbreviative because they attempt

to characterise or explicate already understood terms, such as 'moral' or


Worse still, they do so in a way which is not dictated by prevailing

usage - which does not require that moral and value terms be restricted in

range to human:in order that they continue to apply to humans in the ordinary

Alternative definitions which do not so restrict the range of application

may be supplied, they can in fact be found by looking up dictionaries, and
these alternatives quite properly do not close off genuine issues which natural

language itself leaves open.
The fallacy of the definitional move is that of believing that by converting
the substantive evaluative theses of human chauvinism to matters of definition
they become somehow exempt from challenge or need for justification.

This is

comparable to justifying discriminatory membership for a club by referring to
the rules, similarly conceived as self-validating and exempt from question or

Since a similar move could obviously be employed to limit

membership of the Moral Club to say, white male humans in place of humans, it

is plain that such a definitional argument does far too much, and is capable
of use to produce completely unacceptable conclusions.

But of course substantive theses involved in definitions, like club rules,
are not exempt from challenge and may be arbitrary, undesirable, restrictive,



and in need of justification.

Once this is grasped the definitional move can

be seen as entirely question-begging, since the question of the acceptability
and inevitability of human chauvinism is simply transformed into the question

of the acceptability and inevitability of the definition.

The production of

such human chauvinist definitions has done nothing to advance the case of

human chauvinism, other than to throw a spurious air of unchallangeability and
over the highly challengeable and arbitrary substantive theses
they embody.
The attempt to settle substantive issues 'by definition' is both

philosophically facile and methodologically unsound, and is especially so when
there are clearly alternative definitions which would not settle the issue in
the same way.

What, however, of the substantive claim presupposed by the

definitional move, namely that as a matter of natural language usage, or the

logic of moral and evaluative concepts, the meaning of moral and value terms,
it is logically necessary that direct, non-instrumental, application of such

terms be restricted to the human (a claim made at least in the case of rights

by Ritchie [4], p. 107, and subsequently by Passmore [5] and [9]^,p. 116, 189,

But usually, when it is asserted that non-humans cannot have

rights, obligations and such like, what sort of 'cannot' is involved is
not specified - whether

it is a 'cannot' of logical impossibility, or of

non-significance or absurdity, or something else again (the point is nicely
illustrated by Feinberg's discussion of McCloskey,

McCloskey [11] itself).


p. 195 , and by

In any case, however, the thesis appears to be mistaken,

for it rules out as logically impossible or absurd a number of positions and

theses which are very plainly neither and which it may even, in some circumstances,

be important to consider.

For example, it is surely neither impossible nor absurd

to consider moral questions concerning conduct of humans towards other species,

e.g. to a race of sensitive and intelligent extraterrestrial beings, and

similarly moral questions arising from their conduct towards or concerning humans,

indeed science fiction writ .ers do this commonly without producing nonsense or
contradicting themselves.

Not only does the proposed restriction appear quite

mistaken given current usage, but there seems indeed to be something logically

unsound about the attempt to place a logical restriction to a particular species
on such terms, just as there would be in restricting membership of the Moral

Club to people with blue eyes and blond hair who are over 6 feet tall.


accident of being a zoological human, defined in terms of various physical

characteristics, cannot be morally relevant.

It is impossible to restrict

moral terms to particular species, when species distinctions are defined in

terms of physical characteristics which are not morally relevant.
More generally, any attempt to derive a logically necessary connection
between humanity itself and the applicability of morality is bound to fail.

For creatures anatomically and zoologically distinct from humans which are
identical with humans in terms of all morally relevant features are logically

possible, upsetting any logical linkage.

tie between humanity

But attempts to establish a logical

and morality through features which all and only humans

possess and which are themselves linked logically to morality, would, of course,
involve a modal fallacy, namely that of substituting a contingent equivalence

within an opaque modal conte t of logical necessity.

In order for such an

argument to be val? d, it would have to be logically necessary that non­

humans do not possess such features, not merely a contingent fact that they
do not;

but this assumption must be incorrect for morally relevant


The only proposal which has ac/n/tce of succeeding, then, is the factual one
which makes the selection of just humans for the Moral Club a contingent matter,

the claim being that as a matter of contingent fact all and only humans possess
a certain set of characteristics, which characteristics themselves are logically

tied with qualification for moral consideration and for direct attribution of
value to the possessor.

What this contingent form of human chauvinism has to produce then, in

order to establish its case, is a set of characteristics which satisfy the
following conditions of adequacy:


The set of characteristics must be possessed by at least all properly

functioning humans, since to omit any significant category usually considered

subject to moral consideration, such as infants, young children, primitive
tribesmen etc., and to allow that it was permissible to treat these gro^J^L^

in the way it is considered permissible to treat non-humans, ^s mere instruments,
would certainly be repuguant to modern moral sensibilities, and would offend

common intuitions as to the brotherhood of man, the view that all humans are

possessors of inalienable


Thus human chauvinism, if it is to produce

a coherent theory which does not unacceptably rule out some groups of humans
must find some set of features common to the most diverse members of humankind,

from Rio Tinto executives to hunter-gatherer tribes of Amazonian Indians,
from those who engage in highly abstract activities such as logic and

mathematics to those who cannot, from the literate and cultured to the

illiterate and uncouth, from the poet and professor to the infant.


alone will be no easy task.


In order for human chauvinism to be justified this set of characteristics

must not be possessed by any non-human.

The set of characteristics must not merely be morally relevant,but

sufficient to justify, in a non-circular way, the cut-off of moral consideration
at exactly the right point.

If human chauvinism is to avoid the charge of

arbitrariness and unjustifiability, and demonstrate its inevitability and

the impossibility of alternatives, it must emerge from the characteristicj
why items not having

may be used as mere instruments to serve the interests

of those which do possess

There must be some explanatory logical

connection between the set of characteristics and membership of the Moral

Chauvinists aie.



distinguishing points between

the privileged class and those outside it - and there is no lack of
characteristics which distinguish humans from non-humans, at least
functioning healthy adult ones.

The point is that these distinctions usually

do not warrant the sort of radically inferior treatment for which they are

proposed as a rationale.

On the basis of the characteristics then the

proposed radical difference in treatment between the privileged and non­
privileged class and the purely instrumental treatment of the non-privileged
class, must be warranted, that is, the distinguishing characteristics must

be able to carry the moral superstructure placed upon them.

A large and exceedingly disparate collection of features has been suggested
as distinguishing humans from non-humans and justifying human chauvinism.


it turns out that every one of these, on examination, either fails to pick out

the desired privileged class of humans in an unequivchcal fashion, that is, it
applies to some non-humans or excludes some humans who should not be excluded,
or, when it does select the desired class, fails on condition 3, and does not

warrant the exclusive claim to moral consideration of the privileged class.

Many suggested criteria in fact fail on more than one count.

The traditional distinction between humans and the rest in terms of

rationality illustrates the point.

Once the theological doctrines of the

exclusively human soul on which the distinction once rested are abandoned,

it is not so easy to see what is meant by this term.

Indeed it often appears

to function as little more than a self-congratulatory predicate applied

exclusively to humans, with no other clear function at all.

clarifications are sometimes offered.

However various

For example rationality may be said

to be the ability to reason, this being tested by such basically linguistic

performances as the ability to do lo^ic, to prove theorems, to draw conclusions

from arguments and to engage in inductive and deductive linguistic behaviour.
But such stringent and linguistically-loaded criteria will eliminate far
too many members of the human species who cannot perform these tasks.


however, behavioural criteria for rationality are adopted, or the ability to

solve problems and to fit attion to individual goals becomes the test - that
is, practical reasoning is the test - it is obvious that many non-human

admission to

the Moral Club, rather than the ability to perform some other


or meet some other set of standards, such as orienteering ability,the

ability to mix concrete (the use of concrete being, afte^all, a far more
conspicuous feature of modern human society than the use of reason).


senses also in the appeal to such criteria (andespecially to linguistic
criteria) the overvaluation of the things in which the privileged class

typically excells and the undervaluation of the skills - not obviously^ in any
non—circular way inferior - of the non-privileged class, which is such a

typical feature of chauvinism.
We list

some of the suggested characteristics supposedly justifying

human chauvinism, and indicate in brackets after each some of the conditions
they fail:

using tools (fails 1, 2, 3), altering the environment (1, 2, 3),

the ability to communicate (1, 2, 3), the ability to use and learn language
(1, 2, 3), the ability to use and learn English (1, 3), possession of

consciousness (2, 3), self-consciousness or self-awareness (1, 2?, 3), having

a conscience (1, 2?, 3), having a sense of shame (1, 2?, 3), being aware of
oneself as an agent or initiator (1, 2, 3), having awareness (2, 3), being

aware of one's existence (1, 2?, 3), being aware of the inevitability of
one's own death (1, 2?, 3), being capable of self-deception (1, 3), being

able to ask questions about moral issues such as human chauvinism (1, 3),
having a mental life (2, 3), being able to play games (1, 2, 3), being able

to laugh (1, 3), to laugh at oneself (1, 3), being able to make jokes (1, 3),

having interests (2, 3), having projects (1, 2, 3), being able to assess

some of one's performances as successful or not (1, 2, 3), enjoying freedom
of action (2, 3), being able to vary one's behaviour outside a narrow range
of insttnctu al behaviour (1, 2, 3), belonging to a social community (1, 2, 3),

being morally responsible for one's actions (1), being able to love (1, 2),
being capable of altruism (1, 2), being capable of being a Christian, or
capable of religious faith (1, 3), being able to produce the items of (human)

civilisation grid, culture


(1, 3).

* This feature typifies a number of rather circular distinguishing characteristics,
or at least ones which raise serious theob^. tical problems for human chauvinism,
because they attempt to explain the unique value of humans in terms of their
ability to produce items which are taken to be independently valuable, thus
contradicting human chauvinism (see the discussion in [10],/?.;77/,

It appears that none of these criteria meet the conditions of adequacy;

furthermore it seems most unlikely that any other characteristic

or any cowbinlation of the^characteristics does

Thus we conclude that these contingent direct arguments for human

chauvinism^not establish its inevitability, and that indeed the position rests
on a shaky base and so f^r lacks a coherent theoretical justification.
Human chauvinism cannot be restored by a detour through the concept of

a person, that is by linking perso/JnoocL with membership of the /*

(lub, and

identifying the class of persons contingently with the class of humans.

For then the same problem as above arises with different terminology

even if the

of person


can be specified in such a way as to justify

the restriction of moral privileges to persons, the class of persons will

then not

conicin the way human chauvinism requires^ with the class

of humans, but will either include a great many non-humans or exclude a good
many humans^morally considered.

Attempts to enlarge the privileged class, for example to persons (broadly

specified), or to sentient or preference having creatures, may avoid many
of the problems of arbitrariness and justification which face the strong
form of human chauvinism, but, as we

shall argue, face a set of problems of

coherence and consistency common to all instrumentalist theories of value and


There are a number of indirect arguments for human chauvinism based on
features of value and morality.

We turn now to consider these.

One abstract

which is supposed to establish that values are, or must, be

determined through the interests of humans or persons - a central argument

underlying chauvinism - takes the following form:-



Values are determined through the preference rankings of valuers.


no detachable values assumption).


Valuers' preference rankings are determined through valuers' interests.

(The preference reduction thesis).

Valuers are humans [persons].

(The species assumption).


Values are determined through human interests [through the interests of

Hence, it is sometimes concluded, not only is it perfectly acceptable for

humans to reduce matters of value and morality to matters of human interest,
there is no rational or possible alternative to doing so:

any alternative

is simply incoherent.
Although th{$

argument does not, so far as we are aware, appear anywhere

with its premisses explicitly stated, it does seem to reflect the sorts of

considerations those who claim that there is no rational or coherent alternative

to organising everything in human interests usually have in mind.

Of course

once the premisses are exposed, it is easier to see that this initially

persuasive argument, like others in the area, rests on fallacious assumptions.
y<2^ —
We shall claim that although the argument to conclusion D is formally^given
only some quite conventional assumptions such as that the relation of determin­

ation or functionality is appropriately transitive and the principle of
replacement of necessary identicals - not all the premisses should be accepted.
The argument can be treated as the major representative of a family of

similar arguments.

For there are many variations that can be made on the

argument with a view to amending it, tightening it, varying or strengthening

its conclusion, and so on.

Our criticisms of the argument will, for the most

part, transfer to the variations.

qualifies the determining relation;

A first group of variations replaces or
for example, 'determined through' or

'determined by' may be replaced by 'answer back to',

'can be reduced to', or 'are a function of'.


'are a matter

(The latter functional

form makes it plain that 'determined' has to mean 'exactly determined', which


ensures that no extraneous factors enter

into the chauvinistic determination:

mere partial determination would be quite compatible with the rejection of
human chauvinism.)

Alternatively, 'determined' may be modally upgraded to

'have to be determined', in order to reveal the sheer necessity of conclusion


(In this case it is essential that premiss C be of modal strength, and not

merely contingent as it would be if the original form were retained;


wise the argument would contain a modal fallacy.).
Another familiar, and appealing, variation we have already bracketed into

the form of the argument given;
class by persons.

namely the replacement of humans as base

This straightaway increases the cogency of premiss C,

which otherwise - while better than, say,

'Valuers are white (North American)

humans' - would at best be contingently true (which is not good enough for the

argument and in fact appears false, since some valuers may not be human;


certainly not all humans are valuers), while at worst it is simply a circular
way of reintroducing the logical version of human chauvinism by rest^cting the

class of valuers a priori to humans.

That all valuers are persons may be made

analytic on the sense of 'person' - given a redefinition of 'person' away from
its normal English usage, which philosophical

English appears to almost

tolerate - thus shielding premiss C from criticism.

Other base classes than

persons can replace humans in premiss C, for example animals, thus leading

to the conclusion, of animal chauvinism, that values are determined through
the interests (considerations and concerns) of animals, sentient creatures,

or whatever.

In the end, of course premiss C could be absorbed (as: Valuers

are valuers or valuing creatures) and accordingly omitted, leaving the


Values are determined in the interests of valuers.

However even

the analytic form of premiss C does not, as we shall see, save the argument.

Much the same applies in the case of premiss A.

The premiss is certainly

not unobjectionable in the usual sense of 'determined';

but there are ways

of repairing it so that the argument still works in a sufficiently damaging
form, and one way goes as follows:—

What is true, analytically, if

sufficiently many valuers are taken into account, is that values are deter­


mined through the value rankings of valuers.

Value rankings cannot however

be cashed in for preference rankings since, as is well-known, preference
rankings and value rankings can diverge:

value and can value what is not preferred.

a valuer can prefer what has less
Let us amend the argument then -

so that we can locate the real cause of damage - by replacing premiss A by

the following premiss:


Values are determined through the value rankings of (appropriate) valuers.

Correspondingly B will be adjusted to B^ in which 'value' replaces 'preference'.

The really objectionable premiss in the central argument is


premiss A nor premiss C, but premiss B - or, more exactly, where A is repaired,

premiss B^.

Suspicion of premiss B may be aroused by noticing that it plays

an exactly parallel role in the class chauvinism argument to that the critical

One's preferences of choices are always determined through self-interest,

plays in familiar arguments for egoism, that whatever course of action one

adopts, it is always really adopted in one's own selfish interests.

The argument for egoism runs along the following, parallel, lines:-


Individual persons [agents) always act (in freely chosen cases) in the
way they prefer or choose, i.e. in accordance with their preference rankings.


Individual preference rankings are always determined through ^reflect) self­



There is nonetheless an esoteric, semantical, sense of 'determined' in which
premiss A is demonstrably true, and so a sense in which it is analytically
true that value rankings are semantically determined by the preference rankings
of situations by a class of valuers. The details of these semantical foundations
for values are set out in 131. But while premiss A can be corrected by replacing
'determined' by 'semantically determined' and giving this an appropriate construal,
such a move would do nothing to restore the intended argument:
for it would
either invalidate the argument, through change in the key middle term 'determined',
or, alternatively, if 'determined' is systematically replaced throughout the
argument, drastically alter the intended conclusion D - so that looking at the
interests that humans in fact have would no longer provide a guide to values
(instead the interests of hypothetical valuers with respect to worlds that never
exist or could exist would have to be gathered).


Individual persons ^agents] always act in ways determined by self

interest [that reflect their own interests^.
Thereafter follows the slide from in their own interests^ to to their own

advantage, or for their own uses or purposes.

The final conclusion of egoism

again parallelling the class chauvinism case, is not only that the egoistic
position is perfectly in order and thoroughly rational but that there are no

alternatives, that there is, or at least ought to be, no other way of acting,

'that men can only choose to do what is in their own interests or that it is

only rational to do this'

([2], p. 140).

Thus human chauvinism, as based on the central argument, stands revealed
as a form of group selfishness, group egoism one might almost say.


the criticisms of the Group Selfishness argument, as we shall now call the

central argument, parallel those of egoism, in particular premiss B (B )

succumbs to similar objections to those that defeat premiss BE (BE^).


selfishness is no more acceptable than egoism, since it depends on exactly
the same set of confusions between values and advantages, and slides on such

terms as 'interests', as the arguments on which egoism rests.


very appealing critique of egoism ([2], p. 140-144) may, by simple paraphrase,

be converted into a critique of group selfishness.
recast B^ and BE"

This is obvious once we

and set them side by side:

BE^. Individual value rankings are determined through (individual) self­




[groups'] value rankings are determined through valuers'

(group) interests [joint interests of groups].

Because, however, one sets up or selects one's own preference or value
rankings, it does not follow that they are set up or selected in one's own


similarly in group cases, because a group determines its own

rankings, it does not follow that it determines them in its own interests.

Just as BE^ is, prima facie at least, refuted by a range of examples where

value, and also preference, rankings run counter to self-interest, e.g. cases

of altruism, so prima facie at least, B is refuted by examples where value, and
also overall preference rankings, vary from group interests, e.g. cases of

In the case

group altruism.

of limited groups examples are easy to locate,

e.g. resistance movements, environmental action groups, and so on;

case, however, of the larger human group

in the

are bound to be more controversial

(since B^ unlike BE^ is a live thesis), but are still easy to find, especially
if future humans are discounted, e.g. it is in humans' selfish interests to

have plentiful supplies of this and that, electricity from uranium, oil,
Me were
whalemeat, fish, etc., right now rather than^which would result from restraint,
but altruistic value rankings would rank the latter
above the former.

It is often in selfish human interests (no less selfish

because pertaining to a group) to open up and develop the wilderness, strip

mine the earth, exploit animals, and so on, but environmentalists who advocate
not doing so, in many cases not merely because of future humans, are apparently

acting not just out of their own or human group interests.
But, just as BE^ is not demolished by such counterexamples of apparently

altruistic action, neither is B :

in each case it can be made out that further

selfish interests are involved, e.g., in the case of B , that an agent did
what he did, an altruistic action, because he liked doing it.

As Nowell-Smith

explains in the egoism case, interest is written in as an internal accusative,
thereby rendering such theses as BE^ true at the cost, however, of trivialising


More generally, valuing something gets written in as a further sort

of "interest";

whatever valuers value that does not seem to be in their

interests is said to provide a further interest, either the value itself or

an invented value surrogate; for example^the environmentalist who works to
retain a wilderness he never expects to see may be said to be so acting
because he has an interest in or derives benefit or advantage from just knowing

it exists, just as he would be in the egoist case.

theses can be retained;

By such strategies the

for then a valued item really is in valuers


in the extended sense, even if they are in obvious ways seriously inconvenienced


by it, i.e. even if it is not in their interests in the customary sense.

like 4^', is preserved by stretching the elastic term 'interests',

in a way that it too readily admits, to include values, or value surrogates,
among interests.

Then however the conclusion of the &roup Selfishness

argument loses its intended force, and becomes the platitude that values
are determined through valuers' values , just as egoism, under the extension

which makes us all covert egoists,loses its sting and becomes,platitude.
It can be seen that human chauvinism in this form, like egoism, derives its

plausibility from vacillation in the sense of 'interests', with a resulting
fluctuation between a strong false thesis - the face of^chauvinism usually

presented - and a trivial analytic thesis,between paradox and platitude.-^ To
sum up the dilemma for the argument then:-

when 'interest' is used in its

weaker sense premiss B may be accepted but the argument does not establish

its intended conclusion or in any way support human chauvinism.

intended effect of the argument, in the crude form is this:
values it is enough to look at human advantage:

For the

in determining

nothing else counts.

If the

argument were correct, then one could assess values by checking out the local

(selfish) advantage of humans, or, more generally, the advantage of the base
class somehow assembled.

If, on the other hand,

'interest' is used in its

strong sense, the conclusion would lice^'hce a form of human chauvinism, but

premiss B now fails.
Most philosphers think they know how to discredit the egoist arguments.

It is curious indeed then, that an argument which is regarded as so unsatisfactory

in the individual case - that for egoism - remains unchallenged and is still
considered so convincing in a precisely parallel group case - that for human


The technique of rescuing philosphical theses by natural extensions and
accompanying redefinitions of terms, including the thesis "We're all selfish
really", is delightfully explained in Wisdom [7], chapter 1.

The Group Selfishness argument is often employed in another way, as the

presentation for a choice between the conclusion D, that value is determined by

or reducible to a matter of human interests, and the denial of premiss A, which

denial is seen as entailing a commitment to a detached,intrinsic or naturalistic
theory of value.

Thus, it may be said either one accepts the conclusion, with

its consequent instrumentalist account of value, or one is committed to an intrinsic

or detached value theory which takes values to be completely independent of valuers,

and no way determined by them.

But, it is assumed, the latter theory is well

known as untenable, and may even be seen as involving mysticism or as irrational

^e.g. by Passmore [9], chapter 7).

Thus it may be concluded, there is no real

coherent alternative to such an instrumental account of value, and hence no real
alternative to human chauvinism.

The form of the argument then, is essentially: *^A

v D, but A,therefore D,

or, if a stronger connection, of intensional disjunction, is intended:

but A, therefore D.

It can be seen that the main premiss, -A v D, has resulted

from the exportation and suppression of premisses B and C of the Group



This suppression does nothing to improve the standing of the premisses

although it does have the (possibly advantageous) effect of making it more difficult
to see the fallacious assumptions on which it is based.

For of course the choice

a false one, and for precisely the same reasons that led us
to say that premiss B was false.

To reject the instrumentalist

conclusion D is

by no means to be committed to ^A, or to the view that the valuer's and their


rankings play no role in determining values and that values are a

further set of mysterious independent items in the world somehow perceived by

valuers through a special (even mystical and non—rational) moral sense.


preference rankings may be admitted to play an important role in evaluation

are still not committed to D unless we assume - what amounts to premiss B
these preference rankings reflect, or can be reduced to, valuers' interests.
* on page 16a



Value rankings can be semantically analysed in terms of preference or
interest rankings, as in [3]; but this does not offer a reduction of
values to preferences or interests, as [8] explains.
The semantical
foundations, while conceding nothing to subjectivism or instrumentalism,
make it easy to concede main points of the case (attributed to Dewey)
against detached values, against the view that there are values somehow
out there (in Meinong's aussersein), purely naturalistic values completely
detached from all valuers, or from all preference rankings of valuers.
Put differently, there are no values that do not somehow answer back to
preference rankings of valuers, and so no values that are entirely
detached from valuers and valuational activity such as preference-ranking
of situations.
But the answering back is made explicit and precise by
the semantical analysis, not by any syntactical reduction or translation
of value statements into statements about valuers' preference or interest
rankings; and the valuers of the analysis are, like the situations
introduced, ideal and need in no way exist.
As a result then, valuations
may be independent of the aggregated preference rankings of all actual
humans or, for that matter, of all persons over all time.
Thus too the
semantical analysis makes it easy to navigate a course between the
alternatives of two influential false dichotomies, to the effect that
values are either instrumental or else detached, or that values are either
subjective or else detached.
For though a semantical analysis can be
given, upsetting the detached value thesis, no translation or syntactical
reduction of the sort subjectivism assumes is thereby effected.


The dichotomy frequently presented between instrumentalist accounts of
value, on the one hand, and detached theories (or what are mistakenly taken

to be the same, intrinsic theories) is, for the same reason, a false one.

Instrumental theories are those which attempt to reduce value to what is
instrumental to^contribute$to a stated goal.

Typically such theories take

the goal to be the furtherance of the interest of a privileged class;


example the goal may be taken to be determined in terms of the interests,
concerns, advantage or welfare of the class of humans, or of persons, or of

sentient creatures, depending on the type of chauvinism.

In particular, human

chauvinist theories are, characteristically, instrumentalist theories.


contrast,an item is valued intrinsically where it is valued for its own sake,
and not merely as a means to something further;

and an intrinsic value theory

allows that some items are intrinsically valuable.
Intrinsic theories then,
contrast with
theories, and what 'intrinsic' tells us is no more than

that the item taken as intrinsically valuable is not valued merely as a means to

some goal, i.e. is not merely instrumentally valued.

Accordingly detached value

theories, since disjoint from instrumental theories, are a subclass of intrinsic

value theories;

be detached:

and they are a proper subclass since intrinsic values need not

something may be valuable in itself without its value being

detached from all valuing experience.

It is evident, furthermore, that the

identification of intrinsic and detached value theories presupposed in the

argument is no more than a restatement of the false dichotomy -^A v D, or
The assumption
i.e. non-instrumental, therefore detached^that if preference or value rankings are
involved at all the resulting assignments must be instrumental is either false or

or is variation of the fallacious premiss B which plays a crucial role in the

Group Selfishness and Egoist arguments;

the variation is that if value or

preference rankings are involved they must reflect valuers' interests, therefore

such values are instrumental, because the items valued are valued according as
they reflect valuers interest, therefore according as they are a means to the

end of satisfying the valuers' interest.

It follows

that intrinsic value theories

may allow for a third way between instrumental and detached theories, because

of the possibility of value rankings (and also preference rankings) which are
not themselves set up in a purely instrumentalist way, that is attributing value

to aiitem only according as it is a means to some goal.

The argument that there is no coherent alternative to instrumentalism does
not however rely just on misrepresenting alternative intrinsic accounts as

logically incoherent by assimilating them to detached accounts.

It also trades

on a contemporary insensitivity to the serious logical and epistemological problems
of instrumental accounts of value, problems which were well known to classical
philosophers (see e.g., Aristotle Metaphysics, 994b9-16)

It does not appear to

be widely realised that the classical arguments apply not just to a few especially
shaky instrumentalist theories which adopt questionable goals but

to instrumentalism

in general, since they assume only quite general features of the instrumentalist

Instrumentalist positions take as valuable (or in the moral case, as creating

moral constraints) just what contributes to a stated end.
which comes to mind is utilitarianism.

An obvious example

However in the more general case we

are concerned with, of instrumentalist forms of human chauvinism, there may be a
set of goalnot just a single goal such as that of maximising net happiness of

the human chauvinist assumption is that the values (indeed constraints)

are goal-reducible, and that all goals reduce in some way to human goals, or at
least can be assessed in terms of human concerns and interests.

Human chauvinist

positions are not necessarily instrumental, but those that are not (e.g. the
position that just humans and nothing else

are intrinsically valuable) tend to

make the arbitrary chauvinistic nature of their assumptions unwisely explicit -

most successful contempory chauvinisms being covert ones.

Problems for instrumentalism arise (as Aristotle observed) when questions
are asked about the status of the goal itself.

Instrumentalism relies entirely

for its plausibility upon selecting a set of goats which are widely accepted and are, in


It relies at bottom on an implicit

the theory, implicitly treated as valuable.

valuation which cannot itself be explained in purely instrumental terms. Of course
a value assumption is not eliminated on this fashion:

the general


it is merely hidden under

that such a goal is appropriate, that such an end is valuable.

But the strategy of successful instrumentalism is to avoid recognition of the fact
that the goal is, and indeed must be, implicitly treated as

valuable, by selecting

a set of goals so much part of the framework of comtemporary thought, so entrenched
and habitual 3s a valued item by humans that the value attached to the goal becomes
virtually invisible, at least to those

the framework.

Thus it is with the

assumption of human chauvinist instrumentalism that goals are exclusively
determinable in terms of human interest.

The basic, convincing

and self-evident

character of this assumption rests on nothing more than the shared beliefs of the

privileged class of humans concerning the paramount and exclusive importance of
their own interests and concerns, on a valuational assumption or goal which is
^'self-evident'" because it is advantageous and is habitual.

The consensus features,

of which instrumentalists make so much, are nothing more than the consensus of the
privileged class about the goal of maintaining

consensus of interests.

their own privilege, i.e. a

This sort of agreement of course shows very little about

the well-grountiness of the position.
Unless the goals set are widely accepted as valuable, the account will be

unconvincing to those who do not

share the goal and even to those who appreciate

that it is possible to reject the goal.

In order for instrumentalism to work

logically however, the goal must be implicitly treated within the theory as valuable,
for otherwise the proposed analysis loses explanatory and justificatory power
and lacks compulsion.

For how can the value of an item be explained and justified

in terms of its contribution to an end not itself considered valuable!


problems also arise about the nature of value statements under the instrumentalist
analysis unless the goal is treated as valuable.

For if the goals themselves are

not so treated within the theory, but are taken simply as unevaluated facts, then
a valuational statement 'x is valuable' becomes, under the proposed analysis,


simply the statement that x tends to produce a certain result, to contribute to
certain human states, a statement whose logical status, openness to verification,
allowance for disagreement, and so on, does not substantially differ from that

statement that x tends to producejoxide, to contribute to the rusting of human

Such an account of value statements is open to the same sort of

objections as other naturalistic reductions of value, for example, Mill's account
the desirable in terms of the desired.


The special logical and

epistemological character of value statements then, especially with respect to

verification and disagreement,must be supplied in instrumentalism, if it is to

be supplied at all, by the implicit treatment of the goal itself as valuable.
The fact that the goaL of an instrumental account must be taken as itself

valuable, gives rise to two choices.

In the first, the goal is taken as itself

instrumentally valuable, which creates an infinite regress.

For if the end,

reason or assignment for which other items are intrumentally valuable is itself

only instrumentally valuable then there must in turn be some other end, reason or

in terms of which it is valuable (by definition of instrumental).

A regress is thus begun, and if this regress is not to be viciously infinite, it

must terminate in some end or feature which is taken as valuable just in itself,
that is, with intrinsic values.

On the alternative option the goal is not taken to be instrumentally valuable
but is admitted to be valuable in some other way.

Unless an 'except' clause is

, so that all values are held to be
instrumental with the exception of the goal, the
will of course be contextually

added to the original instrumentalist

inconsistent, since it is inconsistent when contextually supplied assumptions are

For these include the assuption that the goal itself is valuable, but not

in the way that the instrumentalist thesis claims is the only way possible.

the goal is taken to be both valuable and not valuable.

If, on the other hand, an'except^ clause is added, this amounts to an
admission that the goal is taken to be non-instrumentally valuable.

Thus the

account may be able to retain consistency, but does so at the expense of


explicitly admitting a value, that of the goal, which cannot be accounted for in

purely instrumental terms, in short, that the gcdl is taken as intrinsically
To sum up, the dilemma for the instrumentalist can be put as follows:

Consider the desirability of the goal of the instrumental theory: it must
implicitly be judged to be desirable, for otherwise nothing could be justified
by reduction to it.

or not?


Is this goal also instrumentally desirable (valuable)

If it is, i.e. it is only desirable as a means to a further goal,

then either a regress is initiated or the same issue arises with respect to
the new goal.

But if it is not, then the instrumental theory is again refuted,

since the goal is desirable though not desirable according to the test of the

theory because it is not instrumental to the goal.
Whichever ho rn of the dilemma is taken^ then> the outcome is the same:

the instrumentalist must rely on treating the goal itself as implicitly valuable
in a way not purely instrumental, that is, as intrinsically valuable.

Thus the

instrumentalist is, at bottom, guilty of precisely the same crime of which he

accuses the adherent of a intrinsic account, with the added delinquency of failing
to admit and face up to his basic assumptions.

The logical and epistemological

position of such an instrumental account is certainly no better than that of an

intrinsic account, since there is logically no difference between the recognition
of one intrinsic value (or one set in the case where gcals are multiple) and the
recognition of many of them, ancf^lxtgical and epistemological status of the

instrumentalist's account is no better than that of the goal to which his values
are taken as instrumental.

Since the instrumentalist has implicitly admitted

the legitimacy of an intrinsic value assignment in setting up his account, he
cannot claim any superiority over a more general intrinsic theory which allows for

many intrinsic values, since what is legitimate in the case of one value assignment
must be equally legitimate in the multiple case.

This abstract dilemma for human chauvinist instrumentalism is illustrated

in a concrete case by Passmore's procedure in [9];

for Passmore (1) wishes to

say that there is no coherent alternative to instrumental values, that an item
is valuable insofar as it serves human interest, and (2) wants to explain the
unique value attributed to humans in terms of their production of valuable

civilised and cultural

But (2) involves the admission of values, that


of civilised items, which cannot be valuable in the way (1) states, and indeed

(2) amounts to the admission of non-instrumental values.

The proposed account is

inconsistent because if intrinsic values are admissible in the case of civilised
items, they cannot be logically ^oherent in the way (1) claims.
The sort of problem faced by Passmore is however not a readily avoidable

one for the instrumentalist;

for if the charge of arbitary and unjustifiable

human chauvinism is to be avoided by those who opt for (1), and humans are not
themselves to be awarded intrinsic values,, thus conceding the logical legitimacy

of intrinsic values generally, and hence the avoidability of human chauvinist

accounts of value, some explanation must be provided for the exclusive value
attributed to humans.

But only explanation capable of justifying this valuation

in a non-arbitray and non-chauvinistic way would have to refer to properties of
humans, and would have to say something like:

'Humans are uniquely valuable because

they alone have valuable properties x,y,z,... or produce valuable items A, B, C...'.
The list of proposed
features already considered on page 8 are usually
those that will be employed here.

But this is to admit intrinsic value for the

properties which explain the exclusive value of humans.

The dilemma

for the human chauvinist is that he must either take the exclusive human value
assumption (the goal) as ultimate—laying him open to the charge of arbitrary
chauvinism and of attributing intrinsic values to humans-or attempt to explain it*

in which case he will again end by concedingly non-instrumental values.
Thus the case for the inevitability of human chauvinism, that alternatives to

it must be based on an incoherent and logically and epistemically defective account

of values, namely a non-instrumental account, has not been established by these



Egoism, not group selfishness, is one of the assumptions underlying the next

The leading ideas of the representative

series of abstract defences of chauvinism.

argument we first consider are essentially those of social contract theories.


argument takes the following form (the bracketed paramaeters X and Z are filled out

in the representative argument respectively by:


justification of moral principles,

enter into contracts):
The only justification of moral principles [only X] is a contractual one, i.e.

the entry into contracts of agents [Zry].


Agents only enter into contracts [only Z] if it serves their own interests.


egoist assumption)


Humans [persons] are the only agents that enter into contracts [that Z].

Therefore, by K and L,

Humans [persons] only enter into contracts [only Z] if it serves their own interests

Therefore, from J and M,


The only justification for moral principles [only X] is the (selfish) interests
of humans [persons].


The argument can be varied by different choices of parameters, X and Z.

example, X could be filled out by
replaced by 'community-based'


'determination of value judgments', and 'contractual'

(i.e. Z is filled out by 'are community-based' or some

such) yielding in place of J the familiar premiss that the only justification of
value judgments is a community-based one, and leading to a conclusion, analytically

linked to D above, that all value judgments

are determined by human self-interest.

Alternatively just one of X or Z may be so replaced, leaving the other as in the


example .

Another variation of the argument that has figured prominently

in the discussion of animal rights fills out X and Z respectively by 'determination

of rights' and 'belong to human society'.

Under this assignment the parametric premiss

The logical transitions in the argument take on more evidently valid form upon
analytic transformation of the premisses, to those now illustrated:J'. All justifications of moral principles are cases of (justified by) the entry
into contracts of agents.
K'. All cases of the entry into contracts are cases of self-interests of agents.
And so on for L' through M'.

J becomes essentially that commonly adopted (e.g. [4] and [5] again), but already

criticised above, that 'rights are determined solely by reference to human society'.

As the arguments are in each case valid, the issue of the correctness of the

conclusions devolves on that of the correctness of the premisses.

In each case too

the arguments could be made rather more plausible by replacing 'humans' by 'persons'
(and correspondingly 'human society' by 'society of persons', etc.);

for otherwise

premisses such as L and its variations are suspect, since there is nothing, legally or

morally, to prevent consortia, organisations and other non-humans from entering into

contracts (and these items are appropriately counted as persons in the larger legal


Given that that amendment deals with premiss L, the correctness of the

arguments turns on the correctness of premisses J and K.

But both these premisses are

false, and premiss J imports the very chauvinism that is at issue in the conclusion.


the representative contract argument is only one of several important

variations that can be made on the general parametric argument, it is often regarded
as having special appeal, because the contract model appears to explain the origin of
obligation, and offer a justification for it, in a way that no other model does, and

thus to provide a bulwark against moral, and political, scepticism.

That the

appearance is illusory, because the obligation to honour contracts is assumed at bottom,

is well enough known and not our concern here.

What is of concern is the correctness of

representative premisses J and K.
The egoist assumption K is faulted on the same grounds as egoism itself.


agents sometimes enter into contracts that are not in their own interests but are in
the interests of other persons or creatures, or are undertaken on behalf of, for
instance to protect, other items that do not have interests at all, e.g. rivers,

buildings, forests.

The attempt to represent all these undertakings as in human

interests, because done in the "selfish interests" of the agents is the same as in the
egoist arguments, and the resolution of the problem is the same, namely to distinguish

acting, valuing, and so on, clearly from acting in one's own selfish (or in group)

However even if premiss K were amended to admit that agents may enter into

contracts on behalf of non-human items, it would still result in a form of human

chauvinism given familiar assumptions, since non—human items will still be unable to

create moral obligations except through a human sponsor or patron, who will, presumably,

be able to choose whether or not to protect them.

Natural items will generate no moral

constraints unless humans freely choose to allow them to do so;

since the obligatory

features of moral obligation thus disappear, no genuine moral obligations can be
created by natural items under such an amended account.

Thus the amended premiss

assumes the question at issue.
Premiss J, the view that moral

obligations are generated solely by contracts

undertaken by moral agents, is then the crucial assumption for this argument for human


J however has serious difficulties, for there are many recognised moral

principles which apparently cannot be explained as contractually based, at least if

"contract" is to be taken seriously.

There is no actual contract underlying the

principle that one ought not to be cruel to animals, children and others not in a
position to contract.

Adherents of a social contract view of moral obligation are of

course inclined to withhold recognition of those moral principles that cannot be con­

tractually based, so that the contract thesis becomes not so much explanatory as pre­

But even allowing for this, the thesis has many unacceptable consequences

just concerning humans, and if the notion of contract plays a serious role, it is

difficult to reconcile with the view of all humans a possessing rights.

A crucial feature of contracts is that they are freely undertaken by responsible


If they can be freely undertaken there must be a choice with respect to them

the choice of not so contracting.

But then we are left

with the conclusion that it is

permissible to treat those who do choose not to contract as mere instruments of those
who do, in the way that the non-human world is presently treated;

these contractual

dropouts, like those outside society, can have no rights and there can be no moral

constraints on behaviour concerning them,whatever their capacity for suffering.


similar conclusion emerges if humans who are not morally responsible are considered,
for although we are normally considered to have quite substantial obligations to such

humans, e.g. babies, young children, those who are considered mentally ill or as
having diminished responsibility, they cannot themselves be free and responsible
parties to a contract, and will, on the social contract view, presumably have to

depend for their rights on others freely choosing to contract on their behalf.


does not^for some reason^) occur we will be left with a similarly unacceptable con-

elusion as in the case of the contractual dropouts.

Obviously then, moral obligations

do not require morally equal, freehand responsible contracting parties, in the way
the social contract account presupposes.

Worse, the argument would appear, with but

little adaptation, to justify the practices of such groups as death squads, multi­


nationals, and the Mafia, it!

If these unacceptable conclusions are to be avoided, all humans will have to be
somehow, in virtue of simply being human, subject to some mysterious, fictional,

social contract which they did not freely choose to enter into, cannot get out of, and

which can never exclude any member of the human species.

So the unacceptable con-

sequences are avoided only if crucial features of the notion of contract such as
freedom and responsibility are dropped, and the notion^and premiss J so seriously

weakened as to become virtually without conditions.

For the argument to work the

residue has to be mere common humanity, and the "contract" little more than the

convention of morally considering just other members of the human species.
convention differs little

however from a restatement of human chauvinism;

Such a

the pro­

ferred explanation is really no explanation, for such a convention can neither justify

human chauvinism nor, since different conventions could be arranged, explain why it is

The social contract account of moral obligation is defective because it implies

that moral obligations can really only hold between responsible moral agents, and
attempts to account for all moral obligation as based on contract.

But of course the

account is correct as an account of the origin of some types of moral obligation;

there are moral obligations of a type that can only hold between free and responsible

agents, and others which only apply within a social and political context.

Yet other

types of obligation, such as the obligation not to cause suffering, can arise only with
respect to sentient or preference-having creatures -

who are not necessarily morally

responsible — and could not significantly arise with respect to a non—sentient item

such as a tree or a rock.

What emerges is a picture of types of moral obligation

as associated with a nest of rings or annular boundary classes, with the innermost

class, consisting of highjyintelligent, social, sentient creatures, having the full range
of moral obligations applicable to them, and outer classes^ such non—sentient items as
rocks having only a much more restricted range of moral obliga­

trees and

tions significantly applicable to them.
between the rings.

In some cases there is no sharp division

But there is no single uniform privileged class of items, no one

base class, to which all and only moral principles directly apply, and moreover the

zoological class of humans is not one of the really significant boundary classes.


recognition that some types of moral obligation can only apply within the context of
a particular sort of society or through contract does nothing to support the case of

human chauvinism.
The failure of the contract theory nevertheless leaves the issue as to whether

there is some logical or categorial restriction on what can be the object of moral
obligations, which would reinstate human chauvinism or animal chauvinism.

There is

however no such restriction on the object place of the obligation relation to humans
or sentient creatures.

Even if the special locution 'Y has an obligation towards X'

requires that X is at least a preference-having creature, there are other locutions
which are not so restricted, and

one can perfectly well speak of having duties toward

land and of having obligations concerning or with respect to such items as mountains
and rivers, and without necessarily implying that such moral constraints arise only in

an indirect fashion.

Thus neither natural language nor the logic of moral concepts

rules out the possibility of non-sentient items creating direct moral constraints.

There is then, given this point and the annular model, no need to opt for the

position of Leopold [12] as the only alternative to human (or animal) chauvinism, that
is for a position which simply transfers to natural items the full set of rights and
obligations applicable to humans, leading to such non-significance as that rocks have

obligations to mountains.

Distinctions between the moral constraints appropriate to

different types of items can be recognised without leading back to human chauvinism.
The point is an important one since many objections to allowing moral obligations to

extend beyond the sphere of humans, or in some cases the sphere of sentient creatures,

depend on ignoring such distinctions, on assuming that it is a question of transferring

the full set of rights and obligations appropriate to intelligent social creatures to
such items as trees and rivers - that the alternative to chauvinism is therefore an
irrational and mystical animism concerning nature (cf. Passmore [9], p. 187 ff.).




The ecological restatement of the strong version of human chauvinism, according

to which items outside the privileged human class have zero intrinsic value, is the
Dominion thesis,

the view that the earth and all its non-human contents exist or are

available for man's benefit and to serve his interests, and hence that man is entitled
to manipulate the world and its systems as he wants, that is^ in his interests.


thesis indeed follows, given fairly uncontroversial, analytic, assumptions, from the
conclusions of the main chauvinistic arguments examined, notably D, that values are

determined through human interests.

The earth and all its non-human contents thus

have no intrinsic value, at best instrumental value, and so can create no direct moral

constraints on human action.

For what has only instrumental value is already written

down, in this framework, as serving human interests.

And since what has no instru­

mental value cannot be abused or have its value diminished, it is permissible for

humans to treat it as they will in accord with their interests.

Ergo the Dominion

Conversely, if non-human items are available for man's use, interests and

benefits, they can have no value except insofar as they answer his interests.


wise there would be restrictions on his behaviour with respect to them, since not any
sort of behaviour is permissible as regards independently valuable items.

value is determined through man's interests, i.e. D holds.
is strictly equivalent to D.
implies human chauvinism.


Thus the Dominion thesis

It follows that the Dominion thesis, like D, strictly

Conversely, the strong version of human chauvinism strictly

implies D, and so the Dominion thesis, completing the sketch of the equivalence


Since the positions are equivalent what counts against one also counts

against the others.

In particular, then, the Dominion thesis is no more inevitable

This view encompasses what Passmore [9] has isolated as the Western environmental
ideologies, both the dominant view and the lesser traditions: see [10].


than, and just as unsatisfactory as, strong human chauvinism.
The upshot is that the dominant ethical systems of our times, those clustered

as the western ethic, and other kindred human chauvinistic systems, are far less
defensible, and less satisfactory, than has been commonly assumed, and lack an

adequate, and non-arbitrary, basis.

Furthermore alternative theories are far less

incoherent than is commonly claimed, especially by philosophers.
are viable alternatives to the Dominion thesis,

Yet although there

the natural world is rapidly being

preempted in favour of human chauvinism - and of what it ideologically underwrites,
the modern economic-industrial superstructure - by the elimination or over-exploitation
of those things that are not considered of sufficient instrumental value for human

Witness the

of the non-human world, the assaults being made on

tropical rainforests, surviving temperate wildernesses, wild animals, the oceans, to
list only a few of the victims of man's assault on the natural world.

Observe also

the associated measures to bring primitive or recalcitrant peoples into the Western
consumer society and the spread of human chauvinist value systems.

The time is fast

approaching when questions raised by an environmental ethic will cease to involve live


As things stand at present however, the ethical issues generated by the

preemptions - especially given the weakness and inadequacy of the ideological and

value—theoretical basis on which the damaging chauvinistic transformation of the

world is premissed, and the viability of alternative environmental ethics - are not
merely of theoretical interest, but are among the most important and urgent questions

of our times,

perhaps, that

human beings, whose individual or group self-interest

is the source of most environmental problems, have ever asked themselves.

R. and V. Routley
Plumwood Mountain
Australia 2622


R. and V. Routley, 'Human chauvinism and environmental ethics', mimeographed,
privately circulated, 1974.


P.H. Nowell-Smith, Ethics, Penguin, London, 1954.


R. and V. Routley, 'Semantical foundations for value theory', Nous (forthcoming)


D.G. Ritchie, Natural Rights, Allen and Unwin, London, 1894.


J. Passmore, 'The treatment of animals', Journal of the History of Ideas, _36
(1975), 195-218.


T. Regan and P. Singer (editors), Animal Rights and Human Obligations, Prentice-

Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1976.


J. Wisdom, Other Minds, Blackwell, Oxford, 1952.


R. Routley, 'The semantical metamorphosis of metaphysics', Australasian Journal
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