Environmental Human Rights, Natural Law Theory, and Nature's Aesthetic Value

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link






I argue that nature ought to be preserved because its existence is required for a particularly significant constituent of human well-being, a constituent so significant that the means to it -- provision of and ready access to indigenous and ecologically sound nature -- are worthy of being secured by legal right. The constituent is a complex cognitively-grounded and perceptually-induced emotive experience best characterized as an aesthetic one. In the current policy and social climate this characterization will to most policymakers and concerned citizens hardly convey its significance for either well-being or the preservationist cause. Hence the need for its presentation and defense. This view of the justification of environmental preservation is different from those common in the environmental ethics literature and in environmental policy. It includes neither an appeal to nature's purported intrinsic value nor an appeal to provisioning, regulating, or supporting ecosystem services such as clean air and water, climate control, and biomass production, though these are secured secondarily if indigenous and ecologically sound nature is primarily secured as a means to the experience.

The dissertation consists of eight self-contained but interrelated chapters in which I argue for the following: interest/instrumental theory of rights; neo-sentimentalist buck-passing account of nature's value; merging of the scientific-cognitivist conception of the appropriate aesthetic experience of nature with a wonder-based account; the consistency of J. S. Mill's harm principle with the principle of utility in the context of Mill's qualitative hedonism; expansion of the philosophical aesthetician's self-understanding of his task to include the public policy-relevant aspects of his discipline in terms of the contribution that appropriate, merited aesthetic experience can make to well-being; neo-sentimentalist buck-passing account of aesthetic experience and aesthetic value.