In this seminar we will have two presentations instead of one.
Taylor Davis, Purdue University: Normative Motivation and Sustainable Behavior
According to dual-inheritance theories of cultural evolution, norms play a crucial role in motivating cooperation in humans, especially in the specific form necessary for creating and sustaining large-scale societies: prosocial cooperation among anonymous strangers. Within this general framework, a distinctive feature of norm psychology is particularly important: what I call normative motivation. At the same time, one of the most pressing problems of sustainability is that of actually motivating to people to pay the personal costs involved in behaving in sustainable ways. Normative motivations are particularly well suited to this task, I argue, because their evolved function is precisely that of causing individuals to act without respect for their own self-interest. Accordingly, harnessing normative motivations is an especially promising general strategy for promoting sustainability.
C. Tyler DesRoches, School of Sustainability, School of Historical, Philosophical & Religious Studies Arizona State University: No One Can Preserve Natural Capital
The concept of natural capital denotes a rich variety of active, modifiable, and economically valuable production processes that are afforded to human agents, gratis. Parts of nature, such as ecosystems, not only affords human agents with passive materials and raw resources to be improved by labor, but endows them with production processes that generate economically valuable goods and services in a manner that is detached from intentional human agency.
For decades, ecological economists have insisted that parts of nature denoted by the concept of natural capital ought to be preserved or conserved for posterity. However, no ecological economist has questioned the possibility of this project. Environmental philosophers, on the other hand, have long tradition of scrutinizing this question. The ‘preservation paradox’ expresses a general skepticism towards the possibility of preserving parts of nature: (1) nature is that realm of phenomena that is independent of intentional human agency; (2) the activities of preserving, conserving, and restoring nature require intentional human agency; (3) therefore, no one can preserve, conserve, or restore nature.
Several environmental philosophers have argued that the preservation paradox is false. For example, Richard Sylvan (1998) simply dismisses the possibility that the mere preservation of nature makes it more artificial. John O’Neill et al. (2008) have argued that there is at least one way to restore nature without turning it into an artifact: when non-human agency alone performs the restoration.
Against these views, this article argues that the preservation paradox holds up under scrutiny. To make my case, I present three conditions to distinguish artifacts from natural objects – including the items denoted by the concept of natural capital – and then argue that preserved, conserved, and restored ecosystems share all of these features, thus making them artifacts. Unlike natural objects, artifacts are: (1) designed or planned; (2) they possess a function attributed to them by an intentional agent or group of agents; and, (3) they have been modified by an intentional agent.
While it is straightforward to see that preserving natural ecosystems satisfies conditions (1) and (2), it is less obvious that this activity satisfies condition (3). After all, natural ecosystems are, by definition, objects that are detached from human agency. How could any such object be intentionally modified while maintaining their status as natural objects? This article argues that when a natural ecosystem’s continued natural expression is counterfactually dependent on some agent (or group of agent’s) intentionally omitting their actions from the ecosystem, this intentional omission counts as causing the natural ecosystem’s natural expression. In all such cases, merely preserving natural ecosystems for some intended effect – the continued natural expression of the ecosystem – satisfies condition (3). Therefore, the preservation paradox is warranted: no one can preserve the parts of nature denoted by the concept of natural capital without making those objects more artificial. Be that as it may, this article concludes by arguing that the first premise of the preservation paradox is problematic, thus opening the door to the possibility of preserving natural capital.