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Archive for April 27th, 2010

This is a guest post from OpenContinuity. OpenContinuity is an environmental ethics theorist and activist who works on questions about the self and the self’s relation to the environment.

“Social action without theory is blind, but theory without social action is empty.”
-Michael Zimmerman

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”
-Karl Marx

Given the current ecological crisis, a methodology is needed for knitting theoretical ethics and activism together more closely. Environmentalists who work to mitigate anthropocentric ecological destruction have much to gain from the argumentative force of theoretical ethics, and philosophers have much to gain from a more fluid exchange of ideas with those whose primary work is environmental activism. Through analyzing the epistemic function of metaphors within ethics, the limitations of a foundationalist ontology are revealed. Adopting a pluralistic approach enables utilizing the multiple ethical tools that are presently available, while simultaneously facilitating the introduction of new theoretical developments. I recommend a relational approach to both environmental theory and practice that is sensitive to the differing issues and responsibilities that are manifest at individual, local, national, and global levels. Moreover, consideration of temporal and epistemic limitations must factor in to both short and long term recommendations for action. I use the environmental issue of marine waste as a case study to show the virtues of the methodology I recommend for environmental praxis. Both environmental activists and environmental ethicists benefit from a methodology that encourages discourse where two intersect.

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