Practical Philosophy Seminar: Patrik Baard
"Reasons, relations and places: are environmental relational values necessary and sufficient for ethics and management?"
In recent years, environmental ethics and policy have seen a steadily increasing interest in relational values. Relational values have come to influence both scholarly discussions, as well as frameworks for The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Conventionally, though not undisputedly, environmental ethics has emphasized intrinsic and extrinsic, or final and instrumental, values, sought to identify the conditions for such values, and assessing to which entities they can be ascribed. Proponents of relational values lament that this emphasis has resulted in limited relevance for environmental management and policies. Furthermore, some argue that the distinction does not accurately reflect the value the environment has for people, and risk excluding long-held relations of communities to the environment. Relational values avoid these shortcomings, opting instead for a promising axiological category that is better equipped to reflect people’s different relations to nature in a policy-relevant manner. While being intuitively reasonable, I will argue that relational values applied to territory evoke several challenges. Based on current conceptualizations of relational values I will stipulate two relational principles. Based on four challenges, I will argue that the principles require re-introducing conventional axiological categories to avoid counter-intuitive prescriptive conclusions and foundational weaknesses. The four challenges are contingency, inconsistencies and conflicts, ‘destructive’ relations, and dynamics of changing territories. The result is a ‘mixed relational principle’. While this does not refute the category of relational values, it shows that the concept needs to be unpacked and its content scrutinized to provide for ethically justified environmental policy.