Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics Chapter 10 | Essay Review
Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics Chapter 10 focused on the environment. In this chapter, Singer opened with criticism about the western’s traditional perspective about the environment as its controllers and stewards. Instead, Singer stressed that mankind has only a certain degree of power in the order of nature and that we, as a man should not exaggerate that responsibility but should instead exercise it as nature requires. That instead of control and stewardship, our responsibility is instead to love and care nature and it follows that we should only consume proportionate to its regenerative capacity and being mindful to conserve it because we also share the earth’s resources with other creatures in this planet.
Peter Singer also emphasized the preservation of wilderness not only for its capacity to give us the resources that we need but also for its aesthetic purpose. He emphasized its beauty that fills him just like the beautiful artworks of the Louvre museum and therefore should be preserved for the future generation because man has no right to destroy or even to reduce its beauty and diversity except to address critical needs.
The singer then proceeded to develop his environmental ethic by first defining intrinsic and instrumental value. For Singer, “Something is of intrinsic if it is good or desirable in itself, in contrast to something having only ‘instrumental value’ as a means to some other end or purpose. Our own happiness, for example, is of intrinsic value . . . Money, on the other hand, is only of instrumental value” (Singer 246). For Singer, environmental ethic rejects the instrumental value of a materialist society where success is measured by how much money one has made or whether one became rich. Instead, Singer, propose the intrinsic value in taking care of the environment. That is, to develop our capacities and then have real fulfillment and satisfaction or in short, to seek contentment. This kind of environmental ethic is more desirable because it is efficient and does not ruin the environment. It rejects profligacy which is one of the main culprits of our environmental degradation.
Peter Singer’s environmental ethic is very practical and an ideal way on how to treat our environment. In essence, Singer is advocating that we should only use what we need and should avoid extravagance. That need is dependent on our pursuit to develop ourselves and to satisfy our biological needs. This ethical perspective avoids waste because it discourages the hoarding of resources as a measure of success that strains the environment and instead prescribes for us to become full and contented as persons. This environmental ethic is ideal for use especially today with our already degraded environment. But this ethical perspective first requires a paradigm shift, a change of mindset and values which could be very difficult for most people to do. It would basically remove the concept that success is gauged not in terms of how much money one has but instead of how to develop as a person you have become. Mankind is still not ready for Singer’s ethical perspective on the environment.