Shallow vs. Deep Geoethics: Moving Beyond Anthropocentric Views

Giovanni Frigo*, Luiz Anselmo Ifanger, Roberto Greco, Helen Kopnina, Rafaela Hillerbrand

*Corresponding author for this work

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At its inception, geoethics was envisioned as a type of professional ethics concerned with the moral implications of geoscientific research, applications, and practices. More recently, however, some scholars have proposed versions of geoethics as public and global ethics. To better understand these developments, this article considers the relationship between geoethics and environmental ethics by exploring different aspects of the human-nature relation (i.e., the moral status and role of humans in relation to the non-human world). We start by noting that the main strains of geoethical thought elaborated so far represent examples of environmental virtue ethics and defend moral weak anthropocentric positions (e.g., “ethical”, “responsible” or “enlightened” anthropocentrism). Some scholars propose that such weak anthropocentric geoethics can synthesize the different positions in environmental ethics and move beyond them toward a novel and distinct approach. We compare the meaning and the use of the term “anthropocentrism” in both environmental ethics and geoethics, stressing that although geoethics is inevitably epistemically anthropocentric (i.e., anthropogenic), it does not need to be morally anthropocentric. We consider the compatibility of non-anthropocentric stances with current geoethical theory and argue for the integration of normative non-anthropocentric accounts (e.g., ecocentric) into geoethical debates and geoscience education.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

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