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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 479-500

Environmental Values through Thick and Thin

Philosophy Department, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YG, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
John O'Neill
Philosophy Department, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YG
United Kingdom
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A tension is sometimes evident between some philosophical and anthropological approaches to environmental values, in particular between philosophical aspirations for a thin, cosmopolitan moral language that tran­scends local culture, and anthropological aspirations to uncover a thick nor­mative vocabulary that is local to particular cultures. The potential dangers in the philosophical project of presenting specific local understandings and evaluations of nature as universal are illustrated in other papers in this vol­ume. However at the same time they also highlight a false assumption that underpins the apparent conflict between the two disciplinary approaches, the assumption that wider cosmopolitan conversations require abstraction from thick normative vocabulary. Examples of local resistance to the imposition of particular understandings of nature point in the opposite direction, illustrat­ing the way in which it is as one moves to thicker descriptions with greater in­terpretative depth that the possibility and actuality of shared conversation around values emerges. The project of engaging in more universal ethical re­flection is quite compatible with the project of uncovering interpretative depth. The general critical project of philosophy is enriched by engagement with the anthropological project.

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