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The discourse-ethical approach to environmental responsibility.

Perdan, Slobodan. (1998) The discourse-ethical approach to environmental responsibility. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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Environmental responsibility involves a number of intricate moral questions that range from the problems of responsible co-operation in collective actions to the intriguing issues of our moral responsibility to non-humans. They pose a challenge to moral philosophy. The main objective of this thesis is to show a way of responding to this challenge. It does so in two complementary ways: firstly, by giving a critique of conventional approaches to environmental responsibility, and secondly, by developing an alternative, discursive approach. The thesis builds on the fundamental assumption that discourse ethics provides the conceptual framework and analytical tools that can enable us to deal satisfactorily with a full range of moral issues raised by environmental problems. The thesis develops a discourse-ethical conception of environmental responsibility that has its rational foundation in the philosophical paradigm of communicative rationality. A post-conventional, universalistic conception of co-responsibility is grounded by reflection on the actual situation of practising communicative rationality, and explained in terms of normative contents, inherent in human communication by speech. It is argued that the transfer of this original co-responsibility, revealed by reflexive founding of discourse ethics, toward the answers to the novel task of environmental responsibility should be fulfilled by a network of formal and informal dialogues and other forms of discursive environmental decision-making at all levels. The thesis sees public deliberation not merely as a mechanism for collective decision making but as a basic feature of practical rationality. It highlights the importance of deliberative processes for environmental policy making, and suggests a convergence between discourse ethics and deliberative social institutions. The function of discourse ethics with regard to deliberative decision-making processes is seen in offering a normative model in terms of an ideal procedure of deliberation and decision making that should be reflected in social institutions as much as possible. The procedure itself is characterised in terms of postulates that should provide a normative framework for reaching binding decisions that lie in the equal interest of all. The thesis also discusses possible limitations of the discourse-ethical approach to environmental responsibility. The objection that the approach is severely limited since it is based on language as a human expression and therefore "hopelessly anthropocentric" is discussed. The claim that the approach is unable to work the interests of non-humans into its framework in any meaningful way is, however, rejected. It is argued that, while the approach may remain anthropocentric, it offers a comprehensive and coherent perspective that allows us to address the whole range of environmental concerns. It is also argued that there are no a priori considerations in discourse ethics that prevent the incorporation of concerns for other species and, indeed, the biosystem itself in a communicatively conceived idea of the good human life. On the other hand, by defending the possibility of rational discussion of the good life and by specifying normative prerequisites for it, the discursive approach opens space for a normative discussion that might eventuate in a transformation of society and the radically different collective idea of the good life that might also incorporate a qualitatively new relationship with the natural world. It is acknowledged that the discourse-ethical approach to environmental responsibility does, however, face some difficulties. The major limitation of the approach is located in its insistence on rational consensus as a constitutive presupposition and normative ideal of environmental discourse. Thus, the thesis gives an immanent critique of the approach that explores possibilities of constructing a more flexible and politically serviceable conception of rationally motivated agreement, without abandoning the fundamental ideas of discourse ethics.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Perdan, Slobodan.
Date : 1998
Contributors :
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 09 Nov 2017 12:11
Last Modified : 16 Mar 2018 18:47

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