Oriel Classics Society Talk

Oriel Classics Society

Why should we care about the environment? On what grounds is concern for non-human animals justified? Do these reasons also require concern for plants or for non-living entities such as rock formations or bodies of water? In this talk, I reconstruct the ancient Stoic answers to these questions. Like Kant, but against the consensus of environmental authors today, the Stoics defend an explicitly anthropocentric theory: we should care about the environment only because of the benefits it conveys upon humans. But the Stoics also operate with a restrictive notion of benefit, according to which the possession of things like money or political power is irrelevant to one's happiness: engaging in orderly rational thinking (virtue) is the only thing that makes one better off. This axiology leads the Stoics to justify environmental concern on apparently peculiar grounds: we ought to preserve the environment for its epistemological role, in serving as material for orderly rational thinking. I will compare this Stoic view with Kant's derivation of indirect duties to animals, and then close by exploring whether the Stoic theory of value can survive a revision to the claim that only humans engage in reasoning.

Drinks and nibbles will be provided. Please RSVP if possible at katherine.hong@oriel.ox.ac.uk.