Dependent Origination and the Value of Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Dependent Origination, Emptiness, and the Value of Nature

David Cummiskey and Alex Hamilton
Bates College

This article explains the importance of the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination to contemporary environmental ethics and also develops a Buddhist account of the relational, non-instrumental, and impersonal value of nature. The article’s methodology is “comparative” or “fusion” philosophy. In particular, dependent origination and Nāgārjuna’s doctrine of emptiness are developed in contrast to Aldo Leopold and J. Baird Callicott’s conception of deep ecology, and the Buddhist conception of value is developed using Christine Korsgaard’s Kantian analysis of the distinction between intrinsic/extrinsic value and means/ends value.

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3 thoughts on “Dependent Origination and the Value of Nature”

  1. I am unable to accept the basic premise that only human beings are sentient.

  2. I fully agree with Patricia Quale. Evolutionarily, it is very strange to assume that “sentience” somehow just suddenly appeared with Homo Sapiens. For a nice layperson-friendly discussion, please see Frans de Waal, Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves, as well as many of his other books.

  3. It is not clear how one is to respond to the above comments–did they read the article? I am really puzzled as to how one could think that is a premise of the argument. Of course, human beings are not the only sentient beings.

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