Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

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Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

278 H Valuing the biosphere: An ethical and economic perspective

the applicability of the principle of the protection of

property.

These preliminary considerations lead to some

important conclusions in relation to the matter of the

application of ethical principles to the issue of human

action with regard to the biosphere. First of all, it is

not consistent with the self-image of ethics to

develop separate sets of ethics for different contexts

of action. Just as there can be no different rules for

the logic of deduction and induction in science,

depending on what object is concerned, it does not

make any sense to postulate an independent set of

ethics for the biosphere (Galert, 1998). Justifications

for principles and moral systems must satisfy universal

laws (Nida-Rümelin, 1996b).

Secondly, it is not very helpful to call for a special

moral system for the biosphere, since this – like every

other moral system – has to be traceable to primary

principles. Instead, it makes sense to specify the generally

valid principles that are also relevant with

regard to the issue of how to deal with the biosphere.

At the same time, it is necessary to define those specific

standards that are appropriate to the use of the

biosphere and that reflect the principles that are

valid beyond the biosphere.

Thirdly, it is neither helpful nor practical to contrast

ethical with economic actions, as is frequently

done in popular statements. Economic action is just

as much determined by moral standards as environment-related

action. Even the selfish pursuit of one’s

own personal interests may be ethically justifiable,

for example as a means of freely developing one’s

own personality or as an incentive for an achievement

that benefits society as a whole. With reference

to ethical aspects, however, it must be asked critically

whether this behaviour does not contradict higher

standards or principles (such as the principle of sustaining

the lives of other people) or whether it is in

conflict with equally important standards or conflicts

(equitable distribution of assets).

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