1.1. KEY ARGUMENT
1.2. ESSAY OUTLINES
1.3. NOTIONS AND GENERAL REMARKS
2. ANTHROPOGENIC MORAL FALLACIES AS AN OBSTACLE TO TAKING ACTION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
2.1. (P1) FALLACIES ABOUT THE NON-IDENTITY PROBLEM
2.2. (P2) OVERESTIMATION OF PROGRESS AND THE MODERN CONSUMER SOCIETY
In this paper, I will show how inaction against the climate change problem can be traced to anthropogenic moral fallacies, for they distract us from assuming moral duties and responsibilities and hinder us to take action. It is not sufficient to ask for the obviously apparent reasons for natural catastrophes and other negative effects climate change entails, i.e. greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, we have to think a step further and ask for the causes of our pollutive behavior, which are, as claimed here, based on false assumptions about (inter alia) identities in the future and the value of progress and economic growth.
1.1. KEY ARGUMENT
Protecting mankind from great natural disasters and trying to stop and avoid the extinction of races, ethnical groups or other species are part of the most urgent responsibilities towards our planet we must assume. However, becoming able to act that way requires a rethinking in our moral assumptions about the future of humanity and the planet as a whole, as well as a reflection of the current values, progress and economic growth in developed societies. To overcome the two moral fallacies discussed in this paper would mean a large step towards saving the planet and providing our descendants with living conditions that are at least of the same quality as ours.
Thus, the key argument of the present paper is as follows:
(P1) The non-identity problem turns out to be an anthropogenic moral fallacy.
(P2) The overestimation of progress turns out to be an anthropogenic moral fallacy.
(P3) When arguments are exposed as (moral) fallacies, it becomes irrational to follow or cling to them.
(C) Therefore, we must overcome these fallacies to assume responsibility towards currently existing beings, as well as towards distant generations and take seriously our moral duty of taking action against climate change.
1.2. ESSAY OUTLINES
After the key argument in question has been defined, the main body of the paper follows, which is divided into two sections. In the first part, notions concerning the discussed issue are defined, i.e. how “human and non-human animals” are used in this context and what is meant by “anthropogenic moral fallacies”. Additionally, I will make some general remarks on who and what is, or at least may be, affected in regard of the discussed issue and lastly, justify premise (P3) by explaining why it is irrational to follow arguments which are exposed as (moral) fallacies. In the second part of the main body, the first two premises (P1) and (P2) of the key argument are discussed and justified as being anthropogenic moral fallacies, paralyzing us in assuming responsibility and moral duties: The non-identity problem and the overestimation of progress while living in a modern consumer society. Therefore, I will first give an overview of the central questions related to the certain issue. In general, I will first explain why the certain problem is of moral nature and why it serves as an obstacle which paralyzes us insofar that we are not taking action against climate change. At the end of each section of the main body, I will elaborate on why it is highly important to overcome the fallacies of the certain issue to provide an appropriate fundament in terms of stabilizing the climate. To sum up the line of argumentation and to derive the meaning and implications of the result, the essay ends with a final section of a conclusion.
It is to be clarified that this paper does not serve to provide detailed information or empirical data about the specific processes of causes and effects of climate change. Thus, I use the simplified term “emissions” as a generalization for all emissions causing the negative effects climate change entails. This paper rather focuses on the justification of the relevancy and urgency of overcoming the here discussed two anthropogenic moral fallacies, which hinder and distract us from taking action. Further, I want to clarify that the two problems discussed here may not be the only ones hindering us from taking action. The reason why I chose exactly these two fallacies is that they are interrelated and serve to demonstrate what kind of moral duties and responsibilities we have and should assume towards currently existing beings, as well as towards our successors in the future.
1.3. NOTIONS AND GENERAL REMARKS
To avoid misunderstandings, the following sections contain definitions of two essential notions, i.e. “human animals” and “non-human animals” and additionally general remarks on who and what is or may be affected in terms of climate change and why it is irrational to cling to beliefs which are exposed as (moral) fallacies.
HUMAN AND NON-HUMAN ANIMALS
In this paper, the reader will often be faced with the term “human animals” instead of humans, because a mental division between us and other animals is to be avoided. Such a separation usually leads to overestimation and the assessment of humans being “more crucial” beings than any other beings on earth, mainly because of our advanced minds and intellect. Certainly, we are those who have most power and certainly, we may be the ones who decide with our actions which beings are “allowed” to live on this planet, but these advantages do nevertheless not make us the best or central beings on earth. Due to evolution, one similarity we have with non-human animals is the fundamental interest in procreation and the natural desire to provide our successors with the best possible conditions to thrive and procreate themselves. Especially when considering the climate change problem, a hierarchical classification should be avoided to ensure that all beings are considered equally in being worth living and that because of our intellect, we are those who can and therefore should assume responsibility towards every being. Thus, I try to adjust all beings to one level by calling humans “human animals” and other animals “non-human animals”. Furthermore, whenever I talk about “us” or “we”, I also mean human animals, for I - as the author - am a member of them.
ANTHROPOGENIC MORAL FALLACIES
Intuitively, one might think that moral fallacies can only be made by human animals anyway, but the consideration of the term “anthropogenic” turns out to be relevant, because non-human animals, as monkeys for instance, also are in possession of moral knowledge or skills (Gruen 2017: n.p.). In this context, we talk about anthropogenic moral fallacies, because we human animals are those whose moral values and behavior leads to paralysis in taking action against the climate change problem, as claimed in this paper.
WHO AND WHAT IS AFFECTED?
When talking about ethics, it is always necessary to analyze who and what may be affected considering the respective issue discussed. In this case that enables us to get an idea of the extent of the impacts of climate change and especially the extent of consequences resulting from our moral fallacies which are inter alia responsible for inaction. In general, the whole planet earth including all its beings, whether human or non-human animals, plants and any other creature, landscapes, soils, the underground, coastlines, the oceans, but also man-made objects as architecture, etc. at least could be affected and even destroyed up to extinction quite soon, if we do not change our mindsets. Considering this enormous extent our future actions may have on either destroying or saving the planet, we should take the issue seriously and start assuming responsibility.
(P3) WHY IS IT IRRATIONAL TO CLING TO ARGUMENTS WHICH ARE EXPOSED AS (MORAL) FALLACIES?
Before justifying the first two premises (P1) and (P2), I first want to clarify why it is irrational to cling to arguments which are exposed as (moral) fallacies. We as human animals need nature and its resources to survive. Depleting all resources means that we cannot survive anymore. This dependency connected with the fundamental interest in surviving and procreating, are among others the reason why human animals have the duty of environmental protection. By sticking to the non-identity theory or overestimating economic progress, we distract ourselves from our fundamental interests, as just described and violate them, which seems to be irrational. But the main point here is, that the irrationality is enhanced by the fact that the two described problems, which we take as morally acceptable, in fact turn out to be moral fallacies. Taking a step back and considering the realm of science, as only one example of many, its aim is basically to approximate the truth about the world and to avoid and overcome fallacious arguments, for they are considered as being irrational to follow for various reasons. Sometimes, such irrationalities can be found in the arguments of the problem themselves, for they may be incorrect or irrelevant to consider, as the analysis of the non-identity theory will show later. In the second case, the irrationality is induced by the consequences coming along with the overestimation of progress and overrating the value of the modern consumer society. We as rational agents have the possibility and duty of evaluating different options and their potential consequences and acting rationally means avoiding terrible consequences and benefitting rather than harming anyone. The negative consequences our depletive, irrational consumer behavior has now and possibly in the future leads to environmental degradation and probably finally to extinction of at least our own species. When asking ourselves on the other side, what kind of positive consequences could arise by taking action against climate change, this path would be rational, because we could keep humanity’s fundamental interest in procreating and living a life worth living. Furthermore, it would be rational to take action, because we have duties towards our children and distant successors, which I also will elaborate on later.
3. ANTHROPOGENIC MORAL FALLACIES AS AN OBSTACLE TO TAKING ACTION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
This section serves as the main body of the paper and is essential for the justification of the premises (P1) and (P2) of the key argument and its related questions. Since all relevant notions and remarks have been clarified, we can continue to analyze the two relevant anthropogenic moral fallacies and argue why it is necessary to overcome them. We must take into account that if we do not change our mindsets and do not rethink our moral concepts, i.e. values and needs, we will be unsatisfied in any case. In the one case, taking action against climate change by being forced to restrict our luxury lifestyles will make us unsatisfied, because we would suffer losses or at least live with changes against our will. In the other case, inaction will degrade our environment further on, which not only makes us and especially the poor people unsatisfied but may lead to the end of humanity or even the planet as a whole. On the contrary, if we do change our mindsets and overcome the fallacious beliefs, we may be satisfied with restricting our consumption and emissions - so at least the possibility of satisfaction will exist. In the following, I will elaborate on both problems, stated in (P1) and (P2).
2.1. (P1) FALLACIES ABOUT THE NON-IDENTITY PROBLEM
In this section, I will first explain the “non-identity problem” and its arguments and second argue why it is to be refused and thus only serves as an excuse for inaction. Therefore, I will suggest two different solutions to the assumed problem: First, in respect of intergenerational justice, as discussed in Anca Gheaus’ paper “The right to parent and duties concerning future generations”, it is sufficient to consider parents and their children currently living, which makes the consideration of distant generations irrelevant. The other solution analyzes why the focus should be extended from only considering us human animals to taking into account all beings, for we are not the only ones affected in terms of climate change. To give a short outline of this section, the following questions will be discussed: