“Goodness itself must change” – Anthroponomy in an age of socially-caused, planetary environmental change

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Abstract

Given the reality of socially-caused, planetary-scaled, environmental change, how – if at all – should our ethical concepts change? It has been a hallmark of environmental literature in recent years to insist that they should or even must. It will be argued that, yes, our ethical concepts should change by exploring the changes needed for the core ethical concept of goodness. Goodness, it will be argued, must change to reflect a change in priority from personal intentions to the right relation between an agent and the collective to which he/she belongs. This relation, which is called herein the civic relation, centers on taking responsibility for the structure which produces unintentional, aggregate effects at the level of planetary ecology. Examples include a fossil fuel-based infrastructure, isolationist nationalism that undercuts international climate agreements to decarbonize energy, and the lack of a political forum to respect the rights of future generations. More generally, goodness according to the civic relation must express an anthroponomic orientation to life – a sustained, life-long attempt to build the practice of the collective self-regulation of humankind as a whole. Of the many consequences of this meta-ethical change in goodness, one is that it addresses the banality of evil today.

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