Moral Ecology

An exploration into the moral absolutism that continues to define and redefine ecology.

Frederick Nietzsche wrote “The Birth of Tragedy” as his first major work. Roughly about ten years later he wrote a ten page assessment of his first major work entitled “An Attempt at Self-Criticism.” In this critique of himself Nietzsche discusses what he calls the “Socraticism” of morality, and of life itself. Nietzsche is attempting to save pessimism from its bad connotation that has received from a fearful society. “Is scientific scholarship perhaps only a fear and an excuse in the face of pessimism, a delicate self-defense against-the Truth? And speaking morally, something like cowardice and falsehood? Speaking unmorally, a clever trick? Oh, Socrates, Socrates, was that perhaps your secret? Oh you enigmatic ironist, was that perhaps your irony?” Is Nietzsche wrong for vilifying this “Socraticism” of morality and truth itself? Maybe, but his critique illuminates a serious epistemological quagmire with in the moral structure. Why is morality so sought after? Why do we choose to define ourselves through terms of morality?

Perhaps it is our desire to control ourselves through social means, or maybe it revolves around our spiritual inclination to want for metaphysical validation. Still, one thing is certainly true, it’s a utility device. Humanity uses morality to separate itself from the beasts. Aristotle began this mainstream adaptation with his assertion of human of function of reason. Since then humanity has reveled in its role as the “rational animal.” What has evolved is this categorizing of different sects of morality. Included in this evolution is the moral branch of ecology. The purpose of this essay will be to analyze why this evolution took place, and what implications it has for the human episteme. The purpose will not be to evaluate different ideologies surrounding ecology, such as deep ecology, or social ecology. The essay will attempt to assert the role of this moral evolution in terms of ascertaining epistemological certainties. (Nietzsche, “Attempt at Self-criticism”)

The implications of morality in ecology can be seen from many different angles. One such angle is somewhat of a contemporary phenomenon. This phenomenon is known as the Endangered Species list. This movement began in 1966 with restrictions upon the endangering of vertebrates and was expanded again in 1969. Finally in 1972, President Nixon felt it necessary to expand these restrictions to a more comprehensive, and in 1973 the Endangered Species Act. This progression from a mammal-based restriction program to the more comprehensive program represents the type of episteme that exists with in contemporary morality. It can be denoted to be an “us versus them” mentality, thus clarifying why mammals were recognized first as being a genre that needs special attention. However, to humanity’s credit, the special recognition was extended to all

existence of life. But to truly evaluate humanity’s moral fiber, it becomes important to actually analyze the list itself.

The United States Fish and Wild Life Service (USFWS) produces its “Threatened and Endangered Species list” in order to produce enforcement methods as to regulate these species fragile existence on this planet. On this list there are eight different categories that distinguish each species. Those categories are: Inverted Common Name, Scientific Name, Species Group, Historic Range, Where Listed, Listing Status, Critical Habit, and Special Rules. The category that this essay will focus on is the “Species Group” category. In this category there are ten different classifications. Those ten are: insects, fishes, mammals, reptiles, birds, clams, snails, crustaceans, amphibians, and finally arachnids. After collecting a test sample of 791 endangered or threatened species, it was noted that the top two quantities of endangered species were overwhelmingly mammals and birds, in that order. Out of the quoted 791 species, mammals occupied 313 spaces on the list. While Birds placed with 202 spaces on the list.

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