Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 57–72 | Cite as

Where the wild things are: environmental preservation and human nature

  • Marc EreshefskyEmail author


Environmental philosophers spend considerable time drawing the divide between humans and the rest of nature. Some argue that humans and our actions are unnatural. Others allow that humans are natural, but maintain that humans are nevertheless distinct. The motivation for distinguishing humans from the rest of nature is the desire to determine what aspects of the environment should be preserved. The standard view is that we should preserve those aspects of the environment outside of humans and our influence. This paper examines the standard view by asking two questions. First, are the suggested grounds for distinguishing humans from the rest of the environment viable? Second, is such a distinction even needed for determining what to preserve? The paper concludes that debates over whether humans are natural and whether humans are unique are unhelpful when deciding what to preserve.

Key words

Environmental preservation Human culture Human nature Human/nature dichotomy Natural Wilderness 


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I would like to thank those that helped me write this paper. Brenda Baker, Megan Delehanty, Anya Plutynski, Kim Sterelny, and an anonymous referee provided valuable comments on earlier drafts. Clement Loo and Jennifer Runke were excellent research assistants. Audiences in Calgary, Salt Lake City, and Sydney provided helpful feedback. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided financial assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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