Kant’s concept of indirect duties and environmental ethics

Milene Consenso Tonetto


The aim of this paper is to assess whether Kant’s moral theory is suitable to deal with our obligations to take care of nonhuman animals and the environment. Kant’s ethics distinguishes persons, that is, rational beings with unconditional values who are considered as ends in themselves, from things, which have only relative worth. In relation to nature as a whole and to nonrational beings, Kant argues that we have only indirect duties or duties with regard to them. According to some philosophers, Kant’s ethics has anthropocentric starting points which lead to speciesist conclusions. This paper will argue that indirect duties can be in accordance with nonhuman interests, such as the suffering of nonhuman animals, the preservation of species and ecosystems, and so on. Thus Kant’s moral philosophy may contribute to environmental ethics because it justifies at least animal welfare and environmental protections as constraints on unrestricted human action.



environmental ethics; Kant; ratiocentrism; speciesism; indirect duties

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5007/1677-2954.2017v16n3p519




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