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'Nature and I are Two': A Critical Examination of the Biophilia Hypothesis

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In 1984, Edward O. Wilson proposed the idea that natural selection has resulted in an adaptive love of life-forms and life-like processes ('biophilia') in humans. To date, the idea of biophilia has been viewed as an ultimate explanation of many conservation attitudes in humans. In this paper, we contend that environmental ethics has little to gain from the biophilia hypothesis. First, the notion is open to various and even conflicting interpretations. Second, the empirical findings that do seem to corroborate a more well-defined version of the biophilia hypothesis can often be accounted for by alternative hypotheses. Third, the evolutionary reasoning behind the biophilia hypothesis tends to be unclear, and sometimes even inaccurate.

Keywords: biophilia; environmental aesthetics; environmental ethics; evolutionary psychology

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2014) of 1.056.
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