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Environmental Philosophy and the Public Interest: A Pragmatic Reconciliation

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Most environmental philosophers have had little use for 'conventional' philosophical and political thought. This is unfortunate, because these traditions can greatly contribute to environmental ethics and policy discussions. One mainstream concept of potential value for environmental philosophy is the notion of the public interest. Yet even though the public interest is widely acknowledged to be a powerful ethical standard in public affairs and public policy, there has been little agreement on its descriptive meaning. A particularly intriguing account of the concept in the literature, however, may be found in the work of the American pragmatist John Dewey. Dewey argued that the public interest was to be continuously constructed through the process of free, cooperative inquiry into the shared good of the democratic community. This Deweyan model of the public interest has much to offer environmental philosophers who are interested in making connections between normative arguments and environmental policy discourse, and it holds great promise for enhancing environmental philosophy's role and impact in public life.
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Keywords: John Dewey; environmental philosophy; pragmatism; public interest

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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 a Journal Impact Factor (2017) of 1.852. 5 Year Impact Factor: 1.8.
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