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Anthropocentrism v Biocentrism in Environmentalism Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 17th, 2020


This research paper examines the meaning of anthropocentrism and biocentrism. It tries to explain the reasons why environmentalists advocate for anthropocentrism and biocentrism. It creates understanding on what is anthropocentrism and biocentrism. The paper further examines the major differences, as well as similarities between anthropocentrism and the biocentrism. Throughout the paper, discussions will be based on the ethical issues involved, which are the moral issues governing behaviors. The paper goes a notch higher to discuss the possible consequences of anthropocentrism and biocentrism, which are the possible effects of the belief and advocacy in either anthropocentrism or biocentrism. Finally, discussions in this paper touch on values involved, which are the factors that influence individual attitude towards government policy or towards nature and environment at large. Attitudes influence the perceptions of an individual towards environmental conservation and preservation of nature. For some individuals, nature is special and has to be taken care of, but some are of a different opinion since they believe nature exists to support their socio-economic activities.


The human centered view of the world is known as anthropocentrism. The cultural tradition of western mainstream has shown that only the humanity has been treated morally. This depicts a conservative approach to the environmental ethics in regards to the fact that nature does not only consist of human beings, but other creatures as well hence everything deserves moral treatment. Nevertheless, the ecologically conscious environmental ethicists have taken a hastier than a proactive approach in defending the western traditional culture against a broader perspective of bolder thinkers to increase their environmental ethics view to incorporate the non-human species and nature in general. Kristin Shrader-Frechette and John Passmore were among the first advocates of strict anthropocentric approaches. Shrader-Frechette for example, had a view that it will be difficult to take an action that will do an irreversible damage to the ecosystem, but will not threaten the lives of the humanity A number of the western anthropocentric environmental ethics could not criticize the behaviors that threaten the well-being of humanity. Shrader-Frechette suggested that there is no reason to implement newfangled environmental ethics that are not anthropocentric.

Evidently, a number of the environmental damages caused by humans threaten their well-being. Depletion of the ozone layer and global warming are just but crucial examples. However, there have been other damages that have been done by humans that do not threaten the human well-being. David Ehrenfeld asked for contemplation of the demise of the endangered Houston toad, a victim of urban encroachment, and others such as white Rhine because of poaching. They have been endangered because they have no reasonable value to man. Ehrenfeld however added that hundreds of thousands of other species are non-resourceful and therefore not important. Such acts of morally censuring the extinction of some species because they do not pose any kind of threats to human kind has however raised the question about abandonment of anthropocentrism by the people. Mark Sagoff argued people should enlarge their conception of the well-being of humanity instead of amplifying the question. In addition to goods and services, the downgraded natural environment also contributes to the well-being of the humanity in some way.

Clean air, clean water, beautiful landscapes, game parks, other natural environment, and others have religious, aesthetical, and social benefits to the well being of the humanity and even though the absence of some of them will not make human being worse off, Sagoff noted that taking care of them will also be important in the well being of the humans. Sagoff also argues that humans should show an intergenerational justice by ensuring that future generations also enjoy the bountiful ecosystem and availability of natural resources since downgrading some species available within the ecosystem would surely undermine the functioning ecosystem and therefore grounding the adequacy and the effectiveness of environmental ethics without wading away to non-anthropocentrism. Sagoff converging hypothesis moreover, looks ahead a significant variation in the way anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric ethics on environment support the same environmental policies Sagoff, (1997)

There is a growing number of environmentalists who are seemingly denying the philosophical principles of anthropocentrism in the sense that human beings are not uniquely self- conscious as purported in the western traditional culture hence the questions of the openness of the anthropocentrism remains open in the sense that anthropocentric principles are philosophically defensible. At one point Sagoff argued that if in the non-anthropocentric world is considered to be instrumentally dependant and valuable, then the humans are allowed to use and interfere with whatever they need. It is understood that ethics are commonly concerns of the human beings well-being and that ethics rotates around human happiness and epistemology. The concerns with humans are moral and natural and hence are expected to every human being despite the fact that indefensible metaphysics for example anger, a show of no mercy as well as hatred are not natural and sometimes cannot be contained by human beings. This has sparked criticism from the biocentrism wing as they view this portrays the fact that humans cannot be special and superior if they cannot control such metaphysics and therefore can be the same as animals.


Biocentrism is an ethical point of view that extends its inherent values to human kinds, ecosystem, and other non-human species. It can easily be noted that the animal welfare falls under environmental ethics, biocentrism has been launched from the animal welfare, but both try to expand the anthropocentric principles, which prohibits humans from harming others, which include the non-humans. In other words, biocentrism ethics is the environmental ethics for all living things and not human beings alone. Peter Singer and Tom Regan were the masterminds of the animal welfare ethics who exposed the anthropocentrism ethics to a dilemma. They stated that if the moral criteria pitch human kinds high enough to exclude the non-humans, there is some of specifies that would be excluded from the moral standing. If it is pitched low, some of the non-humans will be included in the sense that, some non-humans have much higher moral standing that some humans. They suggested that if the morality standing is to be measured by how people speak and reason, then those who do not speak, for example the senile and the infants are way low below the morality stands and are to be treated the same ways animals are treated for example, slaughtering and processing them as dog food and so forth.

They further argued that the need to set up a moral standard should be narrowed to ability to experience pleasure and pain as had been suggested by Jeremy Betham, the director of Utilitarian ethics. They said that pleasure and pain would ensure a standard moral standing for the isolated cases and therefore be a relevant qualification for moral standard since it is less hypocritical. This assertion is based on the illusion that if both irrational and the unintelligent people as well as the no irrational and the intelligent are capable of experiencing pain and pleasure, then it is open to the membership of the community as a whole (Betham, 1999).

If Betham therefore asserted that pleasure is good and pain is evil, then it is suitable to be used as a moral stand as no harm will be inflicted to both humans and animals hence harmony and respect will stand right between them. The pleasure will be maximized and the pain will be minimized between the human kinds and the non-human kinds regardless of whoever is experiencing. Therefore, the animal pleasure will be equal to the human pleasure and their pain will be similarly equal in our moral deliberation. Other biocentrism environmentalists advocated for vegetarianism in the sense that animals should not be slaughtered mercilessly to satisfy human crave for meat and dietary. However, this Bethamic animal welfare has been powerless over time to censure the raising of living animals in comfort. This welfare would be mistaken that its human obligation to consume meat so long as some animals are bred for human consumption but were it the case, then fewer animals would be bred by human thus denying other animals the opportunity to live whilst other would have very few time in the world to chase happiness.

Some ecologically-conscious socialists like Tom Regan who advocated the ‘Rights approach’ argued that there are some animals with inherent values just like humans and are hence subjects of life meaning they are self conscious and experience frustrations. However, both the Regan and the Betham animal welfare ethics serves as environmental ethics because they do not provide a moral stand for plants and other animals that are either salient or do not have aesthetic purpose to man- leave alone the ecosystem, the atmosphere and waters.

Moreover, the interests on animal welfare and that of the environment at large do have more contradictory indications to the policies and practices of a given place. Activists for animal rights for example may oppose to extermination of certain species that compete with feral animals of degrade a certain community of plants and may demand for a stop in hunting or trapping and suggest for the endangered species of the plant community become extinct, whether it affects environmentally or not. At some point, however the animal welfare ethics and the environmental welfare ethics do have some convergent views regarding some point of practices and policies. Both oppose the factory farming and other issues such as drainage of factory wastes into the river since it affects both the plant and animal community living around the factory and threatens their well-being. Both therefore support the preservation habitat for the endangered species of plants as well as the wildlife reserves and parks for animals and hence the integrity of the ecosystem is preserved on the process.

Some biocentrism environmentalist appeared to inspire biocentrism by arguing that all living things; including human beings, animals, as well as plants have interests. They further stated that those human kinds that have interest therefore require moral consideration to show the moral and the ethical status of the patients who are on the receiving ends of their actions as a feature from those who are giving the actions.

This is to say that those people who do bad things to others should know that they are humans and are entitled to pain and in fact, they should learn to perceive animals the same way. In other words, animals also have pain and therefore need to be treated with moral standing and respect they give to their fellow human kinds. They further added weight to their argument giving a questions that how much weight should be given to plants by people when human conflict with plants or animals. This depicts the fact that all living things are equal. Furthermore, some biocentrism activists have argued that as much as human beings are independent and anthropocentric in the sense that they largely depend on water, availability of fertile soils or fresh air. They should also consider the fact that animals strive to mature and keep themselves alive, therefore should be respected at all quarters, and not just be predated upon to satisfy the humans’ hunger and thirst. It is therefore important to respect the life of other living things so long as they do not conflict with the lives of the humans.

In that manner, biocentrism may not only be worthless to environmental concerns, but it might help make the environment worse. It can lead to the revulsion of the nature considering that nature does not make it any good for human welfare since it degrades most of the things that human are doing to help sustain them. In Summary, the contradiction of nature maintains the survival of creatures underneath. It allows all the horrible things happening inside it yet looks beautiful.


There has been a holistic debate between the ecologically conscious environmentalists and the biologically conscious environmentalists about what is superior between anthropocentrism and biocentrism with both sides accusing and counter accusing each other on mislead. Biocentrism activists have argued that their point of view is more superior to that of anthropocentrism and cannot go along with socialism and Marxism. For example, David Orton the late, refused to be part of the signatory to Belem Eco-socialist Declaration in 2008 arguing that the declaration was human centered rather than earth centered. However there has been a trend of criticism by the ecologically-conscious socialists who have hit back to David Orton refusal to sign the declaration by arguing that they are simply anthropocentric which has been simply understood since nobody would like to publicly declare him/herself an anti nature.

The major difference between the anthropocentrism and the biocentrism is that biocentrism has majored its focus on the living elements of the environment which include plants animals and human beings and have so far tried to harmonize the view in terms of moral standards arguing that all living things are equal and should be respected equally. They argue that humans should stop hurting other animals or plants by polluting the environment or either hunting and killing the animals and instead focus on creating a better habitat for the plants so that they enjoy their own environment and at the same time ensuring animals have their reserves where they can reproduce and graze without interference.

On the other hand, anthropocentrism stands on its belief that a man has a faculty of thinking, the capacity to understand and act upon nature and the ability to discover the possibility of modifying nature. The anthropocentrisms environmentalists therefore believe that other species are incapable of doing the same and hence man should be above them since the species cannot think above the level of the human.

Anthropocentrism therefore gives the humans an upper hand in the hierarchy and do not consider other species and in making of the environmental ethics, man is considered first. Anthropocentrism further states that its only humans that poses the capability to pay attention, create attention and act on situations. Anthropocentrism centers itself spiritual world in that, if a man does good deeds, his spiritual being is strengthened while if he does evil, he dehumanizes himself. In essence, if he does evil, he falls into animalism. However, the anthropocentric environmentalists cannot prove this yet they believe and act upon it as it is done on western cultural traditions. Therefore, anthropocentrisms put themselves in a central cosmic and even special significance with a belief that it is only humans that were made in the image and likeness of God.

Both the anthropocentrism environmentalists and the biocentrism environmentalists however have a common ground and similarities in some ways. They both hold the belief that the tangible reality is the only reality and that there exists so many different realities that cannot be simply explained scientifically or by mathematical formulae. For example, the relationships in humans form non-material part of the sphere and it applies to love, emotions, and respect. They also have a common agreement that there is also a need for the availability of scientific data and that there is a need for speculation in order to enjoy the world’s consciousness. Also working out on the philosophies of the environment allows humans to live together with harmony. The anthropocentric minded environmentalists and the biocentrism environmentalists are also both in agreement that humans enjoy a special status on earth regardless of whether they are superior or not.

In addition, besides other living things, the anthropocentrism believers and the biocentrism believers observe that a human being is very powerful and can harness nature with his or her inviolable hands and distinctive mind. In other words, humans are capable of exploitation of natural roles to favor his ends. In this regard, people have the power in their hands either to conserve or destroy nature. For people, conservation of nature is a prerequisite based on their religious and cultural values, but for some, economic practices dictate whether to conserve or destroy nature.

What I learned from this paper is that both factions hold that human beings, unlike any other living things humans are endowed with consciousness and conscience. Although the biocentrism environmentalists believe that other higher groups of animals have consciousness too. The levels of human consciousness are much higher than that of other animals and the comparisons can never be near equal. This gives a man a higher moral stand and hence making a man a moral agent. In this view, the biocentrism and anthropocentric philosophers share one thing. They observe that the idea of conservation have both been adopted by people who have similarity in concerns for nature and its wellbeing.


Betham, J. (1999). Environmental Ethics and Medical Ethics. Some for End-of-life Care, 8(2), 250–256

Sagoff, M. (1997). Earth’s Insights: A Survey of Ecological Ethics from Mediterranean Basin to the Australian outback, reprint edition. London: Berkeley.

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