“The Attitude of Respect for Nature”

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Paul W. Taylor believes that we ought to adopt what he calls “The Attitude of Respect for Nature”
according to which we should regard all living things and populations of living things as having
inherent worth. Among other things, this involves being disposed to “aim at, and take steps to bring
about, the promoting and protecting of the good of organisms, species, populations, and life
communities in natural ecosystems.”
In effect, Taylor claims that there is no good reason to limit the scope of moral considerability to
human beings. Of course, he believes that we have moral reason to protect and promote the good of
human beings. What he denies that we can justifiably limit the scope of morality in such a way that we
only have direct moral duties to our fellow humans. Instead, we have moral reason(s) to protect and
promote the good of all living things as well as the good of groups of living things (species,
populations, etc.).
In a paper of 4-5 pages (double spaced), respond to the following prompt:
Is Taylor right in thinking that we have moral reason(s) to protect and promote the good of all living
things as well as the good of groups of living things?
If you think the answer is yes, defend Taylor’s position. Here’s a good way to do that: defend him
against one seemingly good reason to think that he is wrong. In a paper of this length, you don’t have
room to defend his view against all possible reasons for thinking he is wrong. Instead, you could offer a
good argument on behalf of a person who thinks he is wrong, then demonstrate that the argument
doesn’t work. (Be sure to consider how a proponent of that argument would respond to you, and reply
to that response)
If you think the answer is no, argue as much.

There are more than two options for a thesis here. For example, you may want to argue that Taylor is
correct in thinking that we have direct moral duties to things other than human beings, but that we do
not have direct moral duties to all living things or to all populations of living things. If you want to
defend a middle position of this kind, feel free to do so.
Some notes:
• I am not asking you to go read or cite other people on this topic. In fact, I discourage you from
doing so. Not only would this take valuable time, but you would run the risk of writing a report
on what others have to say rather than a philosophical paper. I want to see your take on the
question at hand, not a summary of what some other people think.
• I am not asking you to appeal to any other readings on our syllabus.
• Write as though your reader has no familiarity with the subject matter. Your paper should be
accessible to any reasonably intelligent adult.
• Taylor also believes that we should be disposed “to experience positive and negative feelings
toward states of affairs in the world because they are favorable or unfavorable to the good of
organisms, species populations, and life communities in natural ecosystems.” I am not asking
you to evaluate this aspect of his view. (It’s one thing to claim that we have reasons to protect
and promote the good of all living things, another to claim that we ought to feel a certain way).
• All students must upload their essays to Blackboard by 3:00pm
• If you need an extension, contact me (not your TA) with appropriate documentation.
Assignment Breakdown
A complete essay will contain all of the following (see your notes from our paper writing class for more
details):
• A short introduction. This is your opportunity to introduce your reader to the topic and your
thesis. Briefly explain the topic you will engage and give your reader a sense of how your
paper is structured. What can he or she expect to encounter in what follows?
• An explicit thesis statement. This is the claim that you will be arguing for in the essay. Be as
clear and explicit as possible. (E.g. “In what follows, I will argue that _____________”)
• An exposition of Taylor’s view. You need not go into great detail (e.g., your reader doesn’t need
a detailed breakdown of the entire “Biocentric Outlook on Nature”). Instead, a rough outline of
why Taylor believes what he does is sufficient.
• An argument for your thesis statement.
• A critical reply to your own argument. As you get more familiar with reading philosophy, you
will notice that considering and replying to possible criticisms is one of the most common and
effective strategies for defending one’s own argument. Ask yourself: “What is the best criticism
that an intelligent, well-informed critic of my view could offer?” Once you’ve got the criticism
in hand, reply to it. Demonstrate that the criticism does not, in fact, undermine your thesis or
argument.
Formatting guidelines:
Please observe standard university formatting guidelines for the essay. Failure to do so will cost you
points.
• 12 point serif font (Times or Times New Roman)
• Double spaced
• 1 inch margins all around
• Your name at the top
• Page numbers
• Citations where necessary
• A bibliography
• A descriptive title (hint: “Paper #1” is not a descriptive title). Feel free to have some fun with it!
Assignment Submission
To submit your assignment in Blackboard, click on “Essay Assignments” in the menu at left. Then,
click “Essay #2 – Due Thursday March 29th” Next, click the “Browse My Computer” button and
locate your essay file on your computer. Then, click “Submit”. Once your file is submitted, Blackboard
will display a confirmation number in a green banner at the top of the window. This number is proof of
your submission. Keep a copy of it. It is your responsibility to ensure that your file is submitted
properly. You can do this by ensuring you receive a confirmation number.
Academic Integrity
Ignorance of the rules governing academic integrity does not excuse violations of the university’s
policies. Visit http://academicintegrity.utoronto.ca for information.
Some Resources (from the syllabus)
Writing Support for Students
The Philosophy Department offers an essay clinic for all undergraduates enrolled in a philosophy
course. Want to discuss a draft of your essay? This is the place to go. Unfortunately, your TA simply
does not have time to read drafts.
http://undergraduate.philosophy.utoronto.ca/philosophy-essay-clinic/
Language Support for Students
Whether you are an ESL student or simply want to improve your English language skills, check out the
English Language Learning resources available to all UofT students enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and
Science. Information is available at the following website:
http://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/current/advising/ell

 

Sample Solution

ACED ESSAYS