Philosophy Colloquium: Plato and the Value of Wilderness

Posted on 10/9/2011 10:08:49 AM

The Philosophy Department is pleased to announce that Brett Caloia (University of Pittsburgh) will be giving a talk entitled “Educating the Guardians: Using Plato’s Republic as a Model for Capturing the Value of Wilderness” on Friday, October 21, 2011, at 3:30 in Eberly 411.

Abstract: One of the more radical views to emerge from the study of Environmental Ethics is the claim that come kinds of value are not anthropocentric. It is quite common to see this claim asserted as a justification for protecting particularly remote or barren pieces of wilderness. These places are said to have a kind of intrinsic value that is particularly resistant to being recognized by human beings. Here, our normal methods of discovering value seem inadequate to the task of recognizing these values. However, this is not to say that there is no way for a human being to become aware of their existence. It is sometimes claimed that only a conversion experience can put one in contact with these forms of intrinsic value. But this raises a question. Assuming that these forms of intrinsic value exist, what political system is best able to protect them? I will argue that theories which ground political authority in a social contract risk being unable to account for these intrinsic values in the right way. In addition to this problem, democratic systems are prone to develop self-defeating strategies in attempting to protect these values. I then go on to argue that the form of government presented in Republic contains the elements necessary to properly treat this form of value.  I conclude that a form of political authority grounded in expertise, rather than consent, represents the most promising method of accounting for, and ultimately protecting, the intrinsic value of these spaces.