Attending to the Full Moral Landscape

The Role of Affect in Revealing Obligations to the Other-Than-Human World

  • Christopher Sanford Beck University of Victoria
Keywords: eco philosophy, environmental ethics, obligations, moral epistemology, affect


This article explores the potential of recognizing ethical obligations to the other-than-human world. In particular, I emphasize how emotional responses to other-than-human beings reflect a proper apprehension of the moral landscape, which then allows ethical insights into our obligations towards others. Although this article overlaps with other work in environmental ethics, I specifically relate Margaret O. Little’s moral epistemology to our emotional experiences with the other-than-human to illustrate how a gestalt shift from “humans as apart from” to “humans as embedded within” complicates the moral picture of how we live with and in this world. I argue that when humans attend to our experiences with nature in an open and caring way, we can more easily and accurately ascertain the moral significance of the other-than-human parts of nature. Affective responses reveal important details of the moral landscape. Recognizing a reality of deep interrelatedness with the other-than-human world, our emotional responses to other-than-human beings enable us to appreciate moral obligations to care for the rest of nature and consider our relationality with the other-than-human world as a moral issue.


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Author Biography

Christopher Sanford Beck, University of Victoria

BA (with Distinction)
Department of Philosophy; Department of Writing
Areas of interest: ethics; consequentialism; environmental ethics; moral epistemology; normativity


Artist Biography
Sarah Brewer, University of Victoria,
BFA (in progress),
Department of Visual Arts 
Areas of interest: ecology; observation; coexistence; responsibility; care; family


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Image of a branch with moss and lichen by artist Sarah Brewer
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