What, if anything, would be wrong with destroying that Redwood?

The ‘Last Man’ ArgumentThe forum this week provides an example of what it means to ground your ethical views on a solid philosophical starting point.The discussion is based on a thought challenge posed to a group of scientists at an environmental conference as recounted in our supplemental reading for the week: “At an environmental conference in 1973, the philosopher Richard Sylvan proposed a science fiction thought experiment that helped to launch environmental ethics as a branch of academic philosophy. . . Sylvan’s thought experiment came to be known as the “Last Man” argument. The thought experiment presents you with a situation something like this: You are the last human being. You shall soon die. When you are gone, the only life remaining will be plants, microbes, invertebrates. For some reason, the following thought runs through your head: Before I die, it sure would be nice to destroy the last remaining Redwood. Just for fun. Sylvan’s audience was left to ponder. What, if anything, would be wrong with destroying that Redwood? Destroying it won’t hurt anyone, so what’s the problem? Environmental philosophers have been trying to answer that question ever since. . .”And now, it is your turn—based on the readings this week, reply to what, if anything, would be wrong with destroying the last redwood. The purpose of this exercise is to practice identifying deep foundational principles that can be used to support your ethical positions.

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