Last Man Argument

1 January 2017

You are required to contribute to a discussion by contributing two postings. At least one of your posts should be a reply to a previous comment made by one of your fellow classmates. A simple ‘I agree” is not enough—you must explain your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with the posting you have chosen to reply to. (This means at least one paragraph for each answer to the questions below) In your posting, you must answer the following questions: 1. Based on the ‘Last Man Argument’, what would you do?

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Would you cut down the last redwood tree? 2. Explain how your answer to question 1 above illustrates your position on the intrinsic value of nature. Routley, a philosopher, once presented a ‘thought experiment’ to help us think about how we value nature. He called this argument ‘The Last Man Argument’.

It is as follows: * You are the last human being on earth. * You are going to die soon. * When you are gone, the only things left alive will be plants, and other small species. For some strange reason, you think to yourself: Before I die, it would be nice to destroy the last remaining redwood tree. Just for fun. Firstly, I understand how nature can be viewed in many ways resulting in different approaches to how we treat nature. After reading ‘Naturalizing Values: Organisms and Species’, by Holmes Rolston III, I can understand the controversy over how nature is valued: do we only value nature for its instrumental value or does intrinsic value in nature also exist?

Are Humans required in order to generate value towards an object or thing? To what extent do animals or organisms possibly also value things? I believe that nature is objectively valuable regardless of the presence of a humans being. Also, Natural value is non-anthropocentric; that is, nature is valuable independently of its use to humans. Therefore, killing a tree of any kind for fun, whether it is the last one or not, would destroy the value of the tree even know I am leaving the planet soon after. This is because the tree is not only valued by me.

Value is not just the human response to nature. Since I along with the human race will be gone, the tree would not be instrumentally valued to mankind; however, it is still valuable. It will not only be instrumentally valued by all the wild life in the surrounding area, it should also be intrinsically valued and worthy of respect and admiration for its ability to grow, flourish and be alive. Instead of destroying the last tree, perhaps I would try to help it populate and sustain itself resulting in assuring the preservation of its value.

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