Value, Beauty, and Nature

The Philosophy of Organism and the Metaphysical Foundations of Environmental Ethics

By Brian G. Henning

Subjects: Environmental Politics, Environmental Philosophy, Spirituality, Religion, Aesthetics, Metaphysics
Series: SUNY series in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics
Hardcover : 9781438495576, 302 pages, December 2023
Paperback : 9781438495569, 302 pages, June 2024

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. In Defense of Systematic, Speculative Philosophy

2. Value

3. Whitehead, Callicott, and Rolston

4. Beauty

5. Hierarchy

6. Individuals

7. Teleology and the Naturalistic Fallacy

8. Environmental Pragmatism

9. From the Anthropocene to the Ecozoic


Argues that, to make progress within environmental ethics, philosophers must explicitly engage in environmental metaphysics.


Much of early environmental ethics was born out of the belief that the ecological crisis can only truly be solved by overcoming a pernicious worldview that limits all intrinsic value to human beings. Returning to this originating impulse, Value, Beauty, and Nature contends that, to make progress within environmental ethics, philosophers must explicitly engage in environmental metaphysics. Grounded in an organicist process worldview, Brian G. Henning shows that it is possible to make progress in key debates within environmental philosophy, including those concerning the nature of intrinsic value; anthropocentrism; hierarchy; the moral significance of beauty; the nature of individuality; teleology and the naturalistic fallacy; and worldview reconstruction. A Whiteheadian fallibilistic, naturalistic, event ontology allows for the recovery of systematic, speculative metaphysical thought without a revanchist movement toward a necessitarian philosophia perennis. Thus, in contrast to the claims of environmental pragmatists, Value, Beauty, and Nature demonstrates that environmental ethics would greatly benefit from an adequate metaphysical foundation and, of the candidate metaphysical systems, Alfred North Whitehead's philosophy of organism is the most adequate.

Brian G. Henning is Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies and Founding Director of the Center for Climate, Society, and the Environment at Gonzaga University. He is the author of many books, including The Ethics of Creativity: Beauty, Morality, and Nature in a Processive Cosmos.


"Value, Beauty, and Nature provides in one volume a clear and concise introduction to both process metaphysics and process environmental ethics and the connection between the two. Henning makes a strong case for the need to bring metaphysical concepts to bear on issues in environmental philosophy in that ecoholism and related positions are already implicitly metaphysical. He shows the problems involved if metaphysical generality is either ignored altogether or left implicit in environmental ethics, and also makes a strong case for process metaphysics, in particular. In many ways, process thinkers, as Henning shows, led the way in the early days of environmental ethics, yet their views have not yet received the attention they deserve." — Daniel Dombrowski, author of Process Mysticism