Anthropocentric (Greek anthropos: human being) approaches can often be traced back to the Kantian tradition and Kant's ethics of autonomy. Due to their capacity to reason, human beings possess unconditional value: they are ends in themselves. Hence, every human being must respect his own value and that of other human beings, and has obligations to other human beings.

Anthropocentric arguments for the protection of biodiversity can be varied.

  • Following the Kantian pedagogical argument, the human being must practice kindness towards non-human beings, if he is not to stifle his human feelings and to remain sensitive towards other human beings.
  • According to the basic needs approach, advocated by Martha Nussbaum or John Passmore (following the primary goods model, developed by John Rawls), biological diversity provides goods that are of fundamental value for human beings and essential to their being able to prosper (such as food, shelter etc.).
  • According to the aesthetic argument, developed by John Finnis and Martin Seel, biological diversity is indispensable to human beings, as it constitutes the foundation for the fulfilment of the human being's basic need for aesthetic contemplation, which is a prerequisite for a successful life. This leads to the conclusion that human beings turn biodiversity into a good that is worthy of protection, since it is, in its entirety, a primary good for human beings.

Kant, Immanuel: Metaphysik der Sitten II.I, §17. Hg. v. der Königlich Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Bd. IV. Berlin. 

Nussbaum, M. C. (1999): Gerechtigkeit oder das gute Leben. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. 

Nussbaum, M. C. (1998): Menschliches Tun und soziale Gerechtigkeit. In: Steinfath, H. (Hg.): Was ist ein gutes Leben? Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 196–246. 

Passmore, J. (1980): Man's Responsibility for Nature. Ecological problems and western traditions. 2. Aufl. London: Duckworth. 

Finnis, J. (1983): Fundamentals of Ethics. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. 

Seel, M. (1991): Eine Ästhetik der Natur. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp. 

Seel, M. (1997): Ästhetische und moralische Anerkennung der Natur. In: Krebs, A. (Hg.): Naturethik. Grundtexte der gegenwärtigen tier- und ökoethischen Diskussion. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 307–330.

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