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Title: «Pining for the Wild»
Author(s): DELIÈGE, Glenn
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 14    Issue: 4   Date: December 2007   
Pages: 405-429
DOI: 10.2143/EP.14.4.2028825

Abstract :
In this paper, I critically assess the position the Dutch environmental- philosopher Martin Drenthen develops on the philosophical import of the “wilderness-concept,” especially with regards to the practical implications he draws from it for nature-preservation-practices. By situating Drenthen’s work in the context of the Dutch debate on which kind of nature should serve as the basis for Dutch preservationist policies, I typify Drenthen’s position as inhering in the tension between an “engaged” environmental philosophy that tries to give a substantive account of nature and a “meta” position that tries to criticize all substantive positions taken up within the debate. I show how by interpreting nature as “non-appropriable alterity” Drenthen succeeds in holding on to that tension, and how this nature-concept translates to the debate on preservationist strategies. By doing so, I grant Drenthen that his nature-concept has considerable merit in critiquing certain self-defeating forms of preservationist strategies. Next, I argue that by interpreting nature as “non-appropriable alterity,” Drenthen’s analysis can however be read as a plea for getting rid of historically grown intuitions surrounding nature-preservation, but that without such intuitions we cannot have a meaningful debate on which nature-preservation-measures are preferable over others. I then establish that many of our intuitions are derived from what is commonly known as the “Arcadian” tradition and that, although this tradition does seem to put forward a highly “external” nature concept, it can be seen as a starting-point for a “conversation process” with nature itself. My concluding claim is that an Arcadian tradition made flexible through such a “conversation process” does give us criteria for evaluating conservation practices, without the latter being reduced to simply projecting cultural idiosyncrasies upon nature, while the ultimate consequence of the Drenthian position is a situation in which everything is of equal value, whereby we loose all bearing when evaluating which conservation-practices are valuable and which not.

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