Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Stephanie Ross, Professor of Philosophy


Jon McGinnis

Jill Delston


Callicott’s interpretation of Leopold’s land ethic has been criticized as ecofascist and misanthropic. In addition, it has been argued that his principle precept upon which his land ethic rests is vague if not incoherent. In light of these challenges, I suggest a better way to arrive at a land ethic, which deals not with obligations or duties to the land as Callicott’s does but instead with the application of virtues to nature. In this paper, I provide a brief overview of Callicott’s land ethic and then include a few criticisms of the land ethic. Next, I argue for why a focus on the development of personal character using virtues makes a virtue ethic preferable to Callicott’s deontological approach in terms of its candidacy for an environmental ethic. Finally, I suggest four virtues—compassion, humility, wonder and prudence—that not only are vital in forming an environmental virtue ethic for the land, they are also able to help solve many problems associated with Callicott’s excessively holistic land ethic. For instance, the virtues of compassion and prudence are able to provide a moderately holistic land ethic that appropriately values the dynamic between the individual and the community. In addition, I argue that a land ethic built on virtues can correctly label the value of pain unlike Callicott’s version, which is inclined to overlook—and, at times, possibly endorse—pain.

OCLC Number