What Is Anthropocentric Environmental Ethics?

Alisdair Cochrane is a British ethicist. He wrote for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “environmental ethics concerns human beings’ ethical relationship with the natural environment. What duties do humans have with respect to the environment, and why?” 

We are going to look into the concept of Anthropocentric Environmental Ethics, the effects that it has had on our human rights bill, and some of the dangers that could come with this belief system. 

What Is Anthropocentric Environmental Ethics?

To be anthropocentric means “human first”; it is the belief that humans come before all other plants, animals, and the environment.

When it comes to the environment, this means humans regard the environment to be in service of the wellbeing of humans. This is opposed to ecocentrism, in which the environment is the primary focus and humans are secondary.

Anthropocentric Environmental Ethics: Prioritizing humans first when evaluating what is ethical (within the scope of the environment).

According to link.springer, Anthropocentrism, in its original connotation in environmental ethics, is the belief that value is human-centered and that all other beings are means to human ends. Some also refer to the concept as human exceptionalism. 

In other words, taking on this belief means that you consider human beings to be the most significant entity of the universe. You see humankind as a separate entity from nature and that humans are superior. Other entities such as animals, plants, and minerals are viewed as resources for humans to use and consume. 

On the other hand, Wesley J. Smith has stated in his book A Rat Is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Right Movement that, “Because we are unquestionably a unique species—the only species capable of even contemplating ethical issues and assuming responsibilities—we uniquely are capable of apprehending the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, proper and improper conduct toward animals. Or to put it more succinctly, if being human isn’t what requires us to treat animals humanely, what in the world does?”

Anthropocentric Contribution to Human Rights:

Some might argue that Anthropocentrism is the grounding for some of the concepts that we base our human rights on. Philosopher Mortimer J. Adler wrote, “Those who oppose injurious discrimination on the moral ground that all human beings, being equal in their humanity, should be treated equally in all those respects that concern their common humanity, would have no solid basis in fact to support their normative principle.”

One could argue that it was this belief that made one realize that one has to be treated with respect because we are not better than each other. We need to treat people like equals but the argument comes in that if we all have the right to be equal, then why was there enslavement, discrimination, racism amongst humans, and so on. The answer to this question has not yet been answered clearly by a Philosopher or other professional in the field of human behavior. Every person has a different approach to the question and reason behind the answer but nothing has been proven. 

What Are The Dangers of Being Anthropocentric?

Focusing mainly on the definition, the dangers of being an anthropocentric person is that your main concern is for humankind and the rest of the living organisms on this earth to come second. If you take this ideology to heart, people look after people and the rest of the living beings on this earth do not matter because people are superior. 


In conclusion, the basis of anthropocentricity allows humans to realize the important role we play on this earth. 

As humans, we can learn right from wrong. Burning a tree for fun or injuring an animal because we can, is not a positive representation of what we as humans are capable of. There should be a balance between understanding that humans are more intelligent and can grasp the concept of ethics and looking after the beings that are not as superior.