Biocentric Consequentialism, Pluralism, and ‘The Minimax Implication’: A Reply to Alan Carter

Robin Attfielda1

a1 Cardiff University, [email protected]


Alan Carter's recent review in Mind of my Ethics of the Global Environment combines praise of biocentric consequentialism (as presented there and in Value, Obligation and Meta-Ethics) with criticisms that it could advocate both minimal satisfaction of human needs and the extinction of ‘inessential species’ for the sake of generating extra people; Carter also maintains that as a monistic theory it is predictably inadequate to cover the full range of ethical issues, since only a pluralistic theory has this capacity. In this reply, I explain how the counter-intuitive implications of biocentric consequentialism suggested by Carter (for population, needs-satisfaction, and biodiversity preservation) are not implications, and argue that since pluralistic theories (in Carter's sense) either generate contradictions or collapse into monistic theories, the superiority of pluralistic theories is far from predictable. Thus Carter's criticisms fail to undermine biocentric consequentialism as a normative theory applicable to the generality of ethical issues.