In Nature's Interests?

Interests, Animal Rights and Environmental Ethics
(Oxford University Press, 1998)

by Gary Varner
Professor of Philosophy
Texas A&M University


Publisher's abstract:

    This book offers a powerful response to what Varner calls the "two dogmas of environmental ethics"--the assumptions that animal rights philosophies and anthropocentric views are each antithetical to sound environmental policy. Allowing that every living organism has interests which ought, other things being equal, to be protected, Varner contends that some interests take priority over others. He defends both a sentientist principle giving priority to the lives of organisms with conscious desires and an anthropocentric principle giving priority to certain very inclusive interests which only humans have. He then shows that these principles not only comport with but provide significant support for the environmentalist agenda.


Excerpts from published reviews:

  • "This is a brave and ambitious book. It is densely argued and beautifully written."
      - Philosophical Review
      (Mark Rowlands - October 2000)

  • "[A] trim but meaty treatise. ... Varner's sophisticated contributions ... will repay the attention of all who have an interest in the deeper dilemmas, both theoretical and practical, of environmental ethics."
      - Ethics
      (Edward Johnson - July 2001)

  • "[A] useful contribution to the burgeoning, and increasingly respectable, field of environmental ethics ... deserving of study"
      - Mind
      (Alan Carter - July 2000)

  • "[A] must-read for any serious environmental philosopher ... "
      - Ethics and the Environment
      (Jon Jenson - 2000, no. 2)

  • "[A] gritty and challenging text: it marks out a distinctive philosophical position that merits serious attention by environmentalists and animal rights supporters alike"
      - Animal Welfare
      (Alan Holland - 2000, pp. 453-56)

  • "In a field as politicized as environmental ethics, it is refreshing to read someone who does not answer questions by consulting an ideology, who knows the limits of his own knowledge and does not cover them up, who gives science its due without glorifying it, and whose love of nature seems genuine, not merely a thinly disguised misanthropy. ... Such candor pervades the book. Varner does not shy away from admitting possible problems with his view, or from following his argument where it leads. Nor does he pretend that his theory makes hard choices easy. Throughout, the book is a pleasure to read. The author is unduly influenced neither by radical nor conservative environmentalist camps. He has a mind of his own."
      - Environmental Ethics
      (David Schmidtz - Winter 1999)

  • "Well written and mercifully short."
      - Choice
      (M. LaBar - June 1999)