Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis aims to develop a principled rationale for coercible environmental protectionist duties, based on Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, specifically, the Doctrine of Right. The claim of the thesis is not that such a rationale can be directly extracted from Kant’s arguments in that work, but rather that it can be reasonably extrapolated based on Kant’s framework. For Kant, politico-juridical authority, and its exercise via coercion, can be justified only in terms of the requirements of a system of freedom. Accordingly, the only legitimate rationale for coercively inhibiting environmentally destructive activities would be that such activities are, in one way or another, contrary to freedom, or incompatible with a system of Right based on freedom. The Kantian perspective on law and politics, as applied to environmental issues, demands that we ask: in what way do acts of environmental destruction constitute a hindrance, obstruction, or diminishment, of freedom; or, in what way are such acts a defective and transgressive exercise of freedom? The basic aim of this thesis is to answer these questions, and, more specifically, to establish that owners of finite natural resources (especially land) owe duties of forbearance with respect to their holdings, i.e., duties not to destroy or dissipate (or use non-sustainably) such resources. A primary challenge is that, from a Kantian perspective, any such analysis has to be based exclusively on the idea of freedom – as opposed to notions of “harm”, “welfare”, the “public good” or the “intrinsic value of nature”. Kant’s “Juridical Postulate of Practical Reason” furnishes the key to our response: environmentally destructive activity is a hindrance to freedom, and thus transgressive, because it renders usable natural resources unavailable for further use, whereas the postulate actually demands that ostensibly usable objects remain available for use in perpetuity. Further, the permissibility of environmental destruction ultimately entails the permissibility of the annihilation of the material preconditions of any possible exercise of freedom. As such, environmentally destructive acts must be intolerable within a system of Right, and environmental preservation is an imperative of Right.
Ataner, Attila, "KANT ON FREEDOM, PROPERTY RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION" (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7543.
McMaster University Library