In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Anthropocentrism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Darwin, Natural Selection, and the Origins of Ecology

Ecology Anthropocentrism
Jonathan Padwe
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0073


Anthropocentrism refers to a human-centered, or “anthropocentric,” point of view. In philosophy, anthropocentrism can refer to the point of view that humans are the only, or primary, holders of moral standing. Anthropocentric value systems thus see nature in terms of its value to humans; while such a view might be seen most clearly in advocacy for the sustainable use of natural resources, even arguments that advocate for the preservation of nature on the grounds that pure nature enhances the human spirit must also be seen as anthropocentric. Alternative, non-anthropocentric or anti-anthropocentric views include ecocentrism, biocentrism, and similar framings. The articles assembled here look at the question of anthropocentrism from a variety of points of view, proceeding from an investigation of the roots of modern anthropocentrism in Western philosophy and religion, and looking at the implications for anthropocentric thinking of the Darwinian revolution and the emergence of environmentalism. Questions of anthropocentrism and its alternatives emerge in part from the nature/culture divide, a fault line of Western philosophy and environmental thought. These categories differ significantly in other cultural settings, and discussions of anthropocentrism and its alternatives would take on a much-different character outside the confines of “Western” thought.

General Overviews

While anthropocentrism has received attention as a subject worthy of full-length treatments, in many cases overviews are written with an eye toward a specific framing of an environmental or other problem, such as, for instance, animal rights. Many of the following texts, which serve as overviews, also appear elsewhere in this article. These works include, for instance, Barry and Frankland 2002, an encyclopedia offering useful articles on anthropocentrism and closely related topics. Classic book-length overviews of the subject, such as Nash 1989 and Leiss 1972, have more recently been joined by new overviews such as Steiner 2010 and edited collections such as Boddice 2011.

  • Barry, John, and E. Gene Frankland, eds. 2002. International encyclopedia of environmental politics. London and New York: Routledge.

    See entries on anthropocentrism, ecocentrism, and environmental ethics.

  • Boddice, Rob, ed. 2011. Anthropocentrism: Humans, animals, environments. Human-Animal Studies, 1573-4226 12. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004187948.i-348

    A series of recent analyses seeking to understand what is meant by “human” when humanity is defined against “animals,” the volume is wide ranging and provides an overview of current issues in the study of anthropocentrism.

  • Leiss, William. 1972. The domination of nature. New York: George Braziller.

    A survey of the idea of human domination over nature. Republished as recently as 1994 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press).

  • Nash, Roderick Frazier. 1989. The rights of nature: A history of environmental ethics. History of American Thought and Culture. Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

    A historical survey of the emerging field of environmental ethics, tracing genealogies of the field and also of its central concepts, including anthropocentrism and alternatives to anthropocentrism.

  • Steiner, Gary. 2010. Anthropocentrism and its discontents: The moral status of animals in the history of Western philosophy. Pittsburgh, PA: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press.

    A review of anthropocentrism in Western philosophy, from the perspective of animal rights.

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