Three Pervasive Presuppositions about Human Life and Ethics Strongly Warrant Analysis

Lantz E. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Common philosophical discussions concerning the ethics of human interaction with the biosphere and universe have been significantly informed by certain presuppositions: (1) nature is conquerable; (2) human cultural and social (contrasted with moral) progress is somewhat like a thing, beyond human control, and is inevitable and benevolent; and (3) Homo sapiens is the superior life-form. Although arguments, such as whether humans should conquer nature, founded upon these presuppositions have sometimes been challenged, each of these three presuppositions wants direct analysis. The three have become so ingrained in professional and everyday discourse that they have mythic proportions, as though beyond question. Because of the weightiness of the relevant philosophical issues, they merit overt analysis. Although they are independent and may be analyzed separately, this article treats them as whole, as they often work together in arguments. After finding substantial problems, the article suggests alternative ways of building sustainable presuppositions in similar territory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-503
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • human progress
  • inherent superiority of Homo sapiens
  • nature's conquerability
  • sustainable presuppositions
  • unquestioned presuppositions


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