International Environmental Law and the Search for Harmony with Nature: A Critical Inquiry into the Metaphysical Underpinnings of the Legal Discourse on Environmental Protection
Abstract: For some time now, the world in general and international law in particular have witnessed one and the same widespread call for action. Both public and private interests claim that present-day standards and technology have proven insufficient for saving the natural environment. From this claim has emerged a call that entreats us to approach the problem of the deteriorating natural environment by including nature into our moral
considerations. The current study focuses on analyzing what is arguably one of the most influential and widely recognized expressions of this call for action: the report series entitled Harmony with Nature: Report of the
Secretary General. The study aims to argue that the Reports’ outline of a new ethics can be understood as being underpinned by
the metaphysical system of early rationalist Benedict Spinoza. Given Spinoza’s understanding of nature and morality, however, there is reason to critically evaluate the plausibility of naturalizing international
environmental law, as requested by the reports. The rationale behind the present study is therefore to (1) provide a thorough review of Spinoza’s metaphysical philosophy so as to arrive at an adequate understanding
of his ethics and moral theory, and (2) evaluate international environmental law in light of this understanding so as to be able to assess the practical effects of including nature into the moral considerations
of the international legal order.
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