Honors Theses

Date of Award

5-3-2019

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Philosophy and Religion

First Advisor

Steven Skultety

Relational Format

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

This thesis will articulate new sorts of arguments under a legal philosophy framework that I believe can be used to protect the environment, but which also have a chance at convincing a wide range of citizens and politicians. The conclusion for which I will argue is that the United States should extend legal personhood to Nature. I will first provide detailed analyses of two countries that have already extended rights to nature, Ecuador and Bolivia. I will then proceed to compare the two cases and discuss what aspects of their models can and cannot be applied to the United States, and why. I will then lay the groundwork for my first argument by reviewing how legal personhood is currently treated in American law, and then demonstrate how the reasons used to justify extending legal personhood to other non-traditional entities apply to Nature. Finally, my second main argument is grounded on the premise that autonomy has great value: we need to extend legal personhood to the environment to protect individual U.S. citizens. The purpose of these arguments is to show how the environmentalist and libertarian parties can form a coalition to protect Nature, albeit for different underlying reasons. By doing so, I believe it will increase the chances for success in granting Nature rights and ensuring Her protection.

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