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Hey Marc,

I find your proposal intriguing. And generally right. But, I'm interested to see both how this all gets cashed out and where it leads in the end. My guess is that if you're right, then hunters acquire many more obligations than the one you mention.

The Moral, part 2: You can't simultaneously trumpet the merits of participation in nature and also fail to attempt to approximate in practice the methods and tools of so-called "subsistence hunters".

Before I pursue this point, I want to try to get clear on your position. I'm not quite sure I've got the picture yet, so I want to explore a few different ways of understanding the proposal. Concerning the concept of nature, the idea seems to be that it, like its sibling natural, is (1) a degree concept that (2) has a historical connotation. I think I get (1), but I'm a bit confused about what (2) is supposed to mean. I'll focus on the concept of natural (rather than nature) to make the point.

On one reading, the claim is that (2a) X is picked out by the concept natural to the extent that X satisfies the historical connotation (sense?) of ordinary uses of the term "natural". If this is the right way to understand (2), then I think we're owed a story about the content of that historical connotation (e.g., what is it?). In the absence of such a story, this condition doesn't seem to be very helpful. My worry is that, as it stands, this condition doesn't seem to help you get your conclusion. For it looks like condition (1) plus ordinary intuitions (about what is more vs. less natural) do all the work, and the historical connotation condition just goes along for the ride. Perhaps it simply functions as a sort of reference-fixer or intuition pump; but, if so, it isn't clear that these tasks couldn't be accomplished via other means instead, in which case (2) loses its special flavor.

Those worries aside, there are other ways to read (2). One is suggested by the comment that immediately follows your introduction of the condition. You say,

"Robert Elliot...has argued that what we find valuable in nature is partially destroyed by environmental reconstruction (that is, strip mining a tract of forest and then reconstructing it to look indistinguishable nonetheless degrades the value of the land)."

The idea seems to be that something is less natural to the extent that its present state is the result of reconstruction/restoration, whereas something is more natural to the extent that it possesses what we might call "historical continuity". If I understand you correctly, this suggests that (2) is intended to be read as (2b) X is picked out by the concept natural to the extent that X at time t is historically continuous with X at an earlier time t*, where X possesses greater historical continuity between t* and t to the extent that there is no time t** between t* and t such that X has been (approximately) reconstructed/restored at t** to its condition at t*. This is pretty rough, but I think it basically captures the point you were making in your comment about Elliot. I don't have much to say about (2b), except that although it fits nicely with your comment about Elliot, it doesn't seem to mesh with your emphasis on the historical _connotation_ of natural.

Now for a third reading of (2), which is suggested by your appeal to a causal-historical chain; you say, in regards to why hunting is natural,

"For hunting is certainly more natural than most other forms of food procurement and is causal-historically related to what is misleadingly labelled subsistence hunting."

This suggests that you have in mind the following condition: (2c) X is picked out by the concept natural to the extent that X is causally-historically related to some earlier Y that is a paradigm instance of the natural. This is very very rough, but hopefully you get the idea. In any case, this condition, even more than (2a), seems to merely piggyback intuitions about what is natural, so if this is the correct reading of (2), then, again, I'm not sure if the condition is doing much work in your argument. Perhaps once you work out the details of the argument it will become clearer how important this condition is, and what work it's doing, but as it stands it looks fairly inert.

Now, putting clarificatory/exegetical issues aside, to the moral, part 2. Upon reading your post I was struck by the impression that one could get quite a bit of mileage out of your argument (supposing that it's sound). In particular, I'm wondering if your considerations suggest that, in addition to having an obligation to preserve nature, hunters ought to strive to approximate the methods employed in so-called "subsistence hunting". The idea is that condition (1) and the intuition behind condition (2) suggest that hunting itself is more natural to the extent that one approximates the hunting methods and tools employed by so-called "subsistence hunters". This is, of course, assuming that the methods and tools of so-called "subsistence hunters" are the methods/tools to which condition (2) attaches the concept natural (via an historical connotation, causal-historical relation, or whatever else you had in mind by (2)). The point is just that if hunters hunt (or hunting is justified) because hunting enables increased participation in nature, then hunters ought to increase participation in nature (in regards to their hunting) in whatever ways they can. These ways are not limited to their surrounding environment, but to their own hunting practices as well. One such way is to adopt natural methods and tools. There are other such ways, but that's another story...


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