Anthropocentrism and our Moral Status

Dr Asangba Tzudir

Since the conception of environmental ethics, engagements centered on whether human values in nature are anthropocentric (human centric) or eco-centric (non-human centered). With the popularization of the concept of ecosystem, the discussion took a wider form towards the conservation of community at large. This resulted in the need for inclusive conservation that looks at both forms of valuation.  

While the debate on Anthropocentrism and eco-centrism continues, it has also been argued that the term Anthropocentrism is often misused as a criticism of humanity as a whole, and that it is counterproductive for environmental protection. However, the term Anthropocentrism is not simply about human-centric, but a belief that value is human centered and that all other beings are means to human ends, that human alone possess intrinsic values. 

The term Anthropocentrism often misused as a criticism of humanity as a whole is simply based on the very acts of human beings. That irrespective of the conceptual connotation, or the misinterpretation or the accusations, it is not the fault of the concept. The fault lies in the moral status of the human-centered beings and how we relate with the environment and not on the term Anthropocentrism. 

This begins by understanding where we as human beings stand. It is only when humans identify the moral status that will help shed the understanding that humans have the supreme rights over the environment, and which in turn will pave the way for expression of care and concern for the environment and all the life and living in it. As such, respecting the environment should become a ‘moral duty’ while defining the moral status. This moral status can be defined by adopting a holistic value system that focuses on our moral responsibilities and duties in the light of the emerging global environmental issue.

This will help us know our place in nature, that as much as humans are important so too the environment, and where humans collectively work towards the well-being of every life form. As such, in the evolution of times, many a time while concentrating on the human conflicts we are often unmindful of the conflict between the human and the environment. The present Forest (Conservation) Bill is also a case in contention. That, the interests of humans far outweighs the environment, plants and animals concern. As such, understanding our place in nature is vital to changing our thought process in a better way in such a manner where humans are able to capture the totality of perspectives.

Even environmentalists and animal activists have different goals and viewpoints or perspectives leading to differences. As a way to reconciliation or to overcome the challenges that are faced by many today, moral status becomes a necessity.  At the end of the day it is actually not in our hands to decide who deserves the right to live and who does not. And defining a moral status begins not simply from finding a new moral ground but just a small change in perspective or a small change in mindset which in turn will have a tremendous impact when placed within a collectivity. The adage ‘live and let live’ had never been so profound and relevant as now.

(Dr Asangba Tzudir writes a weekly guest editorial for The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to