ABSTRACT

In the last chapter, I argued that scholars writing on Hinduism and the environment tend to assume that a plausible environmental ethic must attribute direct moral standing to animals and plants. I also offered a preliminary argument for the plausibility of this assumption, and defended it against objections. In this chapter, I consider what I call ‘Instrumentalist Interpretations’.

Instrumentalist Interpretations claim that certain Hindu texts and traditions attribute merely instrumental value to animals and plants – and the rest of nature. Hence they deny that animals and plants have direct moral standing. If this is right, and if a plausible environmental ethic must attribute direct moral standing to animals and plants, then these accounts entail that certain Hindu texts and traditions do not entail a plausible environmental ethic. The First Instrumentalist Interpretation states that certain Hindu texts and

traditions claim that animals and plants have merely instrumental value, solely as a means to the attainment of moks.a (liberation). This account is implausible for at least two reasons. First, it is inconsistent with any Hindu text or tradition that accepts some of the most basic claims that constitute the theory of karma. The proponent of this view must explain the connection between ahim. sā (non-harm) and merit by citing the connection between ahim. sā and moks.a. The proponent must say that ahim. sā is valuable, and therefore produces merit, because ahim. sā is instrumentally valuable as a means to moks.a. Ahim. sā is a means to moks.a, however, because it produces merit. Hence the explanation is circular. Second, the account implies that morality is strictly arbitrary. If ahim. sā is

valuable only because it produces merit that in turn leads to moks.a, then it might just as well have been that him. sā (harm) produced merit, and therefore led to moks.a. Yet this is implausible. The Second Instrumentalist Interpretation also states that certain Hindu

texts and traditions claim that animals and plants have only instrumental value. It differs from the First Instrumentalist Interpretation, however, in claiming that the instrumental value of animals and plants derives primarily from their potential contribution to earthly human welfare.