Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Michael Bowman, Peter Davies and Edward Goodwin
Chapter 2: In whose interest? Instrumental and intrinsic value in biodiversity law
Mattia Fosci and Tom West
This chapter deals with the role of values in international biodiversity law. It begins by introducing the concepts of instrumental and intrinsic value (Section 1) and examining the extent to which they are reflected in international biodiversity law (Section 2). It then explores the two approaches in more detail, analysing their respective shortcomings and advantages (Sections 3 and 4). The conclusions look at reconciling these two theories of value within the same system of environmental protection. The two main value-systems underpinning the development of biodiversity law are based on the seemingly competing concepts of instrumental and intrinsic value. Instrumental value typically describes the worth biodiversity derives from its human utility: for instance, the instrumental value of certain trees lies in timber production; animals can be used for food; plants and flowers for their medicinal properties and so forth. It relies on the assumption that a rational entity (the valuer) can attribute value to another entity (the valuee), and it endorses an anthropocentric view of the natural world founded on the conviction that humanity is superior to, and is thus permitted to exploit, the natural world. Instrumental valuation is a manifestation of instrumental rationality, which also underpins rational choice as an economic, sociological and criminological theory. Bowman distinguishes instrumental value from inherent value, which he defines as the worth an entity possesses for its very existence rather than for its practical utility.
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