Religions of the World and Ecology home

Lenn Evan Goodman is a professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University. His books include On Justice (Yale University Press, 1991) and God of Abraham (Oxford University Press, 1995), both of which lay out elements of the general theory of deserts reflected on in his conference paper. Goodman has translated and commented on Saadiah Gaon's Commentary on the Book of Job (Yale University Press, 1988), Ibn Tufayl's Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, and the Case of the Animals vs. Man Before the King of the Jinn by the Sincere Brethen of Basra. His scholarly studies include Rambam (Viking, 1976) and Avicenna (Routledge, 1992). His Judaism, Human Rights and Human Values is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.


Abstract of paper given at Judaism and Ecology conference:
Respect for Nature in the Jewish Tradition

The intrinsic value of creation is a core tenet of the Judaic system of norms from its earliest expressions. The goodness of nature rests on its beauty and on the connative, telic claims made by all beings, and made with special articulacy by living beings, and above all, by persons. The consideration that is the due of living organisms, species, and larger natural kinds, econiches, habitats, monuments of nature (and of culture) need not be derived from contractual myths, which will, of course, yield nothing of the kind, since non-human beings have no contract or covenant with humans. The appropriate level of consideration and regard cannot be derived from the notion of rights, which is properly confined to persons, and which will only be degraded if stretched rhetorically to cover non-human organisms and other entities as well. Such deserts should not be derived by appeal to notions of God's design or intent, since there are no undisputed canons of that intent, and since it is far more appropriate to move from recognition of the proximate values discovered in nature to an appreciation of divine transcendence that to attempt to reason in the opposite direction, as though we knew God first or better and did not need to encounter Him through nature.

Back to Judaism and Ecology conference participants