Project Outline

New Directions in Plant Ethics

Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna, Austria

Project span: October 2014 -- October 2019

The research project New Directions in Plant Ethics explores plant ethics as an emerging field in bioethics. It contributes to developing systematic approaches to the life of plants, highlighting the specific traits of plants as a distinct life-form. Instead of approaching plants as moral patients, it emphasizes and analyzes the relations between plants and persons. In this regard the project focuses on the normative dimensions of cultural practices addressing plant life – such as gardening and cultivating plants, as well as practices of exchange among persons and plants.

Key issues:

  • evaluative aspects of practices connecting plant life and human life
  • the ethics of plant cultivation
  • the philosophy of gardening and environmental virtue ethics
  • the scope, potential and implications of different concepts (value, flourishing, well-being, intentionality, dignity, etc.) as well as argumentative strategies for addressing plants in ethics
  • new perspectives in addressing relational aspects of plant ethics
  • plant communication
  • the relation between the flourishing of plants and the good life of persons
  • application of outcomes in bioethics (GMOs, synthetic biology, food ethics, and related claims of ecological preservation)

Furthermore, the project aims at building a Network of Research on Plant Ethics. Different from animal ethics, plant ethicists are not in close contact and have not built foci of research so far. The network is supported by creating this internet platform for plant ethics in addition to various workshops and lectures such as the lecture series “Growing Green: Fresh Perspectives on Plant Life in Environmental Ethics” which took place in spring 2015.

The project is conducted by Angela Kallhoff, Professor for Ethics and Applied Ethics at the Department of Philosophy / University of Vienna. It started in November 2014 and is funded by the FWF.