The Problem of Nuclear Harm for Andrew Linklater, Lorraine Elliott and Other Contemporary Cosmopolitans

By N.A.J. Taylor on 1st November 2017 — 1 min read

In a paper that helped inaugurate the subfield of Environmental Philosophy in 1973, Richard Routley located the seed of Western anthropocentrism in the liberal harm prin- ciple. Yet, beginning in the late 1990s, Andrew Linklater began globalising the harm principle with no reference to Routley, or to the enduring debates about the moral status of the non-human world. In this article, I offer a preliminary sketch—no more than that—as to why Routley was right to reject the idea of a harm principle being con- tained within a non-anthropocentric environmental ethic, and that Linklater, Lorraine Elliott and their contemporary cosmopolitan colleagues—whatever the extent of their human-centredness—have been wrong to ignore him. I do so by intruding the problem of nuclear harm into Linklater’s cosmopolitan account of harm in world politics. Approaching the concept of harm through the prism of the nuclear age is interesting and important, I argue, since it both takes seriously Linklater’s intuition that the cosmo- politan response to the emergence of nuclear harms is evidence of a global harm narrative, and because it serves to ground Linklater’s otherwise abstract theorising in the harm par excellence of world politics.

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N.A.J. Taylor, ‘The problem of nuclear harm for Andrew Linklater, Lorraine Elliott, and other contemporary cosmopolitans’, Global Society, Vol.32 Is.1, 2018, 111-126. [PDF]