Collective work: Environmental Ethics for Lawyers

Collective work: Environmental Ethics for Lawyers

Scientific direction: Jochen Sohnle, Professor of public law (IRENEE, UL EA 7303) and Christophe Bouriau, Professor of philosophy (Archives H. Poincaré, UMR 7117) in partnership with the Normandy Chair for Peace (coordinator: Émilie Gaillard)

Call for contributions

Within the framework of this collective work project entitled “Environmental Ethics for Lawyers”, it is considered to cross the views of two disciplines, namely law and philosophy, in order to draw the attention to the actors elaborating, influencing and applying legal norms, to the stakes of environmental protection. These include parliamentarians and local elected officials, executive officers and agents working for ministries and other administrations, whether international, national or local, judges, lawyers and judicial personnel as a whole, responsible persons in the world of economics as well as representatives of civil society, not forgetting the sphere of teaching and research. The present project aims to give a voice to the most competent philosophers and jurists who have conducted reflections in the field of environmental ethics.

Ethics as a philosophical specialty deals with the rules of behavior of human beings. As a normative discipline, it is closely related to law, even if the ways in which norms are produced and received differ. However, it is generally accepted by the jurist community that legal norms integrate values highlighted by ethics, e.g. through the different constitutional, legislative and regulatory processes, the elaboration of international treaties, in the framework of jurisdictional interpretation and through the direct or indirect participation of citizens and the public. Ethical considerations also influence the world of contracts, where private, individual or collective (especially those of companies) and public (through administrations) wills meet. In this sense, jurists appear to philosophers as practitioners of a sector of the law, but their practice brings into play philosophical presuppositions that are of interest to both philosophers and jurists.

A mutual discourse thus proves to be a useful and fruitful desideratum. This is particularly true for the ecological challenges facing humanity and the various actors mentioned above. For them, the considered work wishes to mobilize the teachings of environmental ethics by conducting a reflection on the norms of behavior to be adopted with regard to the living and non-living elements of nature, to natural resources and to the ecosystems of our planet.

The book thus intends to meet two essential objectives: 1) to introduce the topic, in the manner of a manual, and 2) to go into scientific depth on certain current topics, based on collective research. On the substance, it will insist on the presentation of the current debates and theoretical oppositions on environmental law: for example, between the followers of positivism and those who seek the foundation of norms in pre-existing values, between fictionalists and realists or between the defenders of an anthropocentric approach of the problematic and the defenders of an ecocentric approach.

To this end, the book is divided into two main parts (see the end of this document). In the first part, it presents the different ethical currents that propose solutions to environmental challenges. In this respect, it will be appropriate to cross the classical philosophical currents with the specifically environmental currents, while making them fruitful for the law. In the second part, the book applies environmental ethics to specific, particularly current and controversial issues: the status of the animal, environmental responsibility, economic sobriety, ecological inequalities, environmental democracy, environmental technological risks, ecological solidarity, the vision of indigenous peoples and climate justice. The list in this second part, as well as the following tentative outline of the book, is not exhaustive and the selection committee is open to proposals for other chapter headings.

As for the methodology, each author, sometimes a philosopher, sometimes a jurist, presents in his or her chapter a current or an environmental ethical issue and at the same time draws conclusions on a practical and/or legal level, in order to offer avenues of reflection and solutions that are aimed at actors in the field (political and administrative leaders, judges, economic leaders, civil society), academics (teachers-researchers, students), and the general public (public awareness function and popularization of knowledge).

Contributions can be written in any of the three languages: French, English, Spanish. The book will provide a summary and keywords in the three languages. In addition, the partner institutions behind the project are considering the possibility of translating each text into the other two languages.

Submission :

By September 2022, the committee receives from each interested party

– a two-page summary of the draft text (standard word format, 1.5 line spacing) indicating the title of the chapter, a proposal of the part of the future book where this chapter should be inserted (see the end of this document) and a brief professional biographical note of the author (max. 15 lines)


  • June 2022: opening of the call for papers and dissemination in the networks
  • September 2022: closing of the call for papers
  • October 2022: end of the selection of papers by the scientific committee. The scientific committee reserves the right to contact contributors directly, particularly for topics not covered by the call for papers.
  • February 2023: submission of manuscripts by contributors
  • May 2023: finalization of the revision of the book manuscript by the scientific directors

Size of each contribution: 20,000 signs with spaces (which corresponds to about 10 handwritten pages in Word format)

Draft paper to be sent by 15 septembre 2022 to the following email addresses:; and

Scientific Committee:

  • Christophe Bouriau, Professor of philosophy, University of Lorraine, France
  • Paul Clavier, Professor of philosophy, University of Lorraine, France
  • Emilie Gaillard, MCF HDR in private law, Sciences Po Rennes, France
  • Catherine J. Iorns Magallanes, Professor of Law, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Catherine Larrère, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Paris I – Sorbonne, France
  • Agnès Michelot, MCF HDR in public law, University of La Rochelle, France
  • Eric Naim-Gesbert, Professor of Public Law, University of Toulouse, France
  • François Ost, Professor of Law and Philosophy, Emeritus of the University Saint-Louis – Brussels, Belgium
  • Jochen Sohnle, Professor of Public Law, University of Lorraine, France
  • Carole Talon-Hugon, Professor of philosophy, University of Paris-Est Créteil, France

The project is conducted by three partner institutions (IRENEE, UL EA 7303, Archives H. Poincaré, UL UMR 7117, Normandy Chair for Peace) under the scientific direction of Jochen Sohnle, Professor of public law (IRENEE, UL EA 7303) and Christophe Bouriau, Professor of philosophy (Archives H. Poincaré, UMR 7117).

Related activity: online lecture series

A cycle of conferences will take place over two academic years (2020/21 and 2021/22) around the theme “Environmental Ethics for Lawyers” (between 2 and 4 conferences per academic year). During each two-hour conference, organized by one of the three partners (IRENEE, UL EA 7303, Archives H. Poincaré Archives, UMR 7117, Normandy Chair for Peace), the aim will be to cross the views of a philosopher and a jurist respectively on specific themes that fall within the fields of competence of the speakers. A discussion will then take place with all the participants.

Shorter text announcing the cycle of conferences: This cycle around the theme of “Environmental Ethics for Lawyers” aims, during each conference, to cross the views of a philosopher and a lawyer on two specific topics respectively in their areas of expertise. Each conference lasts two hours and includes a time for discussion between the speakers and participants on the societal issues addressed. The cycle is an initiative of three partner institutions (IRENEE, UL EA 7303, Archives H. Poincaré Archives, UL UMR 7117, Normandy Chair for Peace) and will take place over two academic years (20/21 and 21/22).

Provisional table of contents : Environmental Ethics for Lawyers

Introduction (3 contributions)

1) the contours of environmental ethics (What is environmental ethics?)

2) the object/recipient of ethics: the environment and nature (What is environmental ethics about?)

3) the legal relevance of environmental ethics (Why an environmental ethics for lawyers?)

Part I) Environmental ethics relevant to law (10 to 12 contributions)

A) General ethical currents regarding the environment

1) virtue (virtue ethics)

– the ethics of pre-Christian antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, the sophists, the Stoics)

– the renewal in phenomenology (Max Scheler)

– the revival in the analytical current (Elizabeth Anscombe)

2) duty (deontological ethics)

– classical religions (religions of the book and others)

– philosophical rationalism (Immanuel Kant et al.)

– the theory of justice (John Rawls)

– discourse theory (Karl-Otto Appel, Jürgen Habermas)

3) a purpose (teleological ethics)

– classical utilitarianism (Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill)

– consequentialism (Peter Singer)

– existentialism (Søren Kierkegaard; Martin Heidegger; Jean-Paul Sartre)

– Marxism

– the “Philosophy of Power” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

– Confucianism

4) Empathy (emotional ethics)

– the “Philosophy of suffering” (Arthur Schopenhauer)

– Buddhism

B) Environmental ethics[1]

1) theocentrism

– Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis (Laudato Si’), Gari Lutfallah

2) anthropocentrism

– Emmanuel Kant, Luc Ferry, Lothar Schäfer, John Passmore, Bryan G. Norton, Martin Seel

3) pathocentrism

– Jeremy Bentham, Arthur Schopenhauer, Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Martha Nussbaum

4) Biocentrism

– Albert Schweitzer, Paul W. Taylor, Robin Attfield

5) Ecocentrism:

– « naturalist » variant: Hans Jonas, Holmes Rolston III, Eugene C. Hargrove

– « holiste » variant : Aldo Leopold, Klaus Michael Meyer-Abich, Michel Serres, J. Baird Callicott, Augustin Berque

– « deep ecology » variant: Luther Standing Bear, Arne Naess, James Lovelock (“Gaia”)

Part II) Applied environmental ethics (10 to 12 contributions)

Indicative list (possibility of adding relevant themes which will be examined by the Scientific Committee):

1) the principles of the environment

2) the status of non-human life forms (elements of nature) – the beneficiaries/holders of protection

– the animal, the plant, the microorganism. Legal fictionalism versus realism.

3) the status of natural organized forms

– the biotope, the ecosystem, the biosphere

4) environmental responsibility

– ethical and legal responsibility, corporate social responsibility

5) sustainable development, ecological transition and economic sobriety (environment-economy opposition)

6) social inequalities and ecological inequalities (environment versus social justice)

7) environmental democracy

8) ecological solidarity and ecological debt

9) environmental technological risk

10) climate justice

11) aesthetics and environmental protection

Conclusions (1 contribution)

[1] Classification inspired by : BRENNER Andreas, UmweltEthik – Ein Lehr- und Lesebuch, Königshausen & Neumann, 2014 ; HESS Gérald, Éthiques de la nature, puf, 2013.

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