Part of Critical Subjects: Spring Architecture & Design School 2024

Video recording of the panel and audience debate

Ethics, the moral principles that guide personal and social behaviour, have 5,000 years of philosophical development, while environmentalism has a mere 50 or so years of public usage. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates explored ethical theories that encompassed virtues, morality, and the pursuit of the good life. The Ancients emphasized the importance of individual and societal well-being, justice, and the cultivation of moral character. Does environmentalism do the same?

By referencing these foundational ideas, this session asks whether environmentalism alone suffices as an ethical framework. For example, does it encourage a life well lived, or does it see human life predominantly as a potential source of planetary harm? Even though the renowned ethicist, Peter Singer claims that “environmental arguments are ethical arguments”, is environmentalism synonymous with ethical behaviour?

The discussion will delve into the complexities of ethical dilemmas, exploring whether ethics encompasses a range of values and principles that can guide decision-making in a more comprehensive and holistic manner.

This wider debate aims to highlight the multifaceted nature of ethics and encourage a deeper exploration of ethical and moral theories. Ultimately, is it legitimate to ask whether environmentalism might, on occasion, be considered to be unethical? Or is that an unethical premise?


Ferhan Azman, director, Azman Architectsz

Paul Crosby, head of Part 3, Architectural Association

Piers Benn, philosopher, author Ethics (Fundamentals of Philosophy).

ChairMartyn Perks, digital business consultant, co-author, Big Potatoes: the London Manifesto for Innovation.