Focuses on some of the philosophical questions that arise in connection with environmental studies. Topics to be considered include: the ideological roots of current issues, values and the natural world, public policy and risk assessment, intergenerational justice, and social change.
Has the history of Western philosophy, especially ethics, contributed to the creation of our current environmental problems? If so, how can philosophical tools of analysis be used to mitigate or reslovle those probelms? This class will offer a foundation for discussion of these issues with a focus on the contemporary field of environmental ethics. In the first part of the class we will discuss a variety of philosophical debates which have evolved over the past thirty years (primarily in Europe and North America) among philosophers answering the call to develop a new, environmental, ethic. Topics to be covered include individual versus collective approaches to moral consideration of the environment; varieties of assessment of the intrinsic (or non-instrumental) value of nature, and the question of whether environmental ethics should embrace some form of moral pluralism. In the second part of the class we will examine critiques of the dominant schools of thought in environmental ethics, including ecofeminism and environmental pragmatism. Finally, we will look at several specific environmental issues and examine what various environmental ethicists have to offer to debates regarding environmental policy, including the questions of whether we should try to restore the nature we have damaged and whether it makes sense any more to attempt to preserve areas as “wilderness.” Requirements for the course will be two in-class examinations, each counting equally toward the determination of the final grade for the class. Weekly quizzes will also be required.
Class Assignments and Grading