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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Patrick T. Smith
PHIL 243
Seattle Campus

Environmental Ethics

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. Offered: jointly with ENVIR 243.

Class description

In this course, we will apply philosophical reasoning to a wide range of environmental challenges, causes, and concepts. We will examine a set of issues that run the gamut from the highly theoretical (the non-identity problem, moral relativism, general moral theories such as utilitarianism) to the highly particular (the justice of geo-engineering and appropriate social responses to over-fishing). In the process, we will examine diverse understandings of how to weigh human interests against those of animals and the environment as well as learn about different environmental and ecological ideals (e.g. land ethic, deep ecology, ecofeminism). Further, we will also critically evaluate various tools often used in economics and public policy, such as cost-benefit analysis, in order to uncover implicit philosophical assumptions about value that are often below the surface. Once we have these philosophical tools, we will analyze particular environmental problems and opportunities but with a special focus on climate change.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Annette R. Bernier
Date: 02/15/2013