B1 Second Term TR 14:00-15:20 K. Houle
Environmental Philosophy is a recently developed area of philosophical inquiry. It can be understood as the effort to understand and critique the multiple causes of environmental degradation. That critique involves looking at the ideas we have inherited and now hold about nature and humankind. It endeavors to provide a more adequate conceptual and ethical foundation for right relations with the physical environment. This course begins by exploring the history of the ideas about nature found in the Western worldview: from the beginnings of philosophy (The Ancient World), through medieval and modern ideas such as Newton, Bacon and Descartes held. We will focus in this first section on metaphysics and epistemology, especially on idealism and rationalism as these have shaped our particular understanding of what there is, and how to know what there is. Then, by way of contrast, we will explore a phenomenological perspective, using Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac as our guide text. Finally, in the last half of the course we will consider ethics: whether a new 'environmental ethics' is required, and what the arguments for extension of the moral sphere to non-human animals, to species, to the biosphere as a whole, involve. Students will be tested in a variety of ways including short in-class exercises (which, along with attendance, comprise their participation mark), short papers, and a final major term paper.
Texts: Owen Goldin and Patricia Kilroe (eds.) , Human Life and the Natural World: Readings in the History of Western Philosophy (Broadview, 1997); Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (Oxford); Robert Elliot (ed.), Environmental Ethics (Oxford, 2002)