This course offers philosophical resources for understanding and addressing environmental concerns. At the same time, we will recognize how ecological insights challenge some of the most influential ideas in the European philosophical tradition--human-centered and individualist accounts of existence, agency, knowledge, and value.
Shared questions may include:
Is there a coherent way of distinguishing "nature" from the non-natural?
What can we understand about non-human experience and value?
How do people become motivated to recognize and respond to problems whose effects play out in far-away or unfamiliar bodies?
How do concepts of moral responsibility apply to climate change?
How does environmentally directed action relate to social justice?
When there are ecological impacts attached to choices that are conventionally seen as matters of personal liberty (such as food choices, living arrangements, reproductive choices), how do we constructively engage with one another?
Despite near consensus about our times being rife with environmental crises, concepts like "environment" and "nature" defy any straightforward account. Similarly, it seems even when people come together around problems of injustice and unsustainability, they may not share any clear positive account of justice or of sustainability.
Rather than be defeated by the lack of shared foundational concepts, students will become familiar with at least three patterns of critique--each of these being not a theory or kind of information but a set of skills with perceptual, conceptual, and dialogical aspects. These three patterns of critique are ecological critique, standpoint critique, and sustainability critiques, and they correspond roughly to three traditional domains of philosophy: inquiry into being (metaphysics), inquiry into knowledge and understanding (epistemology), and inquiry into norms and ideals for action (ethics).
Understanding these three patterns of critique allows students to address emerging environmental problems more effectively, recognizing the intertwined relations among empirical inquiry, moral accountability, and social justice.