Environmental philosophy

Environmental philosophy is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the natural environment and humans' place within it.[1] It asks crucial questions about human environmental relations such as "What do we mean when we talk about nature?" "What is the value of the natural, that is non-human environment to us, or in itself?" "How should we respond to environmental challenges such as environmental degradation, pollution and climate change?" "How can we best understand the relationship between the natural world and human technology and development?" and "What is our place in the natural world?" As such, it uniquely positions itself as a field set to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century. Environmental philosophy includes environmental ethics, environmental aesthetics, ecofeminism, environmental hermeneutics, and environmental theology.[2] Some of the main areas of interest for environmental philosophers are:

Sandworm by Marco Casagrande @ Wenduine, Belgium
Marco Casagrande Sandworm, Beaufort04 Triennial of Contemporary Art, Wenduine, Belgium 2012
  • Defining environment and nature
  • How to value the environment
  • Moral status of animals and plants
  • Endangered species
  • Environmentalism and Deep Ecology
  • Aesthetic value of nature
  • Intrinsic value
  • Wilderness
  • Restoration of nature
  • Consideration of future generations[1]
  • Ecophenomenology

Contemporary issues

Modern issues within environmental philosophy include but are not restricted to the concerns of environmental activism, questions raised by science and technology, environmental justice, and climate change. These include issues related to the depletion of finite resources and other harmful and permanent effects brought on to the environment by humans, as well as the ethical and practical problems raised by philosophies and practices of environmental conservation, restoration, and policy in general. Another question that has settled on the minds of modern environmental philosophers is "Do rivers have rights?"[3] At the same time environmental philosophy deals with the value human beings attach to different kinds of environmental experience, particularly how experiences in or close to non-human environments contrast with urban or industrialized experiences, and how this varies across cultures with close attention paid to indigenous people.

Modern history

Environmental Philosophy emerged as a branch of philosophy in 1970s. Early environmental philosophers include Richard Routley, Arne Naess, and J .Baird Callicott. The movement was an attempt to connect with humanity's sense of alienation from nature in a continuing fashion throughout history.[4] This was very closely related to the development at the same time of ecofeminism, an intersecting discipline. Since then its areas of concern have expanded significantly.

The field is today characterized by a notable diversity of stylistic, philosophical and cultural approaches to human environmental relationships, from personal and poetic reflections on environmental experience and arguments for panpsychism to Malthusian applications of game theory or the question of how to put an economic value on nature's services. A major debate arose in the 1970s and 80s was that of whether nature has intrinsic value in itself independent of human values or whether its value is merely instrumental, with ecocentric or deep ecology approaches emerging on the one hand versus consequentialist or pragmatist anthropocentric approaches on the other.[5]

Another debate that arose at this time was the debate over whether there really is such a thing as wilderness or not, or whether it is merely a cultural construct with colonialist implications as suggested by William Cronon. Since then, readings of environmental history and discourse have become more critical and refined. In this ongoing debate, a diversity of dissenting voices have emerged from different cultures around the world questioning the dominance of Western assumptions, helping to transform the field into a global area of thought.[6]

In recent decades, there has been a significant challenge to deep ecology and the concepts of nature that underlie it, some arguing that there is not really such a thing as nature at all beyond some self-contradictory and even politically dubious constructions of an ideal other that ignore the real human-environmental interactions that shape our world and lives.[7] This has been alternately dubbed the postmodern, constructivist, and most recently post-naturalistic turn in environmental philosophy. Environmental aesthetics, design and restoration have emerged as important intersecting disciplines that keep shifting the boundaries of environmental thought, as have the science of climate change and biodiversity and the ethical, political and epistemological questions they raise. Today, environmental philosophy is a burgeoning and increasingly relevant field.

Deep ecology movement

In 1984, George Sessions and Arne Naess articulated the principles of the new Deep Ecology Movement.[8] These basic principles are:

  • The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life have value.
  • Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
  • Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
  • The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease in the human population.
  • Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
  • Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
  • The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value), rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
  • Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes.

See also



  1. ^ a b Belshaw, Christopher (2001). Environmental Philosophy. Chesham: Acumen. ISBN 1-902683-21-8.
  2. ^ "International Association of Environmental Philosophy". Retrieved 2008-07-30.
  3. ^ Sarkar, 2012. "Environmental philosophy: from theory to practice," Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, West Sussex.
  4. ^ Weston, 1999. "An Invitation to Environmental Philosophy," Oxford University Press, New York, New York.
  5. ^ Benson, 2000.
  6. ^ Callicott & Nelson, 1998.
  7. ^ Vogel, 1999; Keulartz, 1999.
  8. ^ Drengson, Inoue, 1995. "The Deep Ecology Movement," North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California.

Further reading

  • Armstrong, Susan, Richard Botzler. Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence, McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, New York. ISBN 9780072838459.
  • Benson, John, 2000. Environmental Ethics: An Introduction with Readings, Psychology Press.
  • Callicott, J. Baird, and Michael Nelson, 1998. The Great New Wilderness Debate, University of Georgia Press.
  • Derr, Patrick, G, Edward McNamara, 2003. Case Studies in Environmental Ethics, Bowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0-7425-3136-8
  • DesJardins, Joseph R., Environmental Ethics Wadsworth Publishing Company, ITP, An International Thomson Publishing Company, Belmont, California. A Division of Wadsworth, Inc.
  • Devall, W. and G. Sessions. 1985. Deep Ecology: Living As if Nature Mattered, Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith, Inc.
  • Drengson, Inoue, 1995. "The Deep Ecology Movement," North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California.
  • Foltz, Bruce V., Robert Frodeman. 2004. Rethinking Nature, Indiana University Press, 601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404-3797 ISBN 0-253-21702-4
  • Keulartz, Jozef, 1999. The Struggle for Nature: A Critique of Environmental Philosophy, Routledge.
  • LaFreniere, Gilbert F, 2007. The Decline of Nature: Environmental History and the Western Worldview, Academica Press, Bethesda, MD ISBN 978-1933146409
  • Light, Andrew, and Eric Katz,1996. Environmental Pragmatism, Psychology Press.
  • Mannison, D., M. McRobbie, and R. Routley (ed), 1980. Environmental Philosophy, Australian National University
  • Matthews, Steve, 2002. A Hybrid Theory of Environmentalism, Essays in Philosophy, 3. Onlinehttp://commons.pacificu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1038&context=eip
  • Næss, A. 1989. Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy, Translated by D. Rothenberg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Oelschlaeger, Max, 1993. The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology, New Haven: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300053708
  • Pojman, Louis P., Paul Pojman. Environmental Ethics, Thomson-Wadsworth, United States
  • Sherer, D., ed, Thomas Attig. 1983. Ethics and the Environment, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632. ISBN 0-13-290163-3
  • Vasconcelos, Vitor Vieira "The Environment Professional and the Touch with Nature." Qualit@s, v 1, n 1, 2010.
  • VanDeVeer, Donald, Christine Pierce. The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book, Wadsworth Publishing Company. An International Thomson Publishing Company
  • Vogel, Steven, 1999. "Environmental Philosophy After the End of Nature," Environmental Ethics 24 (1):23-39
  • Weston, 1999. "An Invitation to Environmental Philosophy," Oxford University Press, New York, New York.
  • Zimmerman, Michael E., J. Baird Callicott, George Sessions, Karen J. Warren, John Clark. 1993.Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632 ISBN 0-13-666959-X

External links

Agricultural philosophy

Agricultural philosophy (or philosophy of agriculture) is, roughly and approximately, a discipline devoted to the systematic critique of the philosophical frameworks (or ethical world views) that are the foundation for decisions regarding agriculture. Many of these views are also used to guide decisions dealing with land use in general. (Please see the Wikipedia article on environmental philosophy.) In everyday usage, it can also be defined as the love of, search after, and wisdom associated with agriculture, as one of humanity's founding components of civilization. However, this view is more aptly known as agrarianism. In actuality, agrarianism is only one philosophy or normative framework out of many that people use to guide their decisions regarding agriculture on an everyday basis. The most prevalent of these philosophies will be briefly defined below.


Anthropocentrism (; from Greek Ancient Greek: ἄνθρωπος, ánthrōpos, "human being"; and Ancient Greek: κέντρον, kéntron, "center") is the belief that human beings are the most important entity in the universe. Anthropocentrism interprets or regards the world in terms of human values and experiences. The term can be used interchangeably with humanocentrism, and some refer to the concept as human supremacy or human exceptionalism. Anthropocentrism is considered to be profoundly embedded in many modern human cultures and conscious acts. It is a major concept in the field of environmental ethics and environmental philosophy, where it is often considered to be the root cause of problems created by human action within the ecosphere.

However, many proponents of anthropocentrism state that this is not necessarily the case: they argue that a sound long-term view acknowledges that a healthy, sustainable environment is necessary for humans and that the real issue is shallow anthropocentrism.

Center for Environmental Philosophy

The Center for Environmental Philosophy is a non-profit organization that supports a range of scholarly activities that explore philosophical aspects of environmental problems. It publishes the scholarly journal Environmental Ethics. In addition to the publication of its journal, the Center promotes graduate education and postdoctoral research in environmental philosophy, and supports the development of international perspectives on global environmental problems. The Center for Environmental Philosophy is located at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.

The center was established in 1989 by Environmental Philosophy, Inc. as a center for its various activities in publishing, research, and education. The center moved to the University of North Texas in 1990 and was given the status of an affiliated organization in 1991.


Eco-communalism (shorthand for "ecological communalism") is an environmental philosophy based on ideals of simple living, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and local economies. Eco-communalists envision a future in which the economic system of capitalism is replaced with a global web of economically interdependent and interconnected small local communes. Decentralized government, a focus on agriculture, biodiversity, and green economics are all tenets of eco-communalism.


Ecomodernism is an environmental philosophy which argues that humans can protect nature by using technology to "decouple" anthropogenic impacts from the natural world. Ecomodernism is a school of thought from many environmental and design scholars, critics, philosophers, and activists. Ecology-based Modernism is the most direct way to define this movement. It embraces the most successful aspects of the Outlaw Designers (Jay Baldwin, Buckminster Fuller and Stewart Brand) from the 1960s and 70s with the reform-based hopeful pragmatism of the Modernists. It demands a more detailed understanding of the discipline's history and encourages designed objects and systems created with the logical inspiration of nature's cycle built in to its goals. The resulting material and immaterial creations hope to better unite technology, humanity and nature. Eco-Modernism urges designers to unplug from their world of pixels and reconnect with the nuances of our natural environment so as a collective we can better understand the materials we use, processes we employ and appreciate the importance of our natural resources. Instead of a linear approach to a design process, based on Fordism and Taylorism, Eco-Modernism embraces nature's model of "waste equals food" (William McDonough and Michael Braungart) and cradle-to-cradle coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s (during the Outlaw Design Movement) where design and manufacturing aim to "close the loop". To achieve this component of the movement designers must minimize their environmental footprint by utilizing local and renewable resources for all of our future endeavors. In their 2015 manifesto, 18 self-professed ecomodernists—including scholars from the Breakthrough Institute, Harvard University, Jadavpur University, and the Long Now Foundation—enlarged the scope of Eric Benson's and Peter Fine's 2010 original definition as such: "we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse."


Ecosophy or ecophilosophy (a portmanteau of ecological philosophy) is a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. The term was coined by the French post-structuralist philosopher and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari and the Norwegian father of deep ecology, Arne Næss.


Ecotheology is a form of constructive theology that focuses on the interrelationships of religion and nature, particularly in the light of environmental concerns. Ecotheology generally starts from the premise that a relationship exists between human religious/spiritual worldviews and the degradation of nature. It explores the interaction between ecological values, such as sustainability, and the human domination of nature. The movement has produced numerous religious-environmental projects around the world.

The burgeoning awareness of environmental crisis has led to widespread religious reflection on the human relationship with the earth. Such reflection has strong precedents in most religious traditions in the realms of ethics and cosmology, and can be seen as a subset or corollary to the theology of nature.

It is important to keep in mind that ecotheology explores not only the relationship between religion and nature in terms of degradation of nature, but also in terms of ecosystem management in general. Specifically, ecotheology seeks not only to identify prominent issues within the relationship between nature and religion, but also to outline potential solutions. This is of particular importance because many supporters and contributors of ecotheology argue that science and education are simply not enough to inspire the change necessary in our current environmental crisis.

Environmental Ethics (journal)

Environmental Ethics is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering the study of philosophical aspects of environmental problems. It was established in 1979. The editor-in-chief is Eugene Hargrove and it is published by the Center for Environmental Philosophy (University of North Texas). All issues are available online from the Philosophy Documentation Center.

Environmental Philosophy (journal)

Environmental Philosophy is a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes articles, reviews, and discussions relevant to all areas of environmental philosophy. The journal was established in 2004 and is edited by Ted Toadvine at Penn State University. It is sponsored by the International Association for Environmental Philosophy and published by the Philosophy Documentation Center. The journal is published twice yearly in May and November issues.

Environmental Values

Environmental Values started as a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal closely associated with the ecological economics movement, but also firmly based in applied ethics. Subjects covered are philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology, and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. The journal was established in 1992 and edited by Alan Holland until 2007 when Clive L. Spash became editor-in-chief.

In 2013 the journal expanded to six issues a year. This was a result of increasing popularity and standing in the field. According to the Journal Citation Reports, the journal has a 2015 impact factor of 1.311, ranking it 14th out of 51 journals in the category "Ethics".Topics covered include aesthetics, biodiversity loss and management, synthetic biology, degrowth, ethical treatment of animals, future generations, human induced climate change, geoengineering, economic valuation, market economics, preferences, rights, responsibilities, risk and uncertainty.

Environmental ethics

Environmental ethics is the part of environmental philosophy which considers extending the traditional boundaries of ethics from solely including humans to including the non-human world. It exerts influence on a large range of disciplines including environmental law, environmental sociology, ecotheology, ecological economics, ecology and environmental geography.

There are many ethical decisions that human beings make with respect to the environment. For example:

Should humans continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption?

Why should humans continue to propagate its species, and life itself?

Should humans continue to make gasoline-powered vehicles?

What environmental obligations do humans need to keep for future generations?

Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species for the convenience of humanity?

How should humans best use and conserve the space environment to secure and expand life?

What role can Planetary Boundaries play in reshaping the human-earth relationship?The academic field of environmental ethics grew up in response to the works of Rachel Carson and Murray Bookchin and events such as the first Earth Day in 1970, when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Two papers published in Science had a crucial impact: Lynn White's "The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis" (March 1967) and Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" (December 1968). Also influential was Garett Hardin's later essay called "Exploring New Ethics for Survival", as well as an essay by Aldo Leopold in his A Sand County Almanac, called "The Land Ethic," in which Leopold explicitly claimed that the roots of the ecological crisis were philosophical (1949).The first international academic journals in this field emerged from North America in the late 1970s and early 1980s – the US-based journal Environmental Ethics in 1979 and the Canadian-based journal The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy in 1983. The first British based journal of this kind, Environmental Values, was launched in 1992.

Environmental humanities

The environmental humanities (also ecological humanities) is an interdisciplinary area of research, drawing on the many environmental sub-disciplines that have emerged in the humanities over the past several decades (in particular environmental literature, environmental philosophy, environmental history and environmental anthropology). The environmental humanities aim to help bridge traditional divides between the sciences and the humanities, as well as between Western, Eastern and Indigenous ways of relating to the natural world and the place of humans within it.The ecological humanities are characterised by a connectivity ontology and a commitment to two fundamental axioms relating to the need to submit to ecological laws and to see humanity as part of a larger living system.

International Association for Environmental Philosophy

The International Association for Environmental Philosophy (IAEP) is a philosophical organization focused on the field of environmental philosophy.

Since 2004 it publishes the peer-reviewed academic journal Environmental Philosophy.

International Journal of Applied Philosophy

The International Journal of Applied Philosophy is a biannual peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes philosophical examinations of practical problems. It was established in 1982, and contains original articles, reviews, and edited discussions of topics of general interest in ethics and applied philosophy. The journal is published by the Philosophy Documentation Center, and some articles are published in co-operation with the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.

International Society for Environmental Ethics

Since 1990, The International Society of Environmental Ethics (ISEE) has striven to advance research and education in the field of environmental ethics and philosophy, and to promote appropriate human use, respect, conservation, preservation, and understanding of the natural world. In conjunction with the International Association for Environmental Philosophy (IAEP) and sponsorship from the Center for Environmental Philosophy, the society hosts an annual joint ISEE-IAEP conference each summer. It also has regular sessions at the three divisional conferences of the American Philosophical Association and publishes the ISEE Newsletter.

ISEE was an official observer NGO at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, June 1992. Holmes Rolston and J. Baird Callicott were the delegates. ISEE participated in the United Nations Conference on Ethical Issues in Agenda 21, January 1994, at the United Nations in New York.ISEE maintains an extensive website and it sponsors the largest bibliography in the world on environmental ethics, the Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought (OBET), with over 16,000 entries. It publishes a newsletter three times a year, with newsletters from the past twenty years available at the organization's website.

J. Baird Callicott

J. Baird Callicott (born 1941) is an American philosopher whose work has been at the forefront of the new field of environmental philosophy and ethics. He is a University Distinguished Research Professor and a member of the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies and the Institute of Applied Sciences at the University of North Texas. Callicott held the position of Professor of Philosophy and Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point from 1969 to 1995, where he taught the world's first course in environmental ethics in 1971. From 1994 to 2000, he served as Vice President then President of the International Society for Environmental Ethics. Other distinguished positions include visiting professor of philosophy at Yale University; the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of Hawai’i; and the University of Florida.Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac is one of environmental philosophy's seminal texts, and Callicott is widely considered to be the leading contemporary exponent of Leopold's land ethic. Callicott's book In Defense of the Land Ethic (1989) explores the intellectual foundations of Leopold's outlook and seeks to provide it with a more complete philosophical treatment; and a following publication titled Beyond the Land Ethic (1999) further extends Leopold's environmental philosophy. Callicott's Earth’s Insights (1994) is also considered an important contribution to the budding field of comparative environmental philosophy; a special edition of the journal Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion (Vol. 1, Number 2) was devoted to scholarly reviews of the work. Callicott is co-Editor-in-Chief with Robert Frodeman of the award-winning, two-volume A-Z Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy, published by Macmillan in 2009. He is also author of numerous journal articles and book chapters in environmental philosophy and has served as editor or co-editor of many books, textbooks, and reference works in the same field.

Philosophy of environment

The philosophy of environment is a trend of free thought located between philosophy, epistemology and anthropology. It combines various schools of philosophy such as humanist ecology, philosophy of evolution and environmental humanism. It is also meant to be a cultural trend having an influence in society.

Ricardo Rozzi

Ricardo Rozzi (born October 6, 1960, in Santiago) is a Chilean ecologist and philosopher who is professor at the University of North Texas (UNT) and the Universidad de Magallanes (UMAG). His research combines both disciplines through the study of the interrelations between the ways of knowing and inhabiting the natural world, proposing a dynamic continuous reciprocal feedback between both domains. His work at UNT forms a central part of the nation's best program in environmental philosophy (www.phil.unt.edu).

The Good Life

The Good Life or Good Life may refer to:

Eudaimonia, a philosophical term for the life that one would like to live, originally associated with Aristotle.

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