Paper Assignment, Environmental Philosophy (Fall 05)
(and ideas to stimulate your choice of a paper topic)
This is a 6-8 page (double-spaced, typewritten) paper on some topic of your choice in the area of environmental
philosophy. Typically, these papers should use as their point of departure some issue raised (or to be raised) in
the class readings. Insofar as they touch on an issue raised in the class material, the paper should include a
discussion and response to that material. Other topics are acceptable as long as they stay firmly within the field
of environmental philosophy. See the examples below and talk to me if you have questions. Some outside
reading of philosophical articles is required for the paper (see the journals in the library, including
Environmental Ethics, Environmental Values, Ethics & the Environment, and Between the Species; for env. aesthetics see Journal of
Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and British Journal of Aesthetics. Consult the Philosopher's Index (in Library),
the ISEE Environmental Ethics Bibliography, the instructor's aesthetics and environment bibliography, and the
website of the American Society for Aesthetics). Paper is due on Friday,
Dec 2nd and counts for 30% of the course grade.
A written paper proposal is due on Friday, Oct 21. It should include a title, proposed topic, brief discussion of
issues to be addressed. It should also identify (with full bibliographic information) one philosophical article
that you will use in your paper, summarize the main points of that article, and explain how you will use that
article in your paper.
Each student will give a 3-5 minute oral presentations to the class about her or his paper This will be followed
by a 5 minute discussion about the paper by the class. A one page synopsis of the paper will be turned in at
the beginning of class before the presentation. Please make enough copies to give one to each person in the
class (you will need 20). The presentation should identify the topic of the paper and give a synopsis of its
content. It should identify the major arguments, reasons, and perspectives on various sides of the issue that you
will be considering. It should identify a possible conclusion of the paper. Issues or questions with which you
would like help should also be identified. You need to do enough work on your paper before this presentation
so that spending class time discussing it will be beneficial to the class, as well as to you. Paper presentations
count 5% of course grade.
Possible ideas to explore:
- An explanation and evaluation of any dimension of Rolston's environmental philosophy
- An explanation and evaluation of any dimension of Brady's environmental aesthetics
Topics related to Brady
- Relevant Information in the Appreciation of Nature
- "Emotions versus Cognition" in the aes app of nature: The Carroll/Carlson debate
- Difference and similarities between the aes app of nature and art
- Is there a correct way to appreciate nature. Serious vs trivial in aes app of nature. Is aesthetic appreciation
of nature (and art?) thoroughly relative and subjective? Possibility of inappropriate and appropriate in aes
appreciation of environment Are some aesthetic appreciation of nature is better or worse than others?
- If a person's aesthetic appreciation is based on a false belief, does that mean that appreciation is
deficient? Suppose one believes that the lakes in Minnesota were created by Paul Bunyan's blue ox Babe
and that one has a powerful aesthetic response to those lakes because of this belief. Is this an appropriate
appreciation of nature? Is it as appropriate as an equally powerful aesthetic response based on knowledge
of glaciation and how kettle ponds form?
- Aesthetic Appreciation of Deserts or urban environments or agriculture
- Formalism in the aes appreciation of nature
- The role of science in the aes app of nature/environment
- Environmental art: philosophical dimensions; Is env. art an aesthetic affront to nature?
- Are moral concerns relevant to the aes app of nature? Is it wrong to aesthetically appreciate an atom bomb
mushroom cloud or a pollution sunset? Is it aesthetically inappropriate or only morally so (or is it
aesthetically inappropriate because it is morally inappropriate)?
- Is it legitimate to think that an aesthetic response to nature is inappropriate because it gets in the way of
protecting nature from human caused degradation?
- Can one properly evaluate and aesthetically respond to an object if one doesn't know whether it is an
artefact or a natural object?
- An evaluation of Carlson's science based model of aes app of nature
- A discussion and evaluation of any of the following's views on the aes app of nature: Holmes Rolston,
Marcia Eaton, Arnold Berleant's aes of engagement, Noel Carroll's arousal theory, Ronald Hepburn's
multi-dimensional aes (meta imagination view), Stan Godlovitch's natural or green aesthetics (this is
confusing!), Cheryl Foster's ambient approach, Thomas Heyd's (close to) post-modern view.
- Is all of nature beautiful? An evaluation of the doctrine of positive aesthetics. Do you think all of nature
is equally appreciable?
- Evaluation of the "scenery cult" (the current picturesque approach to nature appreciation)
- Evaluation of the dispute between Emily Brady and Marcia Eaton on the role of imagination in the proper
aesthetic appreciation of nature.
Topics related to Rolston
- An evaluation of environmental restoration
- What is biodiversity and why value it?
- A critique or defense of anthropocentrism in environmental philosophy
- The nature/culture distinction: Helpful or not?
- Human rights to environmental quality
- Obligations to future generations
- Ownership of biodiversity: The South versus the North
- What is ecosystem integrity and is it a firm foundation for an environmental philosophy?
- Sustainability and sustainable development: Problems and prospects
- Animal rights and environmental ethics: Bad marriage, quick divorce?
- Exotic species: Conceptual, evaluative and policy issues
- Policy for exotic animals
- Animal sports: Hunting and beyond
- National Park Services policy of "natural regulation"
- National Park Policy concerning rescuing wildlife
- Can humans improve on nature (intrinsically)?
- Population, consumption, and the distribution of wealth: Environmental implications
- Indigenous peoples and the environment
- Democracy and the environmental crisis
- The status of environmental values: Intrinsic, instrumental, anthropogenic or objective?
- Do humans owe obligations to abiotic marvels of nature?
- The end of nature? Yes and no.
- An analysis of the meaning and value of the "natural"
- Can and ought humans to manage the earth?
- Moral standing in env. ethics: How far to go?
- The nature and extent of interests in the natural world
- Why all living beings have interests and no machines have interests
- Can one value predation in nature and care about animal suffering?
- The ethics of eating animals and plants.
- Should we allow patenting life?
- Religion and environmental concern
- Wildness as a key env. value: Problems and critique
- What is a positive role for humans in nature?
- Ownership of nature: Property rights in and respect for land
- Civil disobedience in the environmental movement