Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2023

Course Description

Environmental ethics is a subfield of philosophy that studies the extent of, limits to, and grounds for our moral obligations regarding the more-than-human world. What are our duties to other animals? Do nonsentient beings like trees have value in themselves that we should respect apart from their uses as natural resources? Does nature or “naturalness” give us moral reasons to do or not do certain things? Environmental ethics is also a practical, interdisciplinary field concerned with identifying and facilitating environmentally ethical behaviors, policies, and social systems. It asks, for example, how much we are each obligated to do to address climate change; how gender, race, and class intersect with environmental problem; what a just response to environmental racism looks like; and how we ought to eat if we intend to heal the world. This course aims to do justice to both the theoretical and the practical aspects of the field (and to advance the civic engagement goals of a liberal education) by discussing key works, concepts, and theories in environmental philosophy and by offering opportunities for practical environmental engagement.

Student Outcomes

● Distinguish between normative/evaluative and empirical dimensions of environmental problems. ● Describe competing normative and evaluative theories in the field of environmental ethics. ● Develop their own views on theoretical debates within environmental ethics. ● Present a case study of the ethical dimensions of a specific applied environmental problem.