David E. Storey (Boston College)


From 13:30
to 15:00
From 13:30
to 15:00

Course Description
Environmentalism is in many ways a byproduct of the industrial revolution. Over the second half of the 20th century, the pollution, damaging and destruction of natural habitats, including plant, animal, and human communities, has led many philosophers, politicians, scientists, and activists to call for and formulate an ethics of the environment. In this course, we approach environmental ethics along three axes: meta-ethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. We study the major areas of environmental ethics, including biocentrism, ecocentrism, and animal welfare, in light of traditional normative frameworks such as utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. We address questions such as the following: Do animals have rights? Do living things have intrinsic value? What are the different species of value? What is humanity’s proper place in nature? Is the clash between economic growth and ecological health a zero-sum game? In addition to these questions, we explore the social, political, and economic dimensions of environmental problems such as climate change, sustainable business, and energy production and use. Our animating question for the course will be: how can we reconcile our humanist and environmentalist intuitions?

Some familiarity with philosophical ethics and the history of moral philosophy is helpful, but not required. A basic familiarity with environmental science and policy, and the history of environmentalism, will also be helpful, but is not required.

Course Objectives
• Cultivate critical thinking, reading, writing, and speaking skills
• Gain competence in identifying, evaluating, and eventually constructing philosophical arguments.
• Acquire a basic and interdisciplinary grasp of environmental ethics and policy
• Foster appreciation for the complexity and importance of environmental-ethical problems
• Stimulate self-reflection, e.g., “How do I relate to and impact my environment?”


Joseph R. DesJardins, Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental
Philosophy, 5th edition (Boston: Wadsworth, 2013).
Michael E. Zimmerman and Sean Esbjorn-Hargens, Integral Ecology: Uniting Multiple
Perspectives on the Natural World (Boston: Integral Books, 2009).
-Additional readings will be hyperlinked below or posted in pdf online.


Engagement: 15%
Reading Responses: 15%
Reflection Papers: 40%
Partner Presentations: 5%
Final Paper: 25%


Course Schedule

I. Historical Roots, Conceptual Foundations, and the Status Quo

2/27: Week 1

A: Smil, “Understanding the Environment” (O)

B: Genesis 1-3; Whyte, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis (O); Henning, “Stewardship and the Ecological Crisis” (O)

3/6: Week 2

A: DesJardins, “Chapter 1: Science, Politics, and Ethics”

B: DesJardins, “Chapter 2: Ethical Theories and the Environment”

3/13: Week 3


A: DesJardins, “Chapter 3: Ethics and Economics” pp. 49-66; Baxter, “People or
Penguins” (O); Sandel, “Is It Immoral to Buy the Right to Pollute?” (O)

B: DesJardins, “Chapter 3: Ethics and Economics” pp. 66-73; Sagoff, “At the Shrine
of Our Lady of Fatima” (O); Ministry of Ideas, “(In)Efficiency” (podcast)

3/20: Week 4

A: DesJardins, “Chapter 4: Sustainability and Responsibilities to the Future” pp. 74-
88; Partridge, “Future Generations” (O)

B: DesJardins, “Chapter 4: Sustainability and Responsibilities to the Future” pp. 88-94; Hardin, “Lifeboat Ethics” (O); Simon, “Can the Supply of Natural Resources Really Be Infinite? Yes!” (O)

3/27: Week 5

A: Hardin, “Tragedy of the Commons” (O); Gardiner, “The Population Tragedy”
(O); Washington Post, “The World’s Population is 8 billion and Rising. That’s Probably a Good Thing”; Rosling, “Global Population Growth, Box by Box” (TED talk)

B: No Class

4/3: Week 6

A: DesJardins, “Chapter 10: Environmental Justice” pp. 232-243; Kimmerer, “The
Gift of Strawberries” (O)

B: Cafaro, “Thoreau’s Virtue Ethics in Walden” (O); Hursthouse, “Environmental
Virtue Ethics”

4/17: Week 7

A: DesJardins, “Chapter 5: Responsibilities to the Natural World” pp. 95-110;
Routley, “Is There a Need for a New, an Environmental Ethic?” (O)


B: DesJardins, “Chapter 5: Responsibilities to the Natural World” pp. 110-122;
Singer, “All Animals are Equal”; Tom Regan, “The Case For Animal Rights” (O); Scruton, “The Case Against Animal Rights” (O); court cases?


4/24: Week 8

A: DesJardins, “Chapter 6: Biocentric Ethics and the Inherent Value of Life”; Taylor,
“Ethics of Respect for Nature” (O)

B: Biello, “Fact or Fiction? The Sixth Mass Extinction Can Be Stopped”; “The
Evolutionary Ethics of E.O. Wilson”; Brannen, “The Earth is Not in the
Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction”; Rolston, “Why Species Matter” (O)


5/1: Week 9

A: DesJardins, “Chapter 7: Wilderness, Ecology, and Ethics”; Zimmerman, Integral
Ecology, pp. 157-165; Appleyard, “James Lovelock Looks Beyond Gaia”

B: DesJardins, “Chapter 8: The Land Ethic” pp. 177-202; Gilman, “The Coming
Avocado Politics”

C: Daily Nous, “Philosophers on Climate Change” ; Gardiner, “A Perfect Moral
Storm” (O)

5/8: Week 10

A: Singer, “One Atmosphere”

B: Zimmerman, Integral Ecology, “Introduction” pp. 1-13 and “Chapter 1: The
Return of Interiority” pp. 19-44

5/15: Week 11

A: Zimmerman, Integral Ecology, “Chapter 2: It’s All About Perspectives” pp. 45-74

B: Zimmerman, Integral Ecology, “Chapter 3: A Developing Kosmos” pp. 75-117

5/22: Week 12

A: Zimmerman, Integral Ecology, “Chapter 4: Developing Interiors” pp. 118-154

B: Zimmerman, Integral Ecology, “Case Study I” pp. 393-429




Last updated: January 20, 2023


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