GOVT-331 Dept. Sem: Political Theory of Nature and the Environment
Spring for 2017-2018
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How have human beings understood nature throughout history? How have major shifts in understanding been accomplished? Ought our role on earth to be one of observation, stewardship, holistic integration, dominion, technological conquest, or something
else altogether? In this course we will consider humankind’s shifting understanding of nature as it is reflected in primary philosophical texts and contemporary writings on the environment.
We will start off the course with readings that articulate and deepen some of the major theoretical questions that arise when considering our place in nature. After this introductory prelude, we will undertake a survey of contrasting ancient and modern
perspectives on nature, with a focus on Aristotle and Bacon. How did ancient thinkers – those who stood on the threshold of a scientific understanding of the universe – envision humanity’s role on earth? What are the major characteristics of the modern turn away from the ancient approach, and how did the modern project of conquering nature for the “relief of man’s estate” take shape? Next we will explore several responses to the modern project, including 19th Century Romanticism, the 20th Century search for wilderness, and their legacies within the contemporary environmental movement Deep Ecology, Ecofeminism, and Animal Rights). Is nature a legitimate object of human devotion? In the final part of the course we will consider the question of
technology and freedom, and will conclude by considering various practical approaches to environmental problems (including Direct Action, Green Conservatism, and Eco-Pragmatism).
Texts: Environmental Ethics: The Big Questions, David R. Kelley, Editor. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
The New Organon, Francis Bacon, Cambridge University Press, 2000.
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