PHIL 2369 Philosophy of Nature

Second Semester 2011-12

Mondays and Wednesdays  2:00-2:50, MB151

Course Objectives: To develop an understanding of various philosophical approaches to the relationship of humanity to nature, people’s responsibilities regarding the natural world and environmental ethics.


The first draft of your final paper is due on April 20th. The first draft must be distributed at that time to other members of your tutorial group.

 The final draft of your paper is due on May 7th.

The first reading, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” by Lynn White, Jr. is also available at the following website:

Readings for Lecture 5:


Callicott, J. Baird, Earth’s Insights: A Survey of Ecological Ethics from the Mediterranean Basin to the Australian Outback, Chapter 4: “Traditional East Asian Deep Ecology” and Chapter 5: Ecological Insights in East Asian Buddhism, available on reserve in the Philosophy Department

“Argument from Poor Design”, Wikipedia, available at:

Readings for Lecture 6:

“Nonmoral nature”, Stephen Jay Gould (1982), in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, p. 32-44, available at:
“The Evolution of Life on Earth”, Stephen Jay Gould (1994), in Scientific American, available at:
Readings for Lecture 7
 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Chapter 6: “The roots of morality: why are we good?”, on reserve in the Philosophy Department office


Course Schedule:

January 16          Introduction to Philosophy of Nature


January  18         Man’s Dominion — Aristotle

January 23-25     Chinese New Year Break

January 30           Man’s Dominion — The Judeo-Christian Tradition

February 1         The Judeo-Christian Tradition (cont.)

February 6          The Conquest of Nature: Bacon and the Scientific Revolution

February 8          Eastern Perspectives on Humanity’s Place in Nature: Taoism and Buddhism

February 13         Evolution and Homo sapiens’ Place in Nature


February 15       Evolution as Progress? Bushes vs. Ladders

February 20      Traditional Ethical Theories as applied to Environmental Ethics

February 22      Traditional Ethical Theories (cont.)

February 27       Catch-up and Review

February 29      Midterm Quiz

March 5-7        Reading Week

March 12         Nature as Property and the Land Ethic

March 14         The Nature of Animals: Animals as Machines

March 19-21    Animals and Persons

March 26        Genetic engineering

March March 28         Individual vs. Collective Interests: the Tragedy of the Commons

April 2             Shallow vs. Deep Ecology: Anthropocentrism vs. Biocentrism

April 4              Ching Ming

April 9                  Easter Monday

April 11-16      Student Project Presentations

April 18           Environmentalism as Religion

April 23-27      Group tutorials to discuss drafts of final essays


20%     Midterm quiz (February 29th)
30%     In-class presentation on project
30%     Final paper 1500-2000 words
20%     Participation: in class, in individual tutorial and group tutorial

Lecture Notes (powerpoint files):

Lecture 1, Introduction

Lecture 2 Aristotle

Lecture 3, Aristotle (cont.), Genesis

Lecture 4, Christianity, science and our current ecological crisis

Lecture 5, Aquinas and Bacon

Lecture 6, Eastern Alternatives

Lecture 7, Evolution

Lecture 8, Evolution (cont.)

Lecture 9, Traditional Ethical Theories, Kant

Lecture 10, Traditional Ethical Theories: Utilitarianism

Lecture 11, Traditional Ethical Theories (conclusion)

Lecture 12, The Land Ethic

Lecture 13, Animals as Machines

Lecture 14, Animals and Persons

Lecture 15, Animals and Persons (cont)

Lecture 16, Genetic Engineering

Lecture 17, the Tragedy of the Commons

Lecture 18, Deep Ecology



  1. evelyn leonard Says:

    Dear Kelly,

    I’ve tried downloading the powerpoints to get the readings, but they don’t seem to be working.. I was wondering if you could post the reading separately on this website? Or re-upload the last 4 of powerpoints?



    • kellyinglis Says:

      Dear Evelyn,

      The powerpoints seem to be working for me. I’ll see if other people have problems with them. In the meantime, I’ve posted the readings for the last two lectures under “comments”, and will continue to do that in the future.

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