PHIL4160 | College of Arts


4160 philosophy field course college of arts, university of Guelph

The Philosophy Field Course offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in dialogue with environmental stakeholders in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia.

One of the last remaining old growth forests in Canada, home to five First Nations, and a site of both industrial activity and environmental activism, this region is living laboratory for environmental policy issues. We meet with representatives from various stakeholder groups to understand their relationships to the region and reasons for valuing it. By engaging in dialogue about such issues as the nature of sustainability, social justice, and economic prosperity, students will discover ways in which their education has practical application.  

The 2020 Philosophy Field Course will take place during the summer semester of 2020. Students spend approximately 10 days in Clayoquot Sound, from May 5-16th 2020.  Individual research projects will be written over the course of the summer but there are not additional scheduled class meetings.

If you are interested, please submit this application form by email before February 10th, 2020. 
Students will be selected according to their interests, eligibility,



This course will spend 10 days on location at the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve and the Hooksum Outdoor School, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. This is a site of astounding natural beauty as well as economic and political significance. In 1993 the area staged Canada's largest act of civil disobedience - a protest over logging in one of North America's only remaining old-growth rain forests. Following this episode, the region has become a microcosm for the competing economic, environmental and political interests that our society must balance on a global scale.

Many of the challenges confronting this region are familiar to philosophy students. However, these issues are usually discussed only in an abstract classroom setting. The aim of this course is to enrich these academic discussions with first-hand experience.

We will learn about the ecology and social history of this region, to understand why and how various stakeholders value it.  We will interact with environmentalists, First Nations groups, and industry members to determine how they view environmental issues. For example, what does "sustainability" mean to these groups?  What are their respective long term goals and can they be reconciled?

Students will formulate a general research question prior to arriving in Clayoquot Sound. The experiences that they collect during the visit will be included in a research paper and a presentation that will be prepared over the course of the Summer 2020 semester.




  • By engaging in dialogue with stakeholders in the field, students will gain a working understanding of the values and world views surrounding competing approaches to environmental management. 
  •  By keeping a journal of personal reflections and observations, students will develop their own understanding and analysis of stakeholder positions. In particular, they will identify the relevant points of conflict among viewpoints and come up with suggestions for reconciling disagreements.
  •  By formulating and executing a research project, students will develop skills in generating their own findings and synthesizing them with some larger body of research.
  •  By presenting their analysis to a non-specialist audience, students will develop their skills in the verbal communication of complex ideas and competing viewpoints.



I have been visiting Clayoquot Sound annually since 1999, when I spent  a research summer studying den choice in the Giant Pacific Octopus. In recent years I have served as a founding board member for the Ucluelet Aquarium Society. In these roles I have come to appreciate the unique ecology of this region. I have also taken opportunities to interact with loggers and fishermen, with environmentalists and naturalists, with educators, artists, scientists, business people and politicians who live and work in this area. It has been an education for me to speak with these local stakeholders and learn about their  perspectives on environmental and economic issues.

When I teach courses in environmental philosophy each year, many of the readings and classroom discussions strike me as out of synch with the  issues as I encounter them in the Clayoquot region.  I designed this course in an effort to bring these worlds together. I hope that students will benefit from interacting with people for whom environmental issues are a living concern.  I would also like for students to learn about the ecology of this region and determine for themselves why it is valuable.  At the same time, for people living in this region there is an opportunity to benefit from discussing philosophical issues with interested visitors.

- Stefan Linquist

To find out more please contact me:

COURSE DATE May 5 - 16, 2020