Philosophy of the Environment (PHIL*2070)
Code and section: PHIL*2070*01
Term: Winter 2021
Instructor: Stefan Linquist
This course critically examines popular beliefs about the environment and humanity’s relationship to it. We begin with the foundations of modern environmentalism. This movement was grounded on an image of Mother Nature as an interconnected whole whose components hang together in delicate balance. Human progress and development supposedly threaten the balance of Nature. We will consider whether this picture withstands philosophical and scientific scrutiny. The second part of the course investigates recent debates over climate change. Often, people or governments who are reluctant to take action to prevent climate change are disparaged as irresponsible or unscientific. What do these accusations say about public perceptions of science and policy? How accurate is the public understanding of climate change? Does it matter? The third part will investigate economic approaches to environmental decision making. For example, is it possible to quantify the value of biodiversity or the cost of pollution in economic terms? Does an economic framework overlook important ethical and aesthetic reasons for valuing nature?
Course delivery will involve approximately one hour of (asynchronously) recorded lecture + notes per week, accompanied by one hour of (synchronous) 20 person tutorials each week.