PHL 310 Environmental Ethics

PHL 310
Environmental Ethics
Dr. Jeff Johnson
Distance Delivery

PHL 310 is a course on philosophical and ethical reasoning about the environment. We will be exploring a number of methodological perspectives for thinking critically about issues of clear concern for anyone who cares about the future of the planet and our species. The course will take a somewhat historical perspective using several classic texts from the very beginning of the contemporary environmental movement. Among the methodological perspectives we will look at economic analysis and the Coase theorem, game theory and the tragedy of the commons, ecofeminism, the question of legal and moral “standing,” and the relationship between science, politics, and environmental policy. The case studies of environmental issues will include the “Gaia hypothesis,” pollution, population control, animal rights, respect for nature, future generations, and global warming.

All of the required reading for the course will be self-contained within D2L.

Learning Outcomes:

• Familiarity with “inference to the best narrative”
• Familiarity with the controversy concerning the Gaia hypothesis
• Familiarity with the Coase theorem
• Familiarity with economic analysis of polution
• Familiarity with the tragedy of the commons
• Familiarity with the problem of population control
• Familiarity with ecofeminism
• Familiarity with the moral and legal standing of the ecosystem
• Familiarity with the controversy regarding animal rights
• Familiarity with the problem of future generations
• Familiarity with inference to the best explanation
• Familiarity with the scientific evidence for global warming
• Familiarity with Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth
• Familiarity with the problem of sound environmental policy in a populist democracy

Means of Assessment and Grading

• Midterm “take home” essay examination (33% of course grade)
• Analytical paper (33% of course grade)
• Final “take home” essay examination (33% of course grade)


Week One

• Inference to the best narrative
• The Gaia hypothesis
• Dawkin’s critique of the Gaia hypothesis

Week Two

• The Coase theorem
• The problem of polution
• Dworkin’s critique of law and economics

Week Three

• The problem of population control
• The tragedy of the commons
• Ostrom’s critique of the tragedy of the commons problem

Week Four

  • Ecofeminism
  • Rawls’ Theory of Justice
  • Nussbaum’s theory of justice

Midterm Essay Exam

Week Five

• Legal standing
• Moral standing
• Do trees have standing?

Week Six

• Do animals have standing?
• Animal rights

Week Seven

• Do future generations have standing?

Analytical Paper

Week Eight

• The nature of science
• Inference to the best explanation
• Science and global warming

Week Nine

• Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth

Week Ten

• Public policy
• Democracy
• Democracy, science and global warming

Final exam