Paper Assignment, Env. Philosophy, Fall 2011, Hettinger

Major Paper (including a paper proposal) (34%) A 6-8 page paper (double space, typewritten) on some topic in the area of environmental philosophy. The paper counts for 34% of your course grade and so it should be a significant effort.

You choose the topic. Any topic that we have discussed in class or that is considered in the assigned reading is suitable. You may, if you want, write on a topic we haven't discussed in class and on which there is no assigned reading–though this will require more careful philosophy research work on your part. All papers must significantly relate to the course content in some way and refer to and use the course materials relevant to your subject. (It must be clear the writer of the paper was in this class.) If you write on a topic the course specifically addresses, your paper should show a thorough understanding of the readings and class discussions on that issue.

A paper proposal is due on Friday, Oct 28. I’d prefer that you send it by email to but you can turn in a paper copy to me instead. Keep a copy for yourself as well. The proposal should include a characterization of your topic, the major lines of argument you intend to pursue, tentative thesis, and a full bibliographic citation and paragraph description of the content of one philosophical article you plan to use in your paper (and how you plan to use it). The paper is due on Friday, November 18th (unless the paper is on a topic in environmental aesthetics and then it is due on Tuesday, Dec 6th). Please turn in a hard copy of the paper (no email versions please). You can give it to me in class the day before or turn it into my departmental mailbox just inside the door of 14 Glebe street by 3pm that Friday. (Again keep a copy for yourself.)

The paper should be a philosophy paper in which you focus on normative, evaluative, or conceptual issues. (Always ask: What should we do concerning this issue and why? What are the philosophical, ethical, and conceptual questions which must be answered if this issue is to be resolved?)

One outside (not read as part of the course) philosophical article must be used in your paper. Those of you who write on a topic not specifically covered on the schedule of assignments will have to rely more on your outside philosophical article. Although I require that you interact with the ideas from some philosophy article that we have not read in the class, the main point of the paper is to have you think philosophically for yourself; the outside reading is meant to help stimulate your own thinking and to make sure your paper is philosophical in nature.

Find a philosophy article that importantly relates to your topic and use it in your paper. I suggest using the journals Environmental Ethics, Environmental Values, Ethics and the Environment, Ethics, Place and Environment, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, and Between the Species (all are in the library and all are available electronically, except Between the Species). The library has excellent holdings in most areas of environmental philosophy; you should be able to find something on almost any topic you choose. I can help you find specific articles relevant to your subject if you are having trouble finding them.

A useful place to search for articles by keyword is the bibliography of International Society for Environmental Ethics:

Another is The Philosopher's Index. This is a database searchable on line via the library. You can find it here: It lists philosophical articles by title, author, and subject matter.

You can also search my personal bibliography, available here:


Paper topics, Env Phil, Fall 2011


These are only suggested topics. You can choose your own topic. If you choose one of these, you need to make it your own (that is, have your own ideas about what the topic involves and how you will approach it.)


1. Paper on ethics/env phil of geoengineering
2. Paper on ethics/env philosophy of climate change
3. Paper on a specific philosophical aspect of climate change
a. What would a just climate change policy of a developed nation (such as the U.S.) be like?
b. What are the obligations of the developing world concerning climate change?
c. What is a fair distribution of greenhouse gasses?
d. Should the developed world compensate the developing world for its past use of the atmosphere as a carbon sink?
e. Obligations to future generations concerning climate change
f. Human rights and climate change
g. Uncertainty and climate change ethics (e.g., precautionary principle)
h. An explanation and philosophical (not scientific) evaluation of climate change skepticism
i. A philosophical evaluation of the cost/benefit approach to climate change
j. Philosophical and ethical evaluation of carbon emissions trading
4. An evaluation of Sinnott-Armstrong’s idea that there is no individual moral obligation to reduce one’s carbon footprint
5. Does virtue ethics provide the best response to the problem of inconsequentialism?
6. What is environmental virtue ethics and is it important (or the best approach) to environmental ethics?
7. Is it greedy & self-indulgent to want enjoyments that are part of ordinary pleasant life in developed nations? (Finding papers on this on this may be difficult.)
8. What are the most important environmental virtues and vices and why are they so important?
9. Is environmental virtue ethics anthropocentric?
10. Defense of anthropocentric--or nonanthropocentric--env ethics.
11. Evaluating the convergence thesis.
12. What role does nature play in obligations concerning climate change?

13. A careful evaluation and critique of one of the articles we have read (assuming you can find another philosophy article on the same topic or evaluating the ideas in the article).


Papers on topics in environmental aesthetics have a due date at the end of the semester (Tuesday, Dec 6th): I want you to have the benefit of and to use class material/discussion on these topics.

14. What is involved in the aesthetic appreciation of nature? How is it similar to and different from the aesthetic appreciation of art?
15. Are there better or worse ways to aesthetically appreciate nature?
16. What role should knowledge of nature play in the aesthetic appreciation of nature? What role should imagination play? Engagement?
17. Is all of nature beautiful?
18. What role should aesthetics play in nature protection?
19. Environmental art: Pro and con. Friend or foe of environmentalism?
20. An articulation and assessment of Andy Goldsworthy’s environmental philosophy