Paper Assignment, Environmental Philosophy (Spring 09)

(and ideas to stimulate your choice of a paper topic)



This is a 6-8 page (double-spaced, typewritten) paper on some topic of your choice in the area of environmental philosophy. (Please print on front and back and use recycled paper, if possible.) Typically, these papers should take as their point of departure some issue raised (or to be raised) in the class readings. Insofar as they touch on an issue raised in the class material, the paper should include a discussion and response to that material. Other topics are acceptable as long as they stay firmly within the field of environmental philosophy (and show that they have been written by someone in this course). See the sample topics below and talk to me if you have questions. (If you have written a paper on a topic before for another class, you must get approval from me before you write on that topic again.)


Some outside reading of philosophical articles is required for the paper. (You will need to use at least one “outside” --not assigned in the class--philosophical article in your paper.) Journals to look at for relevant articles include 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 the second, third, and forth are available electronically). For environmental aesthetics topics, see Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, British Journal of Aesthetics, and the Journal of Aesthetic Education (all available electronically from our library). Consult and search the Philosopher’s Index which lists by subject, title, and author most philosophical articles that have been published. (You can find it under “databases” on the library main page; the link is . The International Society for Environmental Ethics searchable annotated bibliography is available at You might also use the instructor’s aesthetics and environment bibliography available at


A written paper proposal is due on Friday, March 20th, 1pm in my mailbox inside 14 Glebe. It should include a title, proposed topic, and a brief discussion of issues to be addressed. It should also identify (with full bibliographic information) one philosophical article that you will use in your paper, summarize the main points of that article, and explain how you will use that article in your paper. (Please provide the author’s name, title of the article or chapter if in a book, title of the journal or book it appears in, the date of publication, and page numbers).


Each student will give a 3-5 minute oral presentations to the class about her or his paper This will be followed by a 5 minute discussion about the paper by the class. A one page synopsis of the paper will be turned in at the beginning of class before the presentation. Please make enough copies to give one to each person in the class (you will need 22). The presentation should identify the topic of the paper and give a synopsis of its content. It should identify the major arguments, reasons, and perspectives on various sides of the issue that you will be considering. It should identify a possible conclusion of the paper. Issues or questions with which you would like help should also be identified. You need to do enough work on your paper before this presentation so that spending class time discussing it will be beneficial to the class, as well as to you. Paper presentations count 5% of course grade. You will sign up to present on one of the three paper presentation days. (On Wednesday, April 1, Wednesday, April 8, or Wednesday, April 15.) Paper due Friday, April 24th at 1pm in my mailbox inside 14 Glebe.



Possible paper topics for EP (there are many other possibilities as well)


1.    Wilderness; Should we preserve it? Why or why not? Perhaps focus on Rolston critique of Callicott

2.    Intrinsic value of nature: What is it and is it important in env. philosophy?

3.    Defense of anthropocentric environmental ethics (e.g., see Bryan Norton)

4.    Ethics and climate change (see papers at the end of the class by Gardner)

5.    Nature/culture distinction; are humans natural? See paper by Paul Moriarty

6.    Evaluation of Callicott’s environmental philosophy or focus on some particular dimension of Callicott’s work (e.g., his views of wilderness) looking at articles of his more closely and reading others on his

7.    Animals as moral agents (that is, as morally responsible beings and as virtuous/vicious)

8.    The nature and value of environmental virtue ethics

       a.  Discussion of a particular environmental virtue or vice

9.    (Over?) Consumption and environmental problems

10.  Issues in aesthetics and environmentalism

       a.  Using nature’s beauty as a main reason for its preservation

       b. Are there better or worse ways to aesthetically appreciate nature?

       c.  Is all of nature beautiful?

       d. Appreciation of humanized landscapes (e.g., agricultural landscapes)

       e.  Environmental art: friend or foe of environmentalism?

11.  Deep ecology; identification with nature

12.  Duties to endangered species

13.  Philosophical issues arising from Endangered Species Act (e.g., all species deserve equal protection)?

14.  Reverence for life ethic (Albert Schweitzer and Paul Taylor–All living things have value)

15.  Ethics and energy

16.  Obligations to future generations

17.  Animal rights

18.  Possible conflict between environmentalism and animal rights

19.  Agriculture and environmental ethics

20.  Exotic species; what are they and ethical issues pertaining to them.


21.  Rejection or defense of human superiority