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Level 5

5AANCF02 Environmental Ethics

THIS MODULE IS RUNNING IN 2019-20

Credit value: 15
Module Tutor: Dr Eliot Michaelson and Dr Joachim Aufderheide
Assessment:

2019-20

  • Summative assessment: 1 x 2-hour examination (100%) 

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: one one-hour weekly lecture and one one-hour weekly seminar over ten weeks.

This module will examine a variety of political and ethical issues arising out of humankind's interactions with the environment in the contemporary world.  Humanity is rapidly changing the world we live in, raising the planet's overall temperature, destroying huge swathes of habitat, and killing off species at a startling rate. 

This sort of relationship between humankind and the world raises a number of difficult philosophical questions, including: How are we to balance the competing claims of human well-being and various different sorts of non-human and environmental well-being?  Do certain sorts of stable environmental systems have intrinsic worth, or are they valuable only in virtue of their being conducive to humankind's continuance and prosperity?  Can the need for massive reduction in carbon emissions to maintain a relatively stable environment justify the sorts of drastic political measures that would probably be necessary to succeed in making such reductions in the developed world?  Do non-human animals have rights or other sorts of moral claims on us?  How should we, as individuals, shift our behaviour in response to the sorts of things that we, together, ought to do in order to reduce environmental degradation and non-human animal suffering? 

The module will approach these questions by examining a range of relevant philosophical and scientific work, including both contemporary and historical philosophical perspectives.

Further information

Module Aims
Learning Outcomes
Indicative Reading List

Module aims

This module will offer the knowledge, skills, and opportunity to think critically about human beings' interactions with and responsibility towards the broader global environment in the modern world. It will also contextualize the moral and political questions arising out of this inquiry within the broader philosophical tradition, including its numerous critical discussions of the role of humankind in the natural world. Questions to be examined may include: How are we to balance the competing claims of human well-being and various different sorts of non-human and environmental well-being? Do certain sorts of stable environmental systems have intrinsic worth, or are they valuable only in virtue of their being conducive to humankind's continuance and prosperity? Can the need for massive reduction in carbon emissions to maintain a relatively stable environment justify the sorts of drastic political measures that would probably be necessary to succeed in making such reductions in the developed world? Do non-human animals have rights or other sorts of moral claims on us? How should we, as individuals, shift our behavior in response to the sorts of things that we, together, ought to do in order to reduce environmental degradation and non-human animal suffering?Löwenheim-Skolem fail.

Learning outcomes

Students will acquire intellectual, transferrable, and practical skills appropriate to a level 5 module.  In particular, they will have acquired:

Competence in thinking through and discussing a politically and ethically charged topic.

A capacity for critically reflecting on contentious issues.

Practice in using reason and analytical skills to reflect on the available empirical data in order to come to a better understanding of a complex ethical issue.

The ability to explain complex concepts in plain English.

Writing and group presentation skills when dealing with conceptually complex material.

Indicative reading list

  • Budolfson, "The Social Cost of Carbon"
  • Budolfson, "Collective Action, Climate Change, and the Ethical Significance of Futility"
  • Broome, Climate Matters
  • Norcross, "Puppies, Pigs, and People"
  • Singer, "Famine, Affluence, and Morality"
  • Harman, "Morally Permissible Moral Mistakes"
  • Barnhill & Doggett, "Food Ethics I & II"
  • Curry, Ecological Ethics
  • Jamieson, A Companion to Environmental Ethics


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descri
ptions and information may vary between years.

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