Philosophy 307: “Environmental Philosophy: Thinking Like a Mountain.” Aldo Leopold famously maintains that “[a] thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community; it is wrong when it tends otherwise” (“The Land Ethic,” A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University Press, 1949: 223-4). This much celebrated claim has been understood in a variety of ways, which makes figuring out what it demands of us difficult. This course explores a range of possible interpretations of it. To lay a foundation for this work, we examine a number of philosophical issues embedded in the Land Ethic. These include the nature of nature, the idea of wilderness, the species problem, and the concept of the ecosystem. We then study various interpretations of Leopold’s principle, determine what the principle requires of us on these interpretations, and consider which interpretation to prefer.
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