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PHIL 594: SPTP: Applied Professional Ethics (Koeddermann): ~

Course Information

Dr. Achim Koeddermann,

Librarian: Nancy Cannon

Environmental Ethics Overview

Dr. Achim D. Koeddermann

Before we can discuss HOW to save the environment, we have to decide which reason we have to do so. We all have sometimes confused, different reasons, and although we might want to save the same pond, we might value very different things in a pond.

First, we need to make some terminological distinctions: either we wish to save nature for its OWN sake. We call such arguments intrinsic (=NO use). Or we wish to save nature for the sake of others or ourselves: we call such arguments instrumental (=useful).

Since the beginning of the US environmental movement, preservation and conservation have been distinguished, fighting the same battle, but for different reasons. Whereas forest engineer Pinchot wished to guarantee that more people could benefit from the environment (conservation), his friend and later opponent John Muir (preservation) claimed that the untouched form of nature, wilderness was beyond price and should be preserved. The President of the United States of America decided wisely to establish the first National Parks, setting aside nature. However, until today it is unclear whether it is set aside for the sake of its use, for now, or for generations to come, or to remain “forever wild.”

In general, arguments for the Preservation/Conservation of nature can be divided into 4 positions:

Those saving the environment for the sake of Humans (ANTHROPOCENTRIC), for the sake of living beings (BIOCENTRIC), which can be including animals, or plants) and those including the entire universe or creation (HOLISTIC). Finally, there is a group of positions that claims that to save the environment is unnecessary, useless or not in gods will (APOCALYPTIC)

Each position has different aspects. To organize them, we will go from the particular to the general.

Key Topics for discussion (developed in collaboration with Jere Surber, Donald Hughes, DU Denver)

I. Aesthetic Values of the Natural Environment

- An historical overview of changing perceptions of the natural environment as represented in the visual arts
- The representation of the landscape in the visual arts and photography
- Various aesthetic values associated with "nature" and the "natural environment" (the picturesque, the sublime, and modernist/postmodernist views)
- Drawing the distinction between the "natural world" and "civilization"
- The Natural Environment and the Impact of Recreation

II. Philosophical Approaches to Ethical and Moral Values regarding the Natural Environment

- The Nature and Limits of Philosophy and Ethical Theory
- Individualistic Approaches: The rights of animals and other natural objects.
- Holistic Approaches: The Land Ethic
- Deep Ecology and its Critics
- Ecofeminism and the Critique of Patriarchal Thought
- Political Ecology: From the Free Market to Ecotage
- Postmodernist Attitudes toward the Natural Environment
- The "Third and Fourth World" Responses to Environmentalism

III. Religious and Spiritual Views on the Nature and Ecology

- The "Spiritual Dimension" of Nature
- Attitudes toward Nature in the Traditions of World Religions
- The Emergence of "Ecotheology"
- Spiritual Inflections of Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology
- The Concept of "Sacred Spaces"
- Ethical, Social, and Political Consequences of "Ecotheology" 
"Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind." Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, “Transcendental Logic,” Introduction, # 1

Dr. Achim D. Koeddermann
Associate Professor of Philosophy, SUNY-Oneonta

Overview of the steps in library research

  • Select a topic. (This can be challenging. If your topic is too narrow, you will have difficulty finding enough information; if it is too broad, you will be swamped with information)  See also Tips and examples for writing thesis statements (From Purdue University) 
  • Background information can often be found in encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference works. If you decide to use the information, don't forget to cite it in proper fashion.  Remember to paraphrase, use your own language, and don't replace your arguments with quotations.
  • Find books. Books often treat a topic more comprehensively than journal articles. Books can be a good place to find an overview of a topic. References to additional articles and books can often be found in a bibliography at the end of a chapter. Your paper qualifies as a research paper if it includes at least one primary and one secondary source in book form.
  • Find articles. Journal articles usually have the most up to date information on a topic. Since journal articles are often more focused than books, they may provide more specific information than books. References to additional articles and books can often be found in a bibliography at the end of an article. Remember to demonstrate the level of your research by quoting from refereed journals
  • Consider supplementary materials (such as internet sites)
  • Organize the findings.
  • Use the information to address the research topic. See also Logic in Argumentative Writing (Purdue Writing Lab)

Selected Reference Works

***Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy***  REF B51.R60 1998
10 volumes. A good place to begin your research.
(link on the Milne Library home page under Databases)
Online version of the print encyclopedia. Provides up-to-date articles on philosophical themes (such as metaphysics, ethics, law); world philosophies (such as African, Japanese, Tibetan); periods; world religions (such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism), individual philosophers. 
Encyclopedia of Philosophy REF B41.E5  1967
Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy REF B41.C35 1995
Great Thinkers of the Western World REF B72.G74 1992
Great Thinkers of the Eastern World REF B5005.G74 1995
Oxford Companion to Philosophy REF B51.O94 1995
Wikipedia. Although Wikipedia can be a good starting point for basic information, it is not necessarily reliable as most articles can be edited by anyone. (Some Wikipedia articles on controversial topics are "locked down" to prevent vandalism.) Make sure you verify the information in Wikipedia with several other sources. Some Wikipedia articles have useful bibliographies. Articles sometimes are written by scholars with a passion for their topic; however, the entries are unsigned. The View History link in Wikipedia lists the revisions.

 Errors in Wikipedia From a conservative viewpoint.

Finding Print Books

Classic Catalog (tab on the Milne Library home page) 

A quick way to find a print book in Milne Library. The library classic catalog does NOT include most ebooks or individual journal articles.
To view detailed information about an item, click on the number link on the left of theentry.
Availability is shown by numbers to the right  (e. g. 1/0). The first number is the number owned by the library; the last number is how many are checked out.Subjects are listed at the bottom of the detailed entry. These subjects will link to other materials on the same exact subject.
BASIC SEARCH allows you to search by fields such as (Words Anywhere, Words in Title, Words in Author, Subject begins with)
"Words Anywhere" searches are useful if you do not know the precise subject, title or author. If you are unsure of the ending of a word or wish to search the stem of a word, use the wildcard symbol  * .The ADVANCED SEARCH allows limiting by language, collection, document type, year.

Loeb Classical Library

Primary texts in classical philosophy. Specific texts can be located by using the Advanced Search feature in the Library Catalog.   Enter the subject or author and “Loeb Classical Library” as the series.

Free Primary Texts

There are many sources of complete (out of copyright, public domain) philosophy texts available online such as:

Finding Books in Other Libraries

You can check out items at Hartwick College with your SUNY Oneonta ID card.

Locating Articles in Specific Databases

Search (almost) Everything: Philosophy

Search Philosophy
Limit Your Results

Includes print books, ebooks, and articles. Does not include all content from indexes such as PhilPapers.

Interlibrary Loan

The Fracking Song

Web Sites

*Anyone* can publish on the Internet. Therefore, it is important to learn to evaluate any information found on the net.

Google Advanced Search Tips:

By putting double quotes ("") around a set of words, Google will consider the exact words in that exact order.

Domain name registries around the world. It is possible to limit a search to a certain country or type of domain by adding the domain code in Google: Advanced Search. Another method to limit to a certain domain is to use "site:.domain name" as part of the search, e.g. autism

Five points to consider in the evaluation of a web site:

1. AUTHORITY: Who is responsible for creating the page? Does the URL contain .edu (education), .gov (US government), .org (organization) .int (international organization)? Or does the URL contain .com (commercial) or .biz (business)? Is it a personal site (.name)? (Country codes also may be part of a URL. See Domain name registries around the world.)

2. CURRENCY: Is there a date indicating when the page was created or updated? Is the information up to date? Are the links current and functional?

3. COVERAGE: What is the purpose of the site? Does it address your research topic? Is it detailed or broad? What kind of information is it providing: historical? background? statistical? factual? conceptual? a study?

4. OBJECTIVITY: Is the site expressing a slanted point of view or trying to sway your opinion?

5. ACCURACY: Can you verify that the information is correct? Are the facts consistent within the page? Do they match up with what you found in print sources? Are sources for the information cited?



Need More Help?

E-mail a question to a Milne librarian & get a response within 48 hours Monday through Friday.

Schedule a research consultation with a librarian to discuss your research project in depth.

Call the Research Help Desk at Milne Library at 607-436-2722.

Visit the Research Help Desk in Milne Library.