(Undergrad.) Philosophy and the Environment

Undergraduate course, University of Cincinnati, Department of Philosophy, 2019

2000-level undergraduate course offered in Fall 2019 at University of Cincinnati to students of various backgrounds (philosophy majors were the minority). Cross-listed as an Environmental Studies course.

Course Description

Is climate change a moral emergency? Should we seek out consumer products that are “natural” and “green,” and foods that are “GMO-free” and “humanely-raised”? Do non-human animals, plants, and ecosystems have moral interests? Are individuals and/or corporations obligated to reduce their environmental impact, even if others are not making an effort? How do social and political issues like poverty, and gender and race inequality relate to environmental issues? And finally how do these social and political dimensions of the environmental crisis relate to questions about personal identity, the meaning of life and the meaning of work? These questions and others are explored in this introductory course on the metaphysical, ethical, political and existencial issues raised by environmental problems. No prior background in philosophy is necessary.

Student Work

  • weekly reading quiz & short reaction essay
  • midterm paper and final paper
  • peer review of weekly reaction essays and of papers
  • four concept maps / visualizations


  • James Rachels (1999) selection from The Right Thing to Do: Readings in Moral Philosophy
  • Richard Sylvan (1973) “Is There a Need for a New, an Environmental Ethic?”
  • Joel Feinberg (1974) “The Rights of Animals and Unborn Generations”
  • Paul W. Taylor (1981) “The Ethics of Respect for Nature”
  • Eric Katz (1992) “The Big Lie: Human Restoration of Nature”
  • Steven Vogel (2003) “The Nature of Artifacts”
  • Lynn White, Jr. (1967) “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis”
  • J. Donald Hughes (1975) “The Ancient Roots of Our Ecological Crisis”
  • Wendell Berry (1977) selection from The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture and (1979) “Energy in Agriculture”
  • Carolyn Merchant (1980) selection from The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution
  • Karen J. Warren (1990) “The Power and the Promise of Ecological Feminism”
  • Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva (1993) selection from Ecofeminism

Sample of student comments:

  • “I really enjoyed this class. I was a little apprehensive about taking a philosophy class at first, but this course helped widen my view about how to handle the ecological crisis and in a sense has even motivated me to act more sustainably. Additionally, the course forced me to think outside of the box about not just the environment, but other day to day interactions with the world. I am very glad that I took this course.”

  • “This professor was honestly one of the best professors I have ever had, and I’m a transfer student. His willingness to go over material until everyone fully understood it was admirable and I enjoyed the content along with the way he chose to present it. If this weren’t his last class at UC I would be taking another one of his courses.”

  • “Gui loves what he teaches and it shows. Every concept discussed was delivered thoroughly and with passion. When a teacher shows interest in the topic it translates to interest among students.”

  • “Great attitude, obviously very interested in what he does, and makes it interesting for the students.”

  • “He seems to really care about his students and their learning of the subject.”