Summer Institute in American Philosophy:
Great Ideas and New Texts

Environmental Pragmatism

Sponsored by The Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy
Univ. of Vermont, Burlington

July 29 & 30, 1999


Andrew Light

Ben A. Minteer

Kelly Parker

Dept. of Philosophy
210 Lake Superior Hall
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MI 49401

Recommended Workshop Readings

Light, Andrew and Eric Katz, eds. Environmental Pragmatism. Routledge, 1996.

  • "Introduction: Environmental Pragmatism and Environmental Ethics as Contested Terrain." Andrew Light and Eric Katz
  • Chapter 1: "Pragmatism and Environmental Thought." Kelly Parker
  • Chapter 6: "Integration or Reduction: Two Approaches to Environmental Values." Bryan Norton

Varner, Gary. "Can Animal Rights Activists Be Environmentalists?" In Environmental Philosophy and Environmental Activism. Marietta and Embree, eds. Rowman and Littlefield, 1995.

Also in Varner, In Nature's Interests. Oxford, 1998.

Williams, Ted. "The Ugly Swan." Audubon 99 (Nov.-Dec. 1997): 26-32.

Articles on specific American thinkers and environmental philosophy

Armstrong-Buck, Susan. "Whitehead's Metaphysical System as a Foundation for Environmental Ethics." Environmental Ethics 8 (Fall 1986)

Browers, Michaelle L. "Jefferson's Land Ethic: Environmentalist Ideas in Notes on the State of Virginia." Environmental Ethics 21 (Spring 1999)

Chaloupka, William. "John Dewey's Social Aesthetics as a Precedent for Environmental Thought." Environmental Ethics 9 (Fall 1987)

Fuller, Robert. "American Pragmatism Reconsidered: William James' Ecological Ethic." Environmental Ethics 14 (Summer 1992)

Taylor, Bob Pepperman. "John Dewey and Environmental Thought." Environmental Ethics 12 (Summer 1990)

Santas, Ari. 'The Environmental Value in G. H. Mead's Cosmology." Chapter 4 of Environmental Pragmatism, ed. A. Light and E. Katz.

Other Books and Articles

Sustainable Economics

Daly, Herman and John B. Cobb, Jr. For the Common Good. Beacon Press, 1989.

Daly, Herman. Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Beacon Press, 1996.

Parker, Kelly. "Economics, Sustainable Growth, and Community." Environmental Values 2 (Autumn 1993).

Process Philosophy (Whitehead, and Peircean Semeiotic)

Grange, Joseph. Nature: An Environmental Cosmology. State University of New York Press, 1999.

Grange, Joseph. The City: An Urban Cosmology. State University of New York Press, 1999.


Carroll, John, Paul Brockelman, and Mary Wesfall, eds. The Greening of Faith. University Press of New England, 1997.

Roots of Ecofeminism

Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution. HarperSanFrancisco, 1990. (First ed. 1980)

Phenomenological Approaches

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. Pantheon Books, 1996.

Kohák, Erazim. The Embers and the Stars. University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Heidegger, Martin. "The Question Concerning Technology." In Basic Writings. Ed. David Farrell Krell. HarperSanFrancisco, 1977, 1993.

Jones, Mary McAllester. Gaston Bachelard, Subversive Humanist: Texts and Readings. University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.

Teaching Examples and Aids

International Society for Environmental Ethics Homepage

International Society for Environmental Ethics Syllabus Project

Liberal Studies 330: The Idea of Nature (K. Parker, GVSU)

Origins of Environmental Pragmatism

 Major philosophical resources in the environmental ethics movement (ca. 1970-1985)

Conservation Biology:

Management tools (e.g., cost-benefit analysis, environmental impact statements)

Scientific materialism

Animal Rights:

Extension of existing moral theories (e.g. utilitarianism, Kantianism, natural law, contractarian approach)

Deep Ecology:

Eclectic--Poetic and esthetic elements, Eastern spirituality, guerrilla politics/ Abbey's "monkeywrenching"; Arne Naess and Spinoza

Legacy of these origins:

  1. Conflict between animal rights and environmental ethics
  2. Dualistic metaphysical view of human-environment
  3. "Applied Ethics" approach
  4. Moral Monism, Foundationalism
  5. Non-anthropocentrism
  6. Intrinsic / inherent value

See Richard Routley, "Is there a Need for a New, and Environmental Ethic?" Proceedings of the Fifteenth World Congress of Philosophy, 1973.

William James on pluralism in philosophy

But all such differences are minor matters which ought to be subordinated in view of the fact that, whether we be empiricists or rationalists, we are, ourselves, parts of the universe and share the same one deep concern in its destinies. We crave alike to feel more truly at home with it, and to contribute our mite to its amelioration. It would be pitiful if small aesthetic discords were to keep honest men asunder.

I shall myself have use for the diminutive epithets of empiricism. But if you look behind the words at the spirit, I am sure you will not find it matricidal. I am as good a son as any among you to our common mother.


--A Pluralistic Universe, Lecture I

C. S. Peirce on anthropomorphic thinking

"Anthropomorphic" is what pretty much all conceptions are at bottom; otherwise other roots for the words in which to express them than the old Aryan roots would have to be found. And in regard to any preference for one kind of theory over another, it is well to remember that every single truth of science is due to the affinity of the human soul to the soul of the universe, imperfect as that affinity no doubt is. To say, therefore, that a conception is one natural to man, which comes to just about the same thing as to say that it is anthropomorphic, is as high a recommendation as one could give to it in the eyes of an Exact Logician.


--Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, 5.47

C. S. Peirce on being fair to swamps

The only end of science, as such, is to learn the lesson that the universe has to teach it. In Induction it simply surrenders itself to the force of facts. But it finds ... that this is not enough. It is driven in desperation to call upon its inward sympathy with nature, its instinct for aid, just as we find Galileo at the dawn of modern science making his appeal to il lume naturale. But in so far as it does this, the solid ground of fact fails it. It feels from that moment that its position is only provisional. It must then find confirmations or else shift its footing. Even if it does find confirmations, they are only partial. It still is not standing upon the bedrock of fact. It is walking upon a bog, and can only say, this ground seems to hold for the present. Here I will stay till it begins to give way.


--Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, 5.589

The Sustainability Principle

Each generation has an obligation to protect productive ecological and physical processes necessary to support options necessary for future human freedom and welfare. The normative force supporting the protection of the environment for future generations should be based on a commitment to building just, well-adapted and sustainable human communities.


--Bryan G. Norton, "Integration or Reduction, in Environmental Pragmatism (Routledge 1996), p. 122.

Josiah Royce on the wise use of formal logic and the automobile, 1903

I am fond of logic, and personally I hate automobiles. But the justification of both, as artful devices, depends upon the same fundamental principles. If there be anybody,--say a messenger, a physician, a businessman, a traveller,--who propels his automobile for the glory of God or for the salvation of man,--then such an one is justified. My dislike for automobiles is due to the fact that those who drive them commonly seem to my prejudiced eyes to be unconcerned for the salvation of anybody. But I am ready to consent to let formal logic be tried by the same standard, although here I look for a different verdict.


--J. Clendenning, The Life and Thought of Josiah Royce, revised and expanded edition, p. 285

Dangerous Dyads Informing Thought about the New World

From the Greeks:

Civilized - Barbarian

From pre-1492 Europe:

Christian - Heathen
Saved - Damned
Culture - Nature

After settlement of New World:

Old World - New World
Settled - Wild
Civilized - Savage

In encounter with Native Americans, and Africans in context of slavery:

White - Colored

A pervasive dyad identified by Carolyn Merchant & other ecofeminists:

Masculine - Feminine

With Industrial Revolution:

Technological - Natural

With "Economic Development":

North American - South- & Latin American


Technologically Advanced - "Emerging Markets"

Copyright © 1999 Kelly A. Parker