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Environmental Philosophy


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Political Philosophy.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


This is a course on some of the major themes in contemporary environmental philosophy. Three moral questions are central: 1. What are our duties towards future generations? 2. What are our duties towards non-human organisms? 3. What is a fair (international) allocation of the burdens of environmental (climate) policy? The basic approach is Rawls’ idea of reflective equilibrium: if theoretical considerations do not match moral intuitions in a specific case, there is work to do. Particularly in the case of future generations we will encounter that reflective equilibrium is difficult to reach. Apart from these subjects we will discuss the human need for self-transcendence, population policy, scientific uncertainty and the precautionary principle, geo-engineering, cultural theory and individual responsibility. Focus is on the discussion of original texts, i.e., texts that for the first time problematize a certain issue. We will discuss the work of Jan Narveson, Derek Parfit, Simon Caney, Stephen Gardiner, Kenneth Goodpaster, Paul Taylor and others.

For this course, we read a selection of key readings available in the catalogue of the University’s Library.

Course objectives

This course aims to:

  • give students a familiarity with central debates in environmental philosophy;

  • acquaint students with key writings on central topics in environmental philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the central debates in environmental philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • paraphrase, interpret, reproduce and criticise the use made of central concepts in environmental philosophy in philosophical writings and in wider political contexts.


The timetable is available on the following websites:

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load (10 EC x 28 hrs): 280 hours

  • Attending seminars (13 × 3 hours): 39 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 181 hours

  • Writing papers: 60 hours

Assessment method


  • Mid-term essay of 2,000 words

  • Final essay of 2,500 words


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two subtests:

  • Mid-term essay: 30%

  • Final essay: 70%


One resit will be offered, covering the entire course content and consisting of a 4,500 words essay. The grade will replace all previously earned grades for subtests. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • announcements

  • assignments

Reading list

The required readings for this course are detailed in the course syllabus that will be made available in the first seminar. All of the readings can be accessed through the catalogue of the University’s Library. There are no mandatory books to buy.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof. dr. M.D. Davidson


Not applicable.