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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. First, we discuss foundational issues in environmental ethics. A centrally important distinction in this field is between anthropocentric and biocentric justifications for environmental ethics. According to the first, the moral value of nature is based exclusively on its utility to humans (or, if they exist, also to non-human moral agents). According to the second, the ecosystem as a whole is intrinsically valuable, and commits us to a form of egalitarianism between species. We discuss writings of representative proponents of each of these two extreme positions as well as various proposals that aim to reconcile anthropocentrism and biocentrism. Second, we discuss ecologism as a political ideology and compare it to other ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism and socialism, giving special attention to the feminist perspective. Third, we discuss the various political institutions that may hamper or improve social change, including the alternative option of promoting bottom-up, individual social change. Finally, we move to the ethics of climate change and discuss theoretical issues such as Stephen M. Gardiner’s analysis of the ethical tragedy of climate change as a ‘perfect moral storm’ and a number of case studies, including animal ethics.

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:

  • form a considered judgment about the central debates in environmental philosophy and to defend their position with valid and compelling arguments.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Mid-term essay of 2,000 words

  • Final essay of 2,500 words

Attendance is required – without sufficient attendance students will be excluded from submitting a final paper.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the two subtests (midterm essay, final essay):

  • Mid-term essay: 30%

  • Final essay: 70%


The resit will consist of a written final essay of 4,500 words (100%). No separate resits will be offered for mid-term or final tests. The mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests.
Attendance is required – without sufficient attendance students will be excluded from taking the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examinations 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.

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.


Dr. W.F. Kalf


Not applicable.