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Environmental Philosophy


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Ethics and Politics;

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Law;

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Political Science.

Students should have background knowledge of Ethics and Politcial Philosophy


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:

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


See: MA Philosophy 60 EC
See: MA Philosophy 120 EC

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

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

  • Preparation of classes and study of literature: 146 hours

  • Preparation of mid-term essay: 45 hours

  • Preparation of final essays: 50 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 several subtests:

  • Mid-term essay (40%)

  • Final essay (60%)


One resit will be offered, covering the entire course content and consisting of an essay. The grade will replace previously earned grades for subtests.
Class participation and the presentation are required for taking the resit
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the course cannot take the resit.

Exam review

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:

  • exchanging information and ideas regarding the course material;

  • circulating materials relevant to the course;

  • announcements.

Reading list

The required readings for this course come from a variety of sources, though we will make heavy use of:

  • Gardiner, S.M., (2011), A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change, Oxford: OUP


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.