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Beyond Environmentalism: A Philosophy of Nature

Beyond Environmentalism: A Philosophy of Nature

Jeffrey E. Foss

ISBN: 978-0-470-41369-2

Feb 2009

352 pages

Select type: E-Book

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This one-of-a-kind book provides thoughtful insight into the current relationship between humankind and the environment

Beyond Environmentalism is the first book of its kind to present a timely and relevant analysis of environmentalism. The author's decades of experience as a philosopher of science allow him to critically comprehend scientific issues and to develop and explain sound, ethical policies in response to them. The result is a volume that builds a philosophy of nature and helps the reader assess humankind's relationship with and impact on the world around us.

This innovative book discusses the inconsistencies, both scientific and philosophical, of popular environmentalism and sheds new perspectives on the issues, causes, and debates that embrace society today. The goal is not to settle environmental issues once and for all, but rather to provide the basis for more reasoned, scientific, and productive debates. The need for a new philosophy of nature is explored through methodological discussion of several topics, including:

  • The rise and fall of scientific proof

  • Nature in religion, romance, and human values

  • Humankind's responsibility to the environment

  • The value of freedom

  • Kinship among species

Numerous case studies throughout the book delve into global warming, the "sixth extinction," the precautionary principle, pollution, and other popular issues within environmentalism. Feature boxes guide the reader through complex topics such as eco-sabotage, the Gaia hypothesis, and the urban heat-island effect, while vivid illustrations demonstrate scientific data, theories, and philosophical arguments in a reader-friendly manner.

With its balanced approach to provocative issues, Beyond Environmentalism serves as an excellent, thought-provoking supplement for courses on environmental studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It is also an interesting and accessible read for anyone with a general interest in environmental issues.


Introduction: Why I Wrote This Book.

Chapter 1: The Need for a Philosophy of Nature.

1.1 The Goal of the Book.

1.2 The Structure of the Book.

1.3 The Need for Objectivity.

1.4 The Need for Philosophy.

1.5 The Rise of Environmentalism.

1.6 Philosophy of Nature as a Path.

Chapter 2: Environmentalism’s Apocalyptic Assumption.

2.1 The Environmentalist Worldview.

2.2 Is There an Environmental Crisis?

2.3 Our Emotional Environment..

Chapter 3: Environmentalism’s Transcendent Objective.

3.1 The Environmentalist Value System.

3.2 Environmental Health as a Transcendent Objective.

3.3 Three Elements of Tragedy.

Chapter 4: Environmentalism’s Antihuman Bias.

4.1 Can Nature Do Any Harm?

4.2 Environmentalists on Humankind.

4.3 Is Modern Civilization Bad for Nature?

4.4 Environmentalists’ Personal Values.

4.5 Environmentalism’s Institutional Ethics.

Chapter 5: Science, Environmentalism, and Environmental Science.

5.1 Environmentalism and Science.

5.2 The Rise of Environmental Science.

5.3 Environmental Science and Values.

Chapter 6: Pure Environmental Science.

6.1 The Rise and Fall of Scientific Proof.

6.2 The Rise of Modeling.

6.3 Models and Truth.

6.4 Protecting Science’s Value Neutrality.

6.5 The Value Neutrality of Environmental Science.

6.6 The Special Challenge Faced by Pure Environmental Science.

Chapter 7: Nature and the Sacred.

7.1 Nature and Religion.

7.2 Christianity and the "Environmental Crisis".

7.3 Environmental Science and the Sacred.

7.4 Beyond Environmental Religiosity.

7.5 The Naturally Sacred.

7.6 Is Accepting Responsibility for Nature Sacrilegious?

Chapter 8: Nature and Romance.

8.1 Environmentalism and Romance.

8.2 Romance and Science.

8.3 Romance and Alienation.

8.4 The Classical Roots of Romanticism.

8.5 Logical Analysis of Romanticism.

8.6 The Balance of Nature Is a Romantic Fantasy.

8.7 The Ecosystem Is a Romantic Fantasy.

8.8 Our Sense of Alienation from Nature.

Chapter 9: Nature and Values.

9.1 Natural Value.

9.2 The Value of Life Itself.

9.3 Are We Alienated From Nature?

9.4 Our Separation from--and Union with--Nature.

9.5 The Value of Freedom.

Chapter 10: Backward or Forward?

10.1 Back to Nature: Leopold and Callicott.

10.2 The Environmentalist’s Vilification of Domestic Animals.

10.3 The Environmentalist’s Vilification of Human Domesticity.

10.4 Forward: Accepting Our Responsibility .

10.5 Forward: Our Unique Abilities .

Chapter 11: A Vision of the Future.

11.1 Our Ongoing Role Reversal with Nature.

11.2 We Are the Emerging Nervous System of the Planet.

11.3 The Natural Virtues and Vices of Nervous Systems.

11.4 When It's Humankind versus Nature.

11.5 Our Right to Survive.

11.6 Our Unique Feelings of Kinship with Other Species.

11.7 A Code.

Case Studies.

Feature Boxes.



"Those who share (Foss) vision will, I think, find Beyond Environmentalism compelling and exciting reading." (European Journal of literature, Culture and Environment, 2010)

  • This book is unique in being the first of its kind to provide a popular, yet fairly rigorous, analysis of environmentalism, along with an easily accessible reorientation of environmental thinking.
  • The author’s training and decades of experience as a philosopher of science allow him to critically comprehend the scientific issues and to develop a sound ethical policy concerning them.
  • The book starts with the current issues and then, details the inconsistencies of environmentalism to deal with them.
  • Case studies are employed throughout to illustrate the real-life effect of the data.
  • Simple, down-to-earth graphics are employed for those readers who desire an easy-read approach to the topic.