Human Meets Nature: Key Concepts in Environmental Philosophy

Develop your own personal philosophy of nature, understand key environmental issues and make informed lifestyle choices
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  • Lectures 73
  • Length 5.5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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About This Course

Published 6/2016 English

Course Description

These are hugely challenging times for the natural environment and as modern technological humans we’re struggling to understand how we relate to nature. If you're concerned about contemporary environmental issues and are interested in insightful ways to think about them, then this is the course for you.

Understand What Nature Means to You

* Learn key ideas about human / nature relationships

* Discover who developed these ideas and why

* Apply these concepts to contemporary environmental issues

* Develop your own personal philosophy of nature

* Make better informed lifestyle decisions 

Explore what the great environmental thinkers have said and apply their ideas to today's urgent environmental issues 

Each topic in this course provides a unique lens through which you'll explore our relationship with the natural environment. You'll learn about John Muir's Philosophy of Nature, Deep Ecology, Ecofeminism, Silent Spring, The Land Ethic, Environmental Aesthetics, and Ecophenomenology. 

Armed with detailed information about each of these you'll be ideally equipped to understand the many threats to the natural environment that we see today. For example, what can Deep Ecology tell us about biodiversity loss? Or what would John Muir have to say about global warming? The unique feature of this course is discussing all of these topics in one place. This allows you to easily compare ideas, decide which resonates with you most strongly and perhaps inspire a deeper interest in some of these subjects.

This course explores over one hundred years of key ideas in environmental philosophy. This whistle-stop tour of environmental thought is presented over five and a half hours in 73 easily digestible lectures. Lectures are between three and ten minutes long and offered as presentation screencasts. Extensive supplementary texts and links to further resources are provided so you can dive in as far as you wish. You'll also find quizzes and questions for further consideration at the end of each section to help reinforce learning and guide further thinking about the topics. 

Another exciting feature of this course is to explore the incredible people who developed these ideas. As well as being innovative and keen thinkers these are tales of fascinating lives which continue to inspire generations later. Take this course and be inspired by these personalities and their amazing stories.

But this course is not just a history of grand environmental ideas. Rather it is intended to provide a framework with which you can consider the environmental issues that are impacting your life today. Global warming, species loss, changing weather patterns, soil infertility, shrinking habitat, and ocean acidification are amongst the myriad challenges that we currently face. It can be difficult to know how to think about these huge issues, to put them into some kind of context. This course helps you better understand these important issues.

Want to know what nature really means to you? Take this course and find out!

What are the requirements?

  • An interest in understanding the relationship between humans and nature, nothing else!

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Understand key ideas in environmental philosophy
  • Apply key ideas in environmental philosophy to contemporary environmental issues
  • Use key ideas in environmental philosophy to better understand human / nature relations.
  • Apply ideas about human / nature relationships to make informed lifestyle decisions

What is the target audience?

  • This course is for anyone interested in contemporary environment concerns and who wishes to understand how ideas in environmental philosophy can be used to frame and understand them. The content of this course is of an academic nature but presented in a light and accessible manner. This course is not for those looking for an academic level course in these ideas, but is rather intended as an introduction to them. That said, the student is given resources which will allow them to go as far into these topics as they wish. Ultimately this course is for those who want to explore and better understand their relationship with the natural world.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.

Curriculum

Section 1: Introduction to the Course
03:21

Welcome to my course and thank you so much for enrolling! Watch this lecture to find out who I am, what this course is broadly about and why I created it.

07:19

An introduction to the specific topics covered in the course, who the course is intended for, who the course is not intended for, what you will take away from the course and some key facts you should know before starting.

02:33

10 top tips for getting the most out of this course.

02:34

Why use the supplementary resources and what you can expect to find there.

Article

A one page text summary of the lectures in this section.

Section 2: John Muir's Philosophy of Nature
01:21

Introductory video lecture to John Muir's Philosophy of Nature.

07:13

A short biographical account of John Muir. At the end of this lecture you'll understand who John Muir was and why he is a significant figure in the history of environmental thinking.

08:32

At the end of this lecture you'll be able to state Muir's key ideas about the relationship between humans and nature, be able to recognize some of Muir's important writings, and be familiar with some of his most well-known statements about the natural world. 

05:15

At the end of this lecture you'll be able to put together John Muir's ideas about nature to state in general terms what his philosophy of nature was.

05:16

At the end of this lecture students will understand the influence that Muir's work had during his lifetime and continues to have today.

Article

A one page text summary of the lectures in this section.

10 questions

Test your knowledge about John Muir and his philosophy of nature. 

Section 3: Deep Ecology
01:43

Introductory video lecture to Deep Ecology

03:45

This lecture introduces Deep Ecology by contrasting it with shallow ecology. By the end of this lecture you'll understand that Deep Ecology is a world view and that it was developed primarily by Arne Naess.

05:16

A short biographical account of Arne Naess. By the end of this lecture you'll know some key facts about Arne Naess and understand why he was positioned to propose Deep Ecology.

06:26

This lectures expands on the deep ecological world view introduced in the first lecture of this section. By the end of this lecture you'll understand that deep ecology proposes a metaphysical world view in which everything is connected to, and defined by, everything else.

02:55

This lecture introduces the idea of intrinsic value as a key feature of Deep Ecology. By the end of this lecture you'll be able to give examples of intrinsic values and non-intrinsic values.

04:25

This lectures takes the deep ecological world view and makes it personal by applying it to the individual. By the end of this lecture you'll understand that the ecological self embeds humans within nature rather than being outside of it.

04:17

This lecture describes Aldo Leopold's epiphany when he witnessed the an wolf dying and explains that Leopold's reflection on the experience was an example of deep ecological thinking. By the end of this lecture you'll understand deep ecology from a more practical perspective and be able to apply deep ecological thinking to their own experiences with nature.

02:39

This lecture extends the idea introduced in the previous one through a brief exploration of the Gaia Hypothesis. At the end of this lecture you'll understand what the Gaia Hypothesis is and how it relates to Deep Ecology.

Article

This lecture is a one page text summary of the lectures in this section. Students are directed to the supplementary resources if they wish to dive deeper into these ideas.

10 questions

Test your knowledge about Deep Ecology. 

Section 4: The Land Ethic
01:54

Video introductory lecture to the Land Ethic.

02:42

A brief introduction to what The Land Ethic is, when it was written, who it was written by and what its broad aims were.

03:57

A brief biographical account of Aldo Leopold focusing on why he was ideally qualified to write the Land Ethic. By the end of this lecture you'll be familiar with key information about Aldo Leopold and understand how he came to write the Land Ethic.

06:44

This lecture introduces Leopold's assertion that we should consider our ethical relationship with the land rather than thinking about it solely in economic terms. It focuses on Leopold's belief that we must consider the land to have intrinsic rather than instrumental value. By the end of this lecture you'll understand that Leopold proposed that conservation should be driven by intrinsic rather than instrumental values.

04:35

This lecture introduces Leopold's idea of a land mechanism in which all members of the biotic community participate. Also, that Leopold considered the integrity of this mechanism as more important than any one species or ecosystem within in. And finally, that humans are part of this biotic community. By the end of this lecture you'll understand what Leopold meant by a biotic community and why it is important that he included humans within in.

07:13

This lecture explores the idea of whether an ethic can be applied to 'wholes' rather than individuals. By the end of this lecture you'll understand what is meant by holistic ethic and be able to produce some examples.

04:07

An examination of Leopold's famous dictum as presented in the Land Ethic. By the end of this lecture you'll be familiar with the central principle of the Land Ethic.

Article

A one page text summary of the lectures in this section. Students are directed to explore the additional resources for this section.

10 questions

Test your knowledge of the Land Ethic. 

Section 5: Ecofeminism
01:32

Video introductory lecture to ecofeminism.

04:03

A broad overview of ecofeminism as introduction to the topic. At the end of this lecture you'll be able to outline what ecofeminism is and how it can be used to explore environmental issues.

07:50

An exploration of the paradigm of humanity's attempt to dominate, master and control nature. At the end of this lecture you'll understand why this paradigm emerged and see the importance of it in consideration of contemporary environmental issues.

05:28

Explores the parallels between the subjugation of woman and the subjugation of nature. At the end of this lecture you'll recognize the significance of patriarchal attitudes in environmental issues.

06:45

Exploring the idea that humanity's attempt to dominate nature is consistent with the ideologies of racism and colonialism. At the end of this lecture you'll appreciate that the environmental issues we see today are not isolated events but may be part of a continuing trend of behaviour.

10:42

We use geoengineering as an example of humanity's attempt to dominate nature. At the end of this lecture you'll understand what geoengineering is and see why it provides an example of the paradigm that ecofeminism cautions against.

03:37

Explores the importance of including social benefits in any approach to tackling the environmental crisis. At the end of this lecture you'll understand why ecofeminism demands the inclusion of social benefits in any approach to solving environmental problems.

04:04

Examination of the concept of the generalized other which is key to ecofeminist thinking. At the end of this lecture you'll understand what is meant by the generalized other and why it is important in this discussion.

06:25

An exploration of the contrast between feminine qualities of nature and patriarchal attitudes in society. At the end of this lecture you'll understand what is meant by saying that nature is imbued with feminine qualities and recognize that these qualities conflict with the dominant paradigm of human society.

Article

A one page text summary of the lectures in this section. Students are encouraged to use the additional resources provided.

9 questions

Test your knowledge of Ecofeminism. 

Section 6: Silent Spring
01:36

Video introductory lecture to Silent Spring.

03:38

Broad overview of Silent Spring as way of introduction. At the end of this lecture you'll know some basic information about silent spring and appreciate its importance as an environmental text.

05:14

A brief biographical account of Rachel Carson. At the end of this lecture you'll have a broad understanding of who Rachel Carson was and what motivated her to write Silent Spring.

04:46

Carson is critical of the use of agricultural chemicals and proposes that they interrupt nature's built-in checks and balances. At the end of this lecture you'll understand why Carson was critical of the use of agricultural chemicals.

04:52

A key theme of Silent Spring is to argue that humans are not separate from nature; whatever we introduce into nature will somehow come back to us. At the end of this lecture you'll understand that Carson is heavily critical of the idea that there is a nature / culture divide.

04:36

Despite our attempts at the chemical control of nature, nature adapts and fights back. At the end of this lecture you'll be able to give examples of nature fighting back and realize that this is an example of what Carson meant by suggesting we have a flawed approach to nature.

05:43

One of the key themes of Silent Spring is that those who hold institutional power can not necessarily be trusted to do what is right for nature. By the end of this lecture you'll understand Carson's critique of institutional power.

04:28

Silent Spring was intended as a moral call to arms. Carson suggested that personal choices could overwrite society’s wrongs. At the end of this lecture you'll understand that Silent Spring was intended to inspire action and some would argue that it fuelled the environmental movement.

07:04

Silent Spring wasn’t just a popular book at its time of writing but has endured to continue to inspire subsequent generations. This lecture explores the legacy of Silent Spring. 

Article

A one page text summary of all of the lectures in this section. Students are directed to the supplementary resources if they wish to delve further.

10 questions

Test your knowledge of Silent Spring.

Section 7: Environmental Aesthetics
01:37

Video introductory lecture to environmental aesthetics.

07:19

A brief exploration of what is meant by aesthetics of the natural environment and why it’s important. By the end of this lecture you'll broadly understand what is meant by environmental aesthetics and have a sense for why it may be an important area of consideration.

04:36

An introduction to the historical background that has contributed to contemporary thinking in environmental aesthetics. By the end of this lecture you'll appreciate the major historical trains of thought on environmental aesthetics.

03:34

A comparison of different attitudes towards nature in different parts of the world and how they progressed. By the end of this lecture you'll understand how dominant attitudes towards nature progressed over time in various parts of the world.

06:06

What does it mean to say nature is beautiful or sublime? This lecture digs into these issues to reveal the role of perception and imagination. By the end of this lecture you'll be able to broadly define beauty and sublimity in relation to nature - and be able to form their own ideas of what these concepts mean to them.

04:45

This lecture defines the picturesque and scenic and explores why these values may be problematic. By the end of this lectures you'll understand the problems of using the picturesque and scenic to value nature.

06:10

An exploration into the multi-sensory appreciation of nature. What does it mean to be immersed in an environment? By the end of this lecture you'll have an appreciation for what it means to experience nature using the multi-senses.

05:59

Does imagination and emotion have a part to play in our aesthetic appreciation of nature? Do we have to use these tools carefully or can we allow them to have free reign? At the end of this lecture you'll be equipped to form a developed opinion of the role of imagination and emotion in our aesthetic appreciation of nature.

05:23

Is scientific knowledge necessary for forming an aesthetic appreciation of nature? How? At the end of this lecture you'll be equipped to form a well developed position on the role of scientific knowledge in the aesthetic appreciation of nature.

04:33

Explores the link between the aesthetic appreciation of nature and ethical attitudes towards it. At the end of this lecture you'll understand how aesthetic appreciation of nature is strongly linked to ethical attitudes towards it.

06:45

So how do we value nature on its own terms? Which framework should we use to value nature? Scientific? Multi-sensory? Objective or subjective? At the end of this lecture you'll have the tools to form your own opinion about how to value nature.

Article

A one page text summary of all of the lectures in this section. Students are directed to the supplementary resources to dig further into these topics.

10 questions

Test your knowledge of environmental aesthetics. 

Section 8: Ecophenomenology
01:30

Video Introductory lecture to ecophenomenology.

05:52

What is phenomenology and what does it have to do with the natural world? By the end of this lecture you'll be familiar with how concepts from phenomenology can be put to use in considering humanity's relationship with the natural world.

04:24

A broad overview of Husserl’s Lebenswelt concept and how it might be useful in considering the natural environment. By the end of this lecture you'll understand what the Lebenswelt means and appreciate how it might be used to think about human / nature relationships.

07:46

A broad overview of what Merleau-Ponty meant by ‘the flesh of the world’ and what distinguishes it from Husserl’s Life-World. At the end of this lecture you'll understand what Merleau-Ponty's concept of Flesh and what makes it different from Husserl's Lebenswelt.

05:21

What is the significance of our corporeal experience? What does embodiment have to do with environmental ethics? At the end of this lecture you'll understand why this is an important line of enquiry into exploring human / nature relationships.

08:05

How do we experience Leopold's biotic community? At the end of this lecture you'll understand how we might take Leopold's biotic community concept one step further.

04:23

Our bodies make sense only in the context of the Earth environment. We are immediately in perceptual community with the Earth. By the end of this lecture you'll understand what it means to say that we are in perceptual community with the Earth.

10:03

Community psychology tells us that feeling a ‘sense of community’ engenders certain behaviours towards that community. How does this fit into human / nature relationships? At the end of this lecture you'll understand how the idea of the 'sense of community' is important is engendering ethical attitudes towards nature.

14:19

Many indigenous cultures live in close ‘community’ with nature; this lectures examines several examples and what they have to teach us about living ethically towards the Earth. At the end of this lecture you'll be familiar with case studies of cultures who live closely with their natural environment.

Article

A discussion of the argument that philosophy alone cannot help engender ethical attitudes towards the natural environment. At the end of this lecture you'll be familiar with the argument that philosophical ideas alone are insufficient to change attitudes towards the natural environment.

05:54

We bring together the threads of the previous lectures in this section to draw a coherent conclusion about how phenomenology can be useful in considering human / nature relationships. At the end of this lecture you'll be able to see how the various threads presented in this section fit together to form a coherent and useful means of considering human / nature relationships.

Article

A one page text summary of the lectures in this section. Students are directed to the supplementary resources to dig deeper into these topics.

8 questions

Test your knowledge of Ecophenomenology. 

Article

Complete list of the supplementary resources. 

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Instructor Biography

Gary Thomson, Mathematician / Nature philosopher

Gary has a first class honours degree in Pure Mathematics from The University of St. Andrews - one of the world's oldest and finest Mathematical institutions. He has also benefited from two years of college education in the United States. 

After a successful nine year career with Schlumberger - the leading service provider to the global energy industry - Gary engaged his passion for nature and undertook post-graduate research in environmental philosophy at The University of Edinburgh, working with some leading experts in their fields. 

He is particularly interested in the relationship between humans and the rest of nature and loves sharing his knowledge and ideas with others. 

Learn more on his website or FaceBook page. 

When he’s not philosophizing or teaching Math you’re likely to catch him on a mountain, in a forest or on his yoga mat. 

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