Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.



Ecological philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N017-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

In the early 1970s a small number of academic philosophers in the English-speaking world began to turn their attention to questions concerning the natural environment. Environmental philosophy initially encompassed various types of inquiry, including applied ethics oriented to issues such as nuclear power and the deployment of toxic chemicals; more abstract extrapolations of traditional ethical theories, such as Kantianism and utilitarianism, into environmental contexts; and, also, a far more radical project involving the reappraisal of basic presuppositions of Western thought in the light of their implications for our relation to the natural world. The first two were basically extensions of existing areas of philosophy, and it is arguably the third project – often described as ’ecological philosophy’ or ’ecophilosophy’ – which constitutes a distinctively new branch of philosophy. It is to environmental philosophy in this third sense that the present entry is devoted.

Although the ecophilosophical project was explicitly normative in intent, it was quickly found to entail far-reaching investigations into the fundamental nature of the world. Indeed it was seen by many as entailing a search for an entirely new ecological paradigm – a worldview organized around a principle of interconnectedness, with transformative implications for metaphysics, epistemology, spirituality and politics, as well as ethics. Moreover, the process of elaborating a new ecological view of the world was found to uncover the contours of an already deeply embedded worldview, organized around a principle of separation or division, underlying and shaping the traditional streams of modern Western thought.

Citing this article:
Mathews, Freya. Ecological philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N017-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches



Related Articles