Department of Political and Economic Studies (Social and Moral Philosophy Discipline), Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.
990-1490 EUR Learn more
This course is designed for students who are interested in environmental and ethical issues. It is recommended for undergraduate students of philosophy, social sciences, sociology, environmental studies, politics and economics. Students from other disciplines are also welcomed. Previous studies in Philosophy and/or Ethics are helpful but are not required.
This course is an introduction to environmental ethics as a philosophical discipline helpful to analysing environmental case studies. It aims to raise awareness about the fundamental and ethical role of the natural environment in our lives. The theoretical part of the course introduces philosophical ethical theories and concepts, while a more practical section presents real case studies and ethical notions from different viewpoints.
Why is ethics important in the modern world and why should ethics be part of policy-making processes? In an attempt to answer such questions, this course will discuss ethical concepts – such as intrinsic and instrumental value, anthropocentrism, ecocentrism, and concern for future generations – together with different types of Environmental Ethics theories – including Deep Ecology, Utilitarianism, Gaia Theory, Aristotelian Virtue Ethics, Deontological Ethics, Ecofeminism, Land Ethics and Animal Rights.
The applicability of different ethical theories will be tested in light of selected case studies about natural disasters and environmental accidents, such as the North Dakota oil pipeline construction (2016–2017) near Indigenous lands; hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking” in the United States; the unfair polluting policy of TEXACO (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorian Amazon; the Water Wars in Bolivia, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; the incredibly rich natural environment and the indigenous populations of the Barents Region; and many others.
Concepts such as scientific and aesthetics appreciation of natural environments from the field of Environmental Aesthetics will be also presented in class.
This course attempts to give students the analytical apparatus to critically analyse the role played by the natural environment in the life of humans and other living species. The course familiarises the students with basic concepts and theories of Environmental Ethics, fostering an understanding on how human factors weigh and carry responsibility for environmental problems.
The students will be trained to see different perspectives, to apply moral theories and draw ethical conclusions from real-life cases in recent news. This enables the students to confront their views in class debates, to better understand themselves, classmates and future work colleagues as citizens of the same world. The course is also designed to train the students’ skills in discussions, argumentation, group work and presentations.
Lectures, in-class group work, screening of scenes from documentary movies and discussions will take place during the class. Small group tasks (in class and at home) are designed to acquaint the students with ethical concepts and theories, and to train them to apply those theories to natural disasters and environmental case studies.
Student work is evaluated on a scale 0–5 and will be the outcome of different assignments:
1) Presentation in class: 15 min. presentation + 10 min. discussion (35%)
2) Several individual and group assignments during the course (40%)
3) Individual applied project (15%)
4) Attendance and active participation in class (10%)
There is no final exam. The students will be evaluated during the whole course based on their presence and active participation in class, home tasks, Individual applied project and final presentation. There will be homework every day after the lectures.
More instructions will be given during the first class.
Grading scale: 5 = excellent; 4 = very good; 3 = good; 2 = satisfactory; 1 = poor; 0 = fail.
Assessment criteria (5 excellent):
The student has to attend all the lectures and demonstrate an active involvement in the topics and in class discussion so that her/his inputs will enhance the overall value of the class discussions. The student will meet these requirements and deadlines with excellent results and show a great understanding of the contents of the course.
Assessment criteria (4 very good; 3 good):
The student has to attend all the lectures or be present at least 95% of the time and s/he will participate actively in class discussion. The student will meet the requirements and deadlines with excellent results and show a good level of understanding of the contents of the course.
Assessment criteria (2 satisfactory; 1 poor):
The student has to attend all the lectures or be present at least 90% of the time. The student will meet the requirements and hopefully the deadlines, too. S/he will show a satisfactory level of understanding of the contents of the course.
Assessment criteria (0, failed):
The student does not attend the classes at all, nor does s/he deliver and fulfill the requirements at an understandable and sufficient level.
Location: City Centre Campus
Monday 6.8.2018 Registration begins
Tuesday 7.8.2018 Registration continues, HSS Opening Ceremony
Wednesday 8.8.2018 Courses begin
Course Schedule (pdf)