Environmental Alchemy: How to Turn Ecological Science into Ecological Philosophy

Environmental Ethics 26 (4):361-380 (2004)


Ecological science has been viewed by some philosophers as a foundational resource for the development of metaphysical, epistemological and normative views concerning humanity’s relationship with the natural environment, or what might be called an “ecological philosophy.” Analysis of three attempts to infer philosophical conclusions from ecological science shows that there are serious obstacles facing any attempt to derive unique philosophical consequences from ecological science and the project of developing an ecological philosophy relevant to human-environment relations is seriously hindered by a reliance on traditional ecological science that focuses on relations between nonhuman organisms and their environments. However, the search for an ecological philosophy is not inherently misguided because although ecological science may never support a unique philosophical interpretation of ecological theory, empirical evidence can function to narrow the range of possible interpretations, which is a significant epistemic achievement; and because there are several non-traditional branches of ecological science that focus on human-environment relations and that consequently may be better suited to function as conceptual resources for the sorts of problems that concern environmental philosophers.

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