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Philosophy Colloquium: "Environmental Ethics and the Anthropocene"


Bemis Hall
920 N. Cascade Ave. (west of Cutler Hall) (map)



The final Colloquium Series lecture will be delivered by the philosophy department's own Marion Hourdequin.  A specialist in environmental ethics, comparative (Chinese and Western) philosophy, and the philosophy of biology, Professor Hourdequin will address the topic of  “Environmental Ethics and the Anthropocene.” 

In recent years, some have argued that human-induced climate change marks a radical shift in our relationship to the natural world and the advent of a new era, the Anthropocene.  This new “human age” is one in which we – Homo sapiens – are the dominant driving force on Earth. Many of the Anthropocene’s strongest boosters argue that we must now acknowledge and embrace the control we now exert over our home planet.  On this view, adapting to climate change is not just a matter of building sea walls or developing drought-resistant crops. It is, instead, a matter of repositioning ourselves in relation to nature, letting go of the nostalgic idea that nature knows best, or that the past can serve as an ethical guide to the future.  Against this view, I argue for the moral relevance of the past and its legacy, or “the world as we find it.”  I suggest that by understanding why we value the world as we find it, including the social world, we can better understand the value of key aspects of the natural world. This, in turn, can help us identify more clearly how our responses to a changing climate can take account of values grounded in the present and past, even as we face rapid future change.

Professor Hourdequin is a graduate of Princeton University, with masters degrees in biology and philosophy from the University of Montana, and a doctorate in philosophy from Duke University. She has published many articles and book chapters on topics such as "Empathy, Shared Intentionality, and Motivation by Moral Reasons," "Evolutionary Approaches to Ethics,” and "Engagement, Withdrawal, and Social Reform: Confucian and Contemporary Perspectives.” Her current projects include work on the relationship between collective action problems such as climate change and individual moral obligation, moral learning and moral motivation, the roles of care and empathy as moral guides in contemporary and classical ethical theories, and the ethics of ecological restoration.  

Philosophy Colloquium: "Environmental Ethics and the Anthropocene"
Marion Hourdequin
  • Open to Public: Yes
  • Admission Fee: Free
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