Reading Group: Environmental Virtue Ethics II, Environmental Virtues

Leo Catana and CApE invite all interested parties to join us in exploring the responses to the ecological crisis from the perspectives of modern environmental virtue ethics. We will be offering two preliminary sessions focused on land ethics and environmental virtues, leading up to a one-day workshop. This final workshop will be held at the end of March or beginning of April (TBA), and it aims at exploring and discussing the practical applications of environmental virtue ethics regarding the fostering of environmental virtues through education and cultural practices. All preliminary sessions will be hosted by the Center for Applied Ecological Thinking, Læderstræde 20, 1201 København K., where we will be offering coffee, beers (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and crisps/snacks at the end of each session.

Environmental Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics claims that the formation of character traits is central to human behaviour. Virtue ethics was originally developed in Greek antiquity, notably by Aristotle, but it has been revived as a normative theory by modern ethicists since the 1980s. Over the last two decades, it has been put to use by environmental ethicists, who have asked, which character traits are climate-friendly, e.g. care, curiosity, etc. We shall read a text that opens up this use of virtue ethics, namely Philip Cafaro, ‘The Virtues of the Naturalist’: Philosophy in the Contemporary World 8.2 (2001), pp. 85-99. For Cafaro’s text, please email Lars Thomas Emil Johansson.

For those who wish to go deeper into this field, please see Environmental Ethics, eds Ronald Sandler and Philip Cafaro. New York and Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

The reading group is directed by associate professor Leo Catana, Section of Philosophy, UCPH. Please read Fremtidens klimaløsninger: Glem ikke humanisterne og teologerne for an introduction to environmental virtue ethics in Danish. Please read Envrionmental Ethics for a broad introduction in English to contemporary environmental ethics.

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Related events

Reading Group: Environmental Virtue Ethics I, Environmental Virtues
Thursday 16 February 2023 15:00 – 17:00

Workshop seminar: Environmental Virtue Ethics III, Pedagogy and environmental virtues
End of March or beginning of April, 2023

Modern environmental ethics is crucial for the global response to ecological crises and demands attention of researchers, decision-makers, students, and stakeholders – all of whom we welcome to join this reading group. At the same time, environmental ethics is a vast field with an abundance of debates that cannot easily be reduced one single and over-arching discourse. These debates pursue different and sometimes complementary strategies in the green transition. Some debates focus on structural issues located at the national, regional or global level — for instance, the on-going debate about global climate justice. Other debates focus on issues keyed to individuals: Given that several problems in the ecological crisis are caused by the choices and actions made by individuals, it is important to the solution of the crisis that future choices and actions of individuals change. In other words, we need to change. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive, but it is probably fair to say that the former is much better known in Scandinavian debates about green transition than the latter, even though the latter is highly relevant. In this open reading group, we read a series of texts belonging to this latter group.

Virtue ethics was first developed in ancient Greek philosophy, notably by Aristotle. Over the last decades, it has been revived as an ethical theory that regards character traits, or virtues, as central to the ethical value of the choices and actions made by individuals. Examples of character traits are care and curiosity. This theory also holds that character traits can change over time, because they are formed by habituation, which is changeable. Environmental virtue ethics adopts this theory to the environment by asking: Which character traits are climate-friendly? Which of our daily practices support climate-friendly character traits through habituation? How can we become motivated to act in a climate-friendly manner? Environmental virtue ethics has emerged as an important ethical theory in the US and Canada over the past fifteen years but it has not yet enjoyed much attention in Scandinavia. We read texts by authors that have been instrumental to environmental virtue ethics, namely Aldo Leopold, Philip Cafaro and Ronald Sandler, and we end by reading a text that applies environmental virtue ethics on pedagogy. Among the strengths of environmental virtue ethics one can mention that it is keyed to practices of ordinary human beings in a variety of settings (urban landscapes; food production and consumption; pedagogy etc.), and that it offers a human-centered framework and language that is missing in the current discourse about green transition, which is dominated technological and legislative language. The hope is that people from different scientifical fields and different practical contexts will join the group.