The curriculum here at Colby in both Environmental Philosophy and Continental Philosophy goes beyond the typical offerings at four-year liberal arts colleges. Some of the courses included in it are listed below.
The Environmental Philosophy courses I teach span content areas and cover several of its aspects for both beginning and advanced students. They form a core part of our Environmental Humanities initiative here at Colby. At the 100-level I teach a course that was formerly part of the Integrated Studies Program’s “Green Cluster” (PL126), which now serves as an introduction to philosophy through the lens of environmentalism and environmental philosophy. At the 200-level, I teach Environmental Ethics (PL243), which expands on the ethical, political, and humanistic dimensions of human relations to the natural world. I also teach Philosophy of Nature (PL216), which provides a more extensive consideration of theories of the natural world from Aristotle to contemporary ecology, and ends by considering the natural-social situatedness of knowledge producers in society. Finally, I also offer Radical Ecologies (PL328), which examines some of the more comprehensive environmental philosophical positions, including their ontological and ethico-political components.
Philosophy and the Environment (PL126)
An introduction to philosophy through prominent questions and themes in environmental philosophy. Topics include the historical context and causes of environmental crisis, anthropocentrism, animal rights, intrinsic value, biocentrism, ecocentrism, and radical social theories, incorporating core philosophical issues in ethics, philosophical anthropology, and nature philosophy. These provide resources for clear and creative reasoning on the philosophical aspects of creating sustainable communities, for reflection on value priorities, and for exploration of relationships between academic work and social responsibility.
Philosophy of Nature (PL216)
Ancient philosophers contemplated the natural world, modern philosophers and scientists sought to instrumentalize it, and recent thinkers are gaining an appreciation of nature’s often unruly complexity. As they consider varied historical and current accounts of nature, students will also engage with the questions how, by whom, and under what conditions knowledge of nature is produced, providing opportunities to question their own fundamental beliefs about nature. Readings range from Aristotle to current philosophy, history, and social studies of the sciences.
Environmental Ethics (PL243)
Aims to familiarize students with the many philosophical approaches that have been developed over the past few decades in response to the environmental crisis. It covers not only classical issues such as anthropocentrism and the intrinsic value of nature, but also supplies the conceptual tools needed to tackle the complex ethical, political, cultural, scientific, and practical dimensions of human relations to more-than-human nature. Special attention will be devoted to the topics of nonhuman animals, food, energy, and climate change.
Radical Ecologies (PL328)
Radical ecologies interrogate our everyday, scientific, and metaphysical conceptions of nature, they emphasize that environmental problems in human-to-nature relations originate in human-to-human relations (e.g., gender, class, and racerelations), and they call for comprehensive social and cultural changes through their critiques of existing social forms. They critically explore the historical, cultural, ethical, political, economic, and technological aspects of the place of the human in nature. Readings from anarchist social ecology, deep ecology, ecofeminism, and ecosocialism.
The Continental Philosophy courses provide both more traditional surveys of the field as well as some innovative engagement with two specific content areas: ethics and realism. At the 200 level, I offer Freedom, Resentment, and the Other (formerly Ethics on the Continent: From Kant to Levinas) (PL240), and at the 300 level Being, Difference, and Power (formerly Contemporary Continental Philosophy) (PL378). Students can continue on to a deeper engagement with feminist, axiological, and liberation ethical theories in my Material Ethics (PL380B) course, and can explore in-depth the turn toward realism by a number of more recent contemporary authors in Recent Continental Realisms (PL380A).
Freedom, Resentment, and the Other (PL240)
What is moral freedom? Does a smoldering resentment fuel the dominant discourse of justice? How does the Other person present resistance to my own freedom? Answers have been provided by some of the most influential European ethical theories and metaethical discourse. Students will engage with Kantian deontological moral theory, Nietzsche’s critique of “slave morality,” phenomenological value ethics, existentialist, dialogical, feminist, and discourse ethics, among others. Examination of these alternatives provides students ample opportunity to reflect on their own moral commitments in an informed way.
Being, Difference, and Power (PL378)
From the early 20th century, European philosophers produced provocative and influential theories that continue to shape the intellectual landscape of the humanities and social sciences to this day. The interrogation of being and existence, meditations on difference and identity, and the theorization of power and domination distinguish much of this work. Movements and schools of thought covered in the course include phenomenology, existentialism, French empiricism, critical theory, feminism, poststructuralism, science studies, and recent realisms.
Recent Continental Realisms (PL380A)
In recent years, a group of philosophers has thrown the widespread dogma of “social construction” into question. Is the world really nothing but a social construction? Does humankind really play such a significant role in the constitution of the world through its consciousness, subjectivity, language games, discourse, praxis, being-in-the-world, or embodiment? Students will explore some very recent work by a handful of philosophers who argue that in order for philosophy to be rescued from its condition of being unable to respond to current world problems, it has to return to some form of realism.
Material Ethics (PL380B)
Formal ethics claim that rule-following, good intentions, or universal principles and procedures are at the core of the moral life. Material ethics explore the domains of content that are overlooked when attention is focused solely on these formal aspects, such as the role of the emotions and embodiment in ethical relations, the satisfaction of basic human needs, the plurality of value experiences and value priorities, and ethical responses to the concrete structural nature of social oppression. This course will engage students with often-neglected minority traditions in philosophical ethics, including feminist ethics, value theory, and the ethics of liberation.
Feel free to contact me at krpeters [at] colby.edu for more information about the form and content of any of these courses.