Philosophy and Environmental Ethics

Philosophy and Environmental Ethics

PHIL 332/SUST 332: Environmental Ethics Online (via Canvas) Course SDSU Fall 2021 Schedule # 22877/23737 This syllabus is intended to guide us through the semester. However, circumstances sometimes change and thus I reserve the right to change the syllabus as needed to ensure that we fulfill the objectives of the course. You will receive full and fair notification regarding any such changes. Professor: Dr. Peter Atterton Online (“Zoom”) Office Hours: by appointment Teaching Assistants: Noah Jerge Instructional Student Assistant Online (“Zoom”) Office Hours: by appointment Please note that this online course is no less time consuming than typical 3-unit face-to-face course at SDSU that meets in person on a regular basis. You will have to dedicate some time every day or at least every second day to your studies. A typical 3-unit face-to-face course involves approximately 3 hours of classroom meeting per week, plus at least 3 to 6 hours of study and homework per week. This course will require at least the same time commitment, but your learning activities will be spread out through the week. If you have any problems with your technology, or if you need to improve your reading or writing skills, it may take even longer. The material covered in this course is the same as that covered in a face-to-face PHIL 332/SUST 332 course. Course Prerequisites Online Learning Prerequisite: Enrollment in this course requires total computer-based online or distance learning preparedness; computer problems on your end are not an acceptable excuse for noncompletion of course work. Take SDSU’s “readiness survey” ( to see if online learning is right for you. If yes, then prepare your computer for the course as follows: • Sign up for a Canvas account/ For instructions, go to: 1 • • • • If you need to learn how to use Canvas, go to: Make sure that the email address Canvas has for you is one that you check daily. Turn off any “auto-updates” your computer may be running (to avoid a test being disrupted and lost). Formulate a backup plan for what you are going to do when/if your computer malfunctions. The instructor cannot provide IT support Remember: This is an online course. Information technology or IT challenges can and will come up. Be prepared to handle them. Please be assured that if and when problems occur on the SDSU end, you will not be penalized. However, when problems occur on your end, the story is different: You are responsible for your computing needs. When problems occur on your end, you must fix them. The instructor cannot provide IT support. IT problems that you experience do not constitute an acceptable excuse for non-completion of work. General Catalog Description Prerequisite: Completion of General Education requirement in Foundations of Learning II.C., Humanities. Development of traditional values concerning the natural environment. Reasons for altering values in light of modern changes in relationship of human beings to the environment. Application of ethical principles to actions affecting the environment. Course Description This course will examine different theories about the relationship of humans to their natural environment that have shaped current debates about environmental issues. Readings will be drawn from historically important moral theories as well as from contemporary philosophical writings in the area of environmental ethics. Philosophical questions addressed will include: Do non-humans (other animals, plants, etc.) have moral status? What things are intrinsically valuable? Is it morally acceptable knowingly to cause the extinction of a species for the convenience of humanity? Should we continue to clear cut forests for the sake of human consumption? Should we continue to propagate the human species? What moral obligations, if any, do we have to feed the world’s poor? What moral obligations, if any, do we have to future generations? Topics to be discussed include the following: ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ The Historical and Cultural Basis of the Current Environmental Crisis Non-Western Environmental Ethical Perspectives Ecofeminism Animal Welfare and Rights Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Value Anthropocentrism Non-Anthropocentric Ethics Deep Ecology Ecological Holism ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ 2 Preservation of Species and Nature Obligations to Future Generations Overconsumption of Resources Third World Environmental Perspectives Environmental Racism Population and World Hunger Vegetarianism Pollution Climate Change Economics and the Environment ∗ ∗ Capitalism and the Environment Ecosabotage and Civil Disobedience ∗ Sustainability GE Course Objectives This course fulfills the Humanities portion of the Explorations section of the General Education (GE) Requirements. Among the “seven essential capacities” that the GE program emphasizes, this course develops in the student the following in particular: 1. Construct, analyze, and communicate arguments. 2. Apply theoretical models to the real world. 3. Contextualize phenomena. 4. Negotiate differences. Among the “Goals” for GE Courses in the Humanities and Fine Arts, this course aims to fulfill three of them: Goal 1: Analyze written, visual, or performed texts in the humanities and fine arts with sensitivity to their diverse cultural contexts and historical moments. Goal 2: Argue from multiple perspectives about issues in the humanities that have personal and global relevance. Goal 3: Demonstrate the ability to approach complex problems and ask complex questions drawing upon knowledge of the humanities. Specific Learning Goals/Outcomes Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to: 1. Describe the nature of environmental ethics as a philosophical discipline (i.e., explain why questions concerning the environment raise questions having to do with ethics and political philosophy, metaphysics, our conception of what it means to be human, etc.). 2. Use the concepts, language, and major theories of the discipline to discuss environmental problems. 3. Explain major perspectives of environmental ethics (e.g., Judeo-Christian, Eastern, anthropocentric, ecofeminist, zoocentric, biocentric, and ecocentric). 4. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding representing appropriate breadth and depth in selected content areas of environmental ethics (e.g., climate change). 5. Explain different arguments used by ecologists, scientists, economists, and philosophers, and identify the validity/strength and shortcomings of these arguments by: a. Evaluating the quality of information, including differentiating empirical evidence from speculation, and the probable from the improbable. b. Evaluating popular media reports of environmental problems. c. Seeking and evaluating philosophical reasoning for environmental value judgments. 6. Apply philosophical concepts, theories, and language as these relate to the human-environment relation. 7. Distinguish between ethical and unethical behavior in all aspects of treatment of the environment. 8. Understand the various ways in which individuals contribute to environmental degradation and how individuals and governments can help to halt or reverse environmental degradation. 9. Gain an appreciation for the way in which the environment contributes to human flourishing. 10. Write and argue proficiently on philosophical matters relating to the environment. 11. Demonstrate these computer skills: a. Use basic word processing, email, and course management programs (e.g., Canvas) b. Search the World Wide Web for high quality information 3 c. Use proper etiquette and security safeguards when communicating through email Required Learning Resources • PHIL 332/SUST 332 Customized Reader o To obtain the text, send an email at and include the following:  Name:  Address:  Phone #:  Course: PHIL332/SUST332 o Price $65.00 (includes shipping if within the US) • NOTE: The initial course readings are accessible via Canvas while you obtain a copy of Customized Reader, so you do not get behind with the reading. Email All correspondence with the Instructor and/or TA will be through email. Periodically, I will be sending important announcements via Canvas. To ensure that you can receive them, please make sure that your email address within the system is correct. Some email systems block Canvas mailings as if they are spam. Either fix this in your spam filter, or get a SDSU email account. Note that when sending me email, you must include your last name and “PHIL 332” or “SUST 332” in the subject line. If an email is received during the week (Monday ‐ Thursday), a reply will normally be given within 24 hours. If an email is received in the afternoon on Friday or over the weekend, a reply may not be given until the following Monday. Email does sometimes go astray, so if you do not hear back from me in due time, please try again with a different heading (in case the original was mistakenly identified as spam). Please direct any questions you have concerning the tests to me or the TA personally. Do NOT send to the whole class. To disclose what is (or is not) on the test before all the students have completed it constitutes a serious breach of academic integrity. As it says below (“Precautionary Measures against Cheating”): “Online tests are equivalent to classroom tests.” Please treat them as such, which means not sharing information with other students about what is on the test before all the students have finished taking it. Anyone who violates this rule will face academic and possibly punitive (i.e., administrative) sanctions. Offensive Material and Spam The sending of unsolicited junk mail (SPAM) to fellow classmates or instructors in not allowed. Students may not post, transmit, promote, or distribute content that is racially, religiously, or ethnically offensive or is harmful, abusive, vulgar, sexually explicit, otherwise potentially offensive. Pre-recorded Lectures All class lectures are pre-recorded. The first 5 Lectures pertaining on Modules 1-2 are available by clicking Wk 1-2: Aug 24 – Sept 6 in Canvas. 4 Online (“ZOOM”) Office Hours ZOOM is for online office hours only (NOT lectures) and will be opened by appointment. ZOOM is “closed” throughout the rest of the week. If you’d like me to answer specific questions on the reading, you might wish to send good questions in advance. A “good” question is specific, thoughtful, and relevant. Something like “Please explain what is on the syllabus” is not. The online office hours are purely OPTIONAL. The purpose of this exercise is to identify any misunderstandings with the material and encourage active learning. If there are only a few of you in the ZOOM office hours, we might try using audio, so have a headset with a mic at the ready if you are planning to attend, which again is optional. I do not usually archive office hours as they often contain personal discussions with students about their grades. How to access your Zoom account: All SDSU students, faculty, and staff will have access to Zoom. To access Zoom, go to and sign in using your new SDSUID. You can also access Zoom from your smartphone by downloading the Zoom Video Conferencing app. In both the desktop and mobile application, click “Login with SSO” and select as your domain. Once logged in, you can schedule and join meetings via your web browser, Zoom desktop application, Zoom mobile app, or telephone. Resources and Getting Help: • For questions regarding your SDSUID/Zoom account creation, please contact the ETS Help Desk:; 619.594.5261 (M-F, 9am-4pm) • For more information on Zoom, including a variety of video tutorials, please visit the ITS Web Conferencing webpage: Students agree that by taking this course all required papers and summaries may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted summaries and papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. All papers (and all access to all Turnitin services, such as OriginalityCheck, GradeMark and PeerMark) must be submitted from within the Canvas environment. (Do not submit to Turnitin directly.) Click here for information how to do this: Digital Receipt After the submission has been completed (i.e., after clicking the “submit” button), a digital receipt is displayed in your browser window. A copy is also sent via e-mail. Save the receipt and the paper ID it contains, as this is proof—the only proof—of a completed submission. Note: You have the option of requesting, in writing, that your summaries and papers not be submitted to However, if you choose this option you will be required to provide documentation to substantiate that the papers are your original work and do not include any plagiarized material. Taking a Test 5 Although you may begin testing any time within the testing window, you will receive 75 minutes to complete the test once you have opened it, and tests must be completed in one sitting. The online tests are equivalent to classroom tests. They are not intended to be “open book” experiences: They do not include extra “lookup” time. You are not specifically barred from accessing notes you have taken or material you are responsible for having read, etc. But do not count on finding the right answers in your notes or online during the testing period; there simply will not be time for you to do so. As in the classroom, you should know the material prior to taking the test. All work submitted must be your own. To protect students from the possible temptation of cheating, test questions will be drawn from a pool and they will be randomized for every student to ensure that each test is unique. Note that the tests “force completion.” This only allows for a one-time entry into the exam. In other words, you must complete the test within 75 minutes after the initial launch of the exam. Also “backtracking” is prohibited. This means that users may not return to questions they have already answered. Unfortunately, these precautionary measures (time constraints, “forced completion,” no “backtracking”) are absolutely necessary to combat cheating. Ultimately, they are in your interests, though they may not appear to be at the time. Welcome to the world of online education! Crashed Tests This is an online course. Technology problems can and probably will arise. Now and then, they arise during testing. Tests sometimes “crash” if the system is overloaded. This sometimes happens very close to a deadline. If your test crashes, let me know right away through an email to Remember, although I can reset a crashed test for you, I do need ample notice to do so. If your test crashes and you do not notify me you will receive an F. To help yourself avoid the crash hassle, take your test early—take the day before the deadline if possible. Furthermore, although I may “reset” crashed tests for retaking, the decision to do so is at my discretion. The circumstances in which a given test crashes will be taken into account as I decide on the appropriate course of action. Missed Tests (make-ups) Missed tests (make-ups): Because tests are taken online and because your lowest test grade will be dropped, make-ups will only be permitted in the direst of unexpected and unanticipatable circumstances (e.g., hospitalization, alien abduction), provided that appropriate and legitimate documentation has been supplied. In other words, take all of your tests when they are due. Accommodations for religious observances must be cleared at least two weeks prior to the holiday in question, as per SDSU’s religious observance policy. Grades 1. 2. 3. 4. Syllabus Quiz Summary Thesis-Driven Essay 6 Tests (drop lowest score) Total 1% 15% 34% 50% (= 5 x 10%) 100% 6 Although every student willing to engage her- or himself should do well, this is an upper division G.E. course and so it does not offer an “easy A.” In keeping with university standards, please be aware that the university considers a C- (C minus) as a NC (no credit) or failing grade. All graded work, including tests, must be submitted on time to count toward your grade. Times as stated refer to San Diego or Pacific Standard Time. This is the time standard used by Canvas internal clock. Late submissions will not be accepted. All missing or late work will be counted as an F (i.e., zero points). Tests, in addition to being submitted on time, must be completed within the allotted time. A timer will show up in Canvas when you start your test, and your test is time-stamped when it is finally submitted. Canvas will automatically submit your test after the time allotted so it’s up to you to pay attention to the timer. NOTE: Grade will not be available until everybody has taken the test. Please check Canvas a few hours after the test has closed to see your score. Components of final grade: 1. Syllabus Quiz (1%). Because of the online nature of this course, it is absolutely imperative that you understand and know the content of the course, what is required of you, and various manners in which you will be assessed. To this end, you will be given a “low-stakes” (1%) test on the information found in the syllabus available from noon Monday, August 23 to noon Tuesday, August 24 (24hrs). This test on the content contained in the syllabus will also constitute a pilot trial to enable you to have experience of taking a test online. It contains 50 questions to give you some idea of how long a regular test takes; you have 75 minutes to complete it. 2. Summary (15%). Getting into the habit of writing summaries is one of the best ways to become better at understanding, interpreting, and evaluating texts. Just because your work is not graded does not mean that the work was fruitless; on the contrary; it is good practice and will help you learn the material better, as well as help further develop your written and comprehension skills. Remember this is an upper division GE class! Your summary MUST be exactly one-page in length, typed, single spaced, with one-inch margins, using Times Roman 12pt font. It must not contain any quotations; you must use your own words always. A rubric is available under “Summaries” in Canvas. A model summary is also available. NOTE THAT EACH SUMMARY IS ON A SINGLE ARTICLE OR READING TAKEN FROM A MODULE (NOT ON THE WHOLE MODULE). For summary 1, e.g., a good article to summarize would be White’s article, or Dobel’s, or Moncrief’s, or Warren’s. Again, do not summarize the whole module; pick one only. Also, please read the rubric in Canvas before writing your summary. It can be found under Module “Summaries.” YOU ONLY HAVE TO SUBMIT ONE SUMMARY (NOT ALL FOUR). 7 Note that due to the large number of students taking this class the submission of submission of summaries will be staggered by alphabetical order of last name. We will keep to the following schedule: LAST NAME A-D (Group 1) E-L (Group 2) M-R (Group 3) S-Z (Group 4) SUMMARY Summary on a Chapter from Module 02 Summary on a Chapter from Modules 03-04 Summary on a Chapter from Modules 05-08 Summary on a Chapter from Modules 09-12 DUE DATE Noon Monday September 6 to Noon Monday September 27 to Noon Monday October 25 to Noon Monday November 22 to 3. Thesis-driven Essay (34%). Each student will write a 1…


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