PLEASE NOTE! This course was held in 2015, new courses will be arranged in 2017
This course is designed for students who are interested in environmental and ethical issues. It is recommended for undergraduate students of philosophy, social sciences, sociology, environmental studies, politics and economics. Previous studies in Philosophy and/or Ethics may be helpful but are not required.
This course is an introduction to environmental ethics as a philosophical discipline helpful to analysing environmental case studies. It aims to raise awareness about the fundamental and ethical role of the natural environment in human life. The theoretical part of the course introduces ethical theories and concepts, while a more practical section presents real case studies and ethical notions from different viewpoints.
Why is ethics important in the modern world and why should ethics be part of policy-making processes? In an attempt to answer such questions, this course will discuss ethical concepts – such as intrinsic and instrumental value, anthropocentrism and ecocentrism, and concern for future generations – together with different types of Environmental Ethics theories – such as Deep Ecology, Ecofeminism, Land Ethics, Utilitarianism, Gaia Theory and Animal Rights. The applicability of different ethical theories will be tested in light of selected case studies about natural disasters and environmental accidents, including the catastrophic failure at the Fukushima nuclear power plant on 11 March 2011 in Japan; hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking”; the unfair polluting policy of TEXACO (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorian Amazon and many others.
Tools and concepts which do not primarily belong to the ethical field such as the Free Rider, the Tragedy of the Commons, homo economicus and the Comedy of the Commons will be presented as helpful instruments for ethical deliberations.
This course attempts to give students the analytical apparatus to critically analyse the role played by the natural environment in the life of humans and other living species. The course familiarises the students with basic concepts and theories of Environmental Ethics, fostering an understanding on how human factors weigh and carry responsibility for environmental problems. The students will be trained to see different perspectives, to apply moral theories and draw ethical conclusions from real-life cases in recent news. This enables the students to confront their views in class debates, to better understand themselves and colleagues, and to improve their skills of discussion, argumentation, group work and presentation.
Course format and teaching methods
Lectures, group work, screening of scenes from documentary films and discussions will take place during the class. Small group tasks are designed to acquaint the students with ethical concepts and theories, and apply them to natural disasters and environmental case studies.
Teachers and lecturers
The course is led by Corinna Casi, PhD student in Environmental Ethics, Department of Political and Economic Studies (Social and Moral Philosophy), Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.
Corinna Casi graduated with a Master’s thesis in Moral Philosophy at the University of Bologna, Italy. She is currently living in Finland and working on her doctoral research at the University of Helsinki, focusing on Applied Ethics and environmental non-economic value. In 2013, she was visiting lecturer in Reykjavik where she taught a course on Applied Ethics at the University of Iceland. In 2014 she was visiting lecturer at the University of Latvia in Riga. She is also teaching Environmental Ethics at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Finland
Means and criteria of assessment
The student’s work is evaluated on a scale 0–5 and will be the outcome of different assignments:
- 1) Presentation in class: 15 min. presentation + 10 min. discussion (35%)
- 2) Several individual and group assignments during the course (40%)
- 3) Personal applied project (15%)
- 4) Attendance and active participation in class (10%)
More instructions will be given during the first class.
Grading scale: 5 = excellent 4 = very good 3 = good 2 = average 1 = poor 0 = fail.
This school offers programs in:
Last updated January 22, 2016