Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Forest and Conservation Science

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Bill Borrie

Commitee Members

Brian Chaffin, Dave Patterson, Katrina Mullan, Alan Watson


conservation social science, interdisciplinary, national forest planning and management, pragmatist philosophy, public engagement, Q-methodology


University of Montana


I propose pragmatist philosophy as a companion for ecological economics, a research tradition with a focus on addressing sustainability issues and integrating ecological principles, economics, and the broader social sciences. Ecological economics laudable goals include balancing competing values, tradeoffs, and insights for more equitable decision-making. However, the field is built upon somewhat tenuous philosophical and theoretical foundations, which has resulted in a muddled body of literature, concerns about relativistic science, and questions about the future viability of the field. To address such concerns, I propose and articulate pragmatist ecological economics. Generally, joining pragmatism and ecological economics provides established beliefs about: the nature of reality with a contextual ontology; the way we learn via Dewey’s experience model; the way to assess knowledge based upon deliberative democracy and ‘wary assessment’ and; a clear purpose to communicate, understand, and facilitate social learning about the human-nature relationship. Specific recommendations include a core subject matter (a comprehensive understanding of human-nature relationships), integration of normative sustainability, and a focus on better processes and methods that synthesize across big ideas (e.g., relationship to place research, ecosystem services). I stress that all approaches to understanding the human-nature relationship provide different, partial understandings. Consequently, I demonstrate a ‘research menu’ framework by weighing into a methodological debate between Q- and R-methodology. Finally, I propose that a social-ecological systems perspective and a pragmatist ecological economics are compatible, as the former can help the latter better achieve its applied goals by orienting the understanding of the human-nature relationships within the larger system.



© Copyright 2019 Christopher Aden Armatas