Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Christopher Preston

Commitee Members

Albert Borgmann, David Moore, Deborah Slicer


science, eco-phenomenology, environmental philosophy


University of Montana


A review of the literature in environmental philosophy reveals a certain tension between what we might call science-based and experience-based approaches to environmental ethics. The main trend of thought here follows seminal figures like Aldo Leopold and Holmes Rolston III by generally looking to the sciences for disclosing value in nature, particularly ecology and evolutionary biology. However others, such as David Abram and Jack Turner, worry that scientifically disclosed nature is in itself too distancing, objectifying, and abstract to engender any real care for nature and instead emphasize direct, embodied experience with actual wild places, hence the label “eco-phenomenology.” The former “top-down” approach starts with the mind, knowledge, and scientific concepts while the latter “bottom-up” approach starts with the body and its immediate sensory participation with concrete nature. Although I make several points on the virtues and shortcomings of both approaches my general suggestion is this: a science-based and experience-based environmental ethic are not competing but are complementary and mutually enriching, that is, the two can and should be put together. Both camps fail to see that a scientific or phenomenological perspective is by itself inherently limited and incomplete, only disclosing part of nature and thereby missing its full importance. I show how an integrated approach is able to overcome such limitations by disclosing “whole-nature.”



© Copyright 2013 Bartholomew Patrick Walsh