Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Albert Borgmann

Commitee Members

Deborah Slicer, Sara Rinfret


wilderness, wildness, epistemic wildness, environmental ethics, rewilding, dilemma of wilderness management


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies | Epistemology | Ethics and Political Philosophy


The traditional concept of wilderness was a product of the time out of which it came. Times have changed. The social context of conservation, how humans affect nature, and scientific understanding of how ecosystems function have all shifted in ways that make the wilderness idea problematic. The values that people found in wilderness are still relevant, however. It is the way that they are tied together in the concept of wilderness that has become a problem.

I propose a revised concept of wilderness that meets the concerns of critics of wilderness, and accounts for the tension between the wild and the pristine, by making wildness the sole necessary feature of wilderness.

Part of the justification of this reconception comes from what I call "epistemic wildness." While we normally think of wildness in terms of things that exceed our control, things are also wild in how they exceed our representations of them. Much of the value of wilderness, especially in meeting contemporary environmental concerns, comes from its epistemic wildness.



© Copyright 2015 John T. Stanfield