History and Philosophy Of Science | Remaking the World: Historical & Philosophical Reflections on Sustainability and Change
X100 | 19390 | Stephen Friesen


This course is about the role science and philosophical reflection
play in remaking – what Charles Darwin called – the “face of
nature.” The previous century has seen an unprecedented scale of
human-caused environmental change. Increasingly we have also
witnessed our species’ own heightened sense of reflection and
criticism toward the character and degree of our interaction with
the environment. Reflections and criticisms from the humanities have
professionalized as branches of environmental philosophy,
environmental ethics/policy, etc. In the sciences, ecologists have
attempted to look for solutions to environmental problems through
the lens of theoretical ecology. This latter reaction to the
environmental “crisis” is the subject of our course, though we will
see it is intimately linked with approaches in the humanities. One
might be tempted to think that the science of ecology could provide
the firm basis on which to reconstruct disturbed or destroyed
natural places. Instead what one discovers about the applied science
of ecology is that it is laced with intersecting scientific,
mathematical, social, ethical, and aesthetic goals and judgments.
Science and the humanities are inextricably entangled in both the
representation of “environmental problems,” and in the means for
solving them. For instance, scientific ideals of wilderness
preservation and ecological applications in conservation are not
disconnected from various aesthetic assumptions (e.g. “healthy
ecosystems,” nature as “red tooth and claw”). Ultimately this course
provides a way of thinking about the past, present and future of
applied ecology: how will we reconcile our environmental goals and
activities with our representations of ecological stability and
evolutionary change?

Required Texts: None. Articles and book chapters will be made
available on oncourse.