The changing climate brings with it a huge number of ethical questions. Our course will apply to the tools of philosophy in order to begin to approach some of these questions. We’ll divide these moral quandaries into two camps: issues of justice and issues of goodness. To approach the issues of goodness and questions surrounding how to do the most good within a transforming ecosystem, we’ll read John Broome’s “Climate Matters”. Through this text, we’ll zoom in on questions related to how to value future generations, the moral worth of other species, and how to make moral valuations in the face of uncertainty. We’ll also discuss the advantages and limits of a utilitarian value system as it applies to climate change.
We’ll then transition to contemplating justice through reading selections from Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”. Here, we’ll zoom in on the realities of climate change and why the problem has proven so hard to address. We’ll examine what duties we have as humans given our contributions to climate change. We’ll also consider the relationship between the developed and developing worlds given inequality in both emissions and consequences related to climate change. Through this analysis, we’ll get a sense of how philosophers deal with issues of justice, discussing different philosophical traditions as we progress.
We’ll conclude the class by crafting a brief argumentative essay using the tools that we’ll practice throughout the summer. Based in the style of a college philosophy essay, this assignment will be a way for students to formulate their own views related to climate ethics and practice expressing these ideas.