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- The Beauty of Nature As a Foundation for Environmental Ethics: China and the West
- My dissertation aims at constructing an environmental ethics theory based on environmental aesthetics in order to advocate and promote environmentally sustainable practices, policies, and lifestyles. I attempt to construct an integrated environmental aesthetics in order to inspire people’s feelings of love towards nature and motivate them to protect it. In order to achieve this goal, I first examine the philosophical understanding and aesthetic appreciation of nature from philosophical traditions of China, which have an impact on the general public’s attitude towards nature. in chapter one of my dissertation, I point out that nature is viewed as an organic system which is always in a self-generating process of production and reproduction of life. the metaphysical foundation for this perspective of nature is ch’i. Therefore the aesthetic appreciation of nature in China is also the aesthetic appreciation of ch’i. with regard to the concept of ch’i, I focus on the following three questions: (1) what are the objective and aesthetic features of ch’i? (2) How do the Chinese appreciate aesthetic features of ch’i? (3) Why the objective features of ch’i are regarded as the objects of aesthetic appreciation? I argue that the Chinese appreciate the aesthetic features of ch’i by using intellectual intuition and that empathy is the reason why the objective features of ch’i are considered to be aesthetic features. in Chapter 2, I explain in detail the two aesthetic categories for aesthetic appreciation of nature in two major philosophical schools in China: emptiness and creativity. in Chapter 3, I examine the philosophical foundations for aesthetic appreciation of nature in the West. I first investigate the influence of traditional Western philosophy on the perceptions of nature. I argue that traditional Western philosophical thinking doesn’t support aesthetic appreciation of nature. I point out that aesthetic appreciation of nature started from eighteenth century in the West. I examine Kant’s aesthetic categories of beauty and sublime in his appreciation of nature. in contemporary world, I focus on the Allen Carlson’s positive aesthetics and Arnold Berleant’s engagement model to appreciate the beauty of environment. in Chapter 4, I evaluate the theories of aesthetic appreciation of nature in the West and China and attempt to construct an integrated theory of aesthetic appreciation of nature. the key point of this theory is to establish a caring relationship with nature based on aesthetic appreciation of nature and active participation in the beauty of it. This relationship will motivate people to protect nature and also contribute to human happiness.
- Biodiversity Loss, the Motivation Problem, and the Future of Conservation Education in the United States
- The purpose of this dissertation is to make sense of two sets of reactions. On the one hand, Americans can barely lift a finger to help threatened and endangered species while on the other, they routinely come to the aid of human victims of disaster. I argue that in contrast to cases of human tragedy, for the biodiversity crisis conservationists are faced not only with the familiar yet arduous task of motivating the American public to care for living other-than-humans, but they are also saddled with having to overcome the motivation problem of future ethics. The motivation problem consists in eliminating or bridging a motivational gap that lies between knowledge of the effects of our actions on future generations and action taken based upon such knowledge. The gap exists because motives that typically move people to action are either ineffective or unavailable. What is more, the gap influences not only our ability to care for future humans, but it affects our ability to care for future other-than-humans as well. Biodiversity loss is in fact a subset of the problem of future generations, an identification hitherto little appreciated. I argue that conservationists can overcome the motivational gap not by appealing directly to the value of species or biodiversity, both of which are temporally distant, abstract and general moral patients, but indirectly, by focusing on the concrete and particular lives of extant and near future moral patients. By applying techniques that have been developed to overcome the motivation problem as it pertains to distant future human generations, conservationists have additional resources to draw upon in their efforts to motivate American citizens to preserve biodiversity. This dissertation’s contribution to the fields of environmental philosophy and conservation biology is both theoretical and practical. It is theoretically significant to elucidate the nature of moral failure for biodiversity conservation. In terms of broader impacts, identifying the basis of moral failure for biodiversity conservation allows me to assess educational campaigns and environmental policy, and to suggest solutions for bridging the motivational gap.
- The Character of Environmental Citizenship: Virtue Education for Raising Morally Responsible Individuals
- Surely, moral education is not merely intended to result in theoretical knowledge, but instead attempts to change people's behavior. However, when examining and evaluating current trends in moral education, it appears that hitherto moral education has fallen short of its goal to make people better. In this paper, I try to determine what has caused this perceived failure of moral education and conclude that approaches that focus on teaching moral reasoning skills rather than on teaching actual moral content, i.e., values and virtues, are generally ineffective for moral improvement. However, a more traditional form of moral education, namely character education, appears to be a viable alternative to the moral reasoning methods. Since character education can be regarded as the practical application of virtue ethics, I first describe and evaluate virtue ethics and defend it against potential criticisms. I then examine what methods are effective for teaching virtues, and how such methods can potentially be incorporated into the curriculum. Since virtues cannot be taught through theoretical instruction, the acquisition of good habits constitutes the necessary foundation for the establishment of good moral character. Some methods that have been suggested for laying the foundation for virtue are the use of stories, role play, as well as the inclusion of physical and outdoor activities, etc. Furthermore, habituation constitutes the basis for the acquisition of good habits, and as such it requires the application of rewards and punishment by a caring tutor, who at the same time can serve as a role model for virtuous behavior. Finally, I extrapolate if and how character education can be employed to make people more environmentally conscious citizens. I conclude that environmental virtue or character education is the most effective method of environmental education, since it affects how an individual understands, views, and subsequently interacts with the natural environment.
- A comparison of five robust regression methods with ordinary least squares: relative efficiency, bias and test of the null hypothesis
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A Monte Carlo simulation was used to generate data for a comparison of five robust regression estimation methods with ordinary least squares (OLS) under 36 different outlier data configurations. Two of the robust estimators, Least Absolute Value (LAV) estimation and MM estimation, are commercially available. Three authormodified variations on MM were also included (MM1, MM2, and MM3). Design parameters that were varied include sample size (n=60 and n=180), number of independent predictor variables (2, 3 and 6), outlier density (0%, 5% and 15%) and outlier location (2x,2y s, 8x8y s, 4x,8y s and 8x,4y s). Criteria on which the regression methods were measured are relative efficiency, bias and a test of the null hypothesis. Results indicated that MM2 was the best performing robust estimator on relative efficiency. The best performing estimator on bias was MM1. The best performing regression method on the test of the null hypothesis was MM2. Overall, the MM-type robust regression methods outperformed OLS and LAV on relative efficiency, bias, and the test of the null hypothesis.
- Disturbing Nature's Beauty: Environmental Aesthetics in a New Ecological Paradigm
- An ecological paradigm shift from the "balance of nature" to the "flux of nature" will change the way we aesthetically appreciate nature if we adopt scientific cognitivism-the view that aesthetic appreciation of nature must be informed by scientific knowledge. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, though we talk about aesthetic qualities as if they were objectively inherent in objects, events, or environments. Aesthetic judgments regarding nature are correct insofar as they are part of a community consensus regarding the currently dominant scientific paradigm. Ecological science is grounded in metaphors: nature is a divine order, a machine, an organism, a community, or a cybernetic system. These metaphors stimulate and guide scientific practice, but do not exist independent of a conceptual framework. They are at most useful fictions in terms of how they reflect the values underlying a paradigm. Contemporary ecology is a science driven more by aesthetic than metaphysical considerations. I review concepts in the history of nature aesthetics such as the picturesque, the sublime, disinterestedness, and formalism. I propose an analogy: just as knowledge of art history and theory should inform aesthetic appreciation of art, knowledge of natural history and ecological theory should inform aesthetic appreciation of nature. The "framing problem," is the problem that natural environments are not discrete objects, so knowing what to focus on in an environment is difficult. The "fusion problem" is the problem of how to fuse the sensory aspect of aesthetic appreciation with highly theoretical scientific knowledge. I resolve these two problems by defending a normative version of the theory-laden observation thesis. Positive aesthetics is the view that insofar as nature is untouched by humans, it is always beautiful and never ugly. I defend an amended and updated version of positive aesthetics that is consistent with the central elements of contemporary ecology, and emphasize the heuristic, exegetical, and pedagogical roles aesthetic qualities play in ecological science.
- The Environmental is Political: Exploring the Geography of Environmental Justice
- The dissertation is a philosophical approach to politicizing place and space, or environments broadly construed, that is motivated by three questions. How can geography be employed to analyze the spatialities of environmental justice? How do spatial concepts inform understandings of environmentalism? And, how can geography help overcome social/political philosophy's redistribution-recognition debate in a way that accounts for the multiscalar dimensions of environmental justice? Accordingly, the dissertation's objective is threefold. First, I develop a critical geography framework that explores the spatialities of environmental injustices as they pertain to economic marginalization across spaces of inequitable distribution, cultural subordination in places of misrecognition, and political exclusion from public places of deliberation and policy. Place and space are relationally constituted by intricate networks of social relations, cultural practices, socioecological flows, and political-economic processes, and I contend that urban and natural environments are best represented as "places-in-space." Second, I argue that spatial frameworks and environmental discourses interlock because conceptualizations of place and space affect how environments are perceived, serve as framing devices to identify environmental issues, and entail different solutions to problems. In the midst of demonstrating how the racialization of place upholds inequitable distributions of pollution burdens, I introduce notions of "social location" and "white privilege" to account for the conflicting agendas of the mainstream environmental movement and the environmental justice movement, and consequent accusations of discriminatory environmentalism. Third, I outline a bivalent environmental justice theory that deals with the spatialities of environmental injustices. The theory synergizes distributive justice and the politics of social equality with recognition justice and the politics of identity and difference, therefore connecting cultural issues to a broader materialist analysis concerned with economic issues that extend across space. In doing so, I provide a justice framework that assesses critically the particularities of place and concurrently identifies commonalities to diverse social struggles, thus spatializing the geography of place-based political praxis.
- Redacted Dominionism: An Evangelical, Environmentally Sympathetic Reading of the Early Genesis Narrative
- Critiques of the environmental ramifications of the early Genesis narrative by environmental thinkers such as Aldo Leopold, Ian McHarg, and Lynn White underscore a longstanding tension between the environmental movement and Western Christianity. The evangelical community (EC) especially, has been at odds with the environmental movement, as the EC grounds its theology regarding human relations to nature on the Genesis narrative—and especially the Genesis 1:26-28 dominion mandate— interpreted with a literal hermeneutic. The EC generally concludes in favor of either a dominionist interpretation, that mankind has dominion over nature, or a stewardship interpretation, that mankind’s dominion is more akin to tending or stewarding than to domination. Both interpretations trend toward the anthropocentrism that Leopold, McHarg, and White criticize. J. Baird Callicott postulates a third, less anthropocentric view: the citizenship interpretation, that humanity is co-citizen with nonhuman beings, rather than a superior. Callicott’s view, while commendable on key points, is incompatible with EC methodology because it is grounded only on Genesis 2 and subsequent passages, rejecting the legitimacy of Genesis 1:26-28 altogether. A fourth interpretation is proposed here, redacted dominionism, derived using EC methodology, and claiming that human relations to nature are based on theocentric themes. Redacted dominionism understands humanity as initially given dominion over nature by virtue of the imago Dei, but human disobedience to God, tarnished that image, and human qualification for dominion was lost. Post-fall, the dominion mandate is never repeated, and seems even to be replaced. In consideration of early Genesis and related passages, understood within EC methodology, redacted dominionism argues for theocentrism, thus grounding a biblical environmental ethic that escapes the indictments of Leopold, McHarg, and White. Such an ethic could be useful within the EC to motivate greater environmental consideration. It could likewise be beneficial to those within and without the EC, as a catalyst for dialogue between the environmental movement and the EC, and as a mechanism whereby the EC may be held accountable for attitudes and actions impacting nature.
- Sustainable Environmental Identities for Environmental Sustainability: Remaking Environmental Identities with the Help of Indigenous Knowledge
- Early literature in the field of environmental ethics suggests that environmental problems are not technological problems requiring technological solutions, but rather are problems deeply rooted in Western value systems calling for a reorientation of our values. This dissertation examines what resources are available to us in reorienting our values if this starting point is correct. Three positions can be observed in the environmental ethics literature on this issue: 1. We can go back and reinterpret our Western canonical texts and figures to determine if they can be useful in providing fresh insight on today's environmental challenges; 2. We abandon the traditional approaches, since these are what led to the crisis in the first place, and we seek to establish entirely new approaches and new environmental identities to face the environmental challenges of the 21st century; 3. We look outside of the Western tradition for guidance from other cultures to see how they inhabit and interact with the natural world. This dissertation presents and evaluates these three options and ultimately argues for an approach similar to the third option, suggesting that dialogue with indigenous cultures and traditions can help us to reorient our values and assist in developing more sustainable environmental identities.