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Strange Matter, Strange Objects: An Ontological Reorientation of the Philosophical Concept of Wonder

Description: Wonder has had a rich and diverse history in the western philosophical tradition. Both Plato and Aristotle claim that philosophy begins in wonder, while Descartes marks it as the first of the passions and Heidegger uses it as a signpost for a new trajectory of philosophy away from idealism and nihilism. Despite such a rich history, wonder is almost always thought to be exhausted by the acquisition of knowledge. That is, wonder is thought of almost exclusively in epistemological terms and is discarded as soon as knowledge has been achieved. In this dissertation, I argue for an ontological reorientation of wonder that values wonder beyond its epistemic uses. To do this, I read the phenomenological and ontological work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty through recent developments in object-oriented ontology and new materialism. Much of Merleau-Ponty's work is directed toward dissolving the distinction between subject and object. His insights regarding the mutual constitution of the world lead to the possibility of an operative wonder that occurs between subject and object. Both object-oriented ontology and new materialism radicalize these insights by articulating them in terms of a vibrant or quasi-agential material world. Objects and assemblages of objects are capable of performing the becoming of the world that includes human activity, but is not reduced to it. As such, the world is capable of both self-organization and practice. Ultimately I use the philosophy-physics of Karen Barad to argue that operative wonder acts like a kind of superposition of relations between objects, and thereby accounts for a concept of wonder that is both ontologically significant and acutely generative.
Date: May 2016
Creator: Onishi, Brian Hisao
Partner: UNT Libraries

Environmental Ethics from the Periphery: José Lutzenberger and the Philosophical Analysis of an Unecological Economics

Description: This dissertation provides a philosophical analysis about the influence colonialism had over capitalism's current configuration and how their intricate interplay impacts both the social and the ecological spheres, in both central and peripheral countries. Such analysis draws from the work of José Lutzenberger, a Brazilian environmentalist. The current capitalist economic system tends to disregard the environment, since it would be greatly affected by negative externalities. A negative externality is an economic activity that imposes a negative effect on an unrelated third party. Many negative externalities are related to the environmental consequences of production and consumption. In addition, this dissertation explores the fact that an ecological crisis is also a social crisis. A genealogical and existential thread going from Brazil's early days as one of Portugal's colonies to the present is drawn, showing how colonialism helped to create the foundations and the conditions for the current exploitative capitalist system, in Brazil and elsewhere. To change this situation, the environment should not be entrusted to private interests but to an institution responsible for the good of society as a whole. Genuinely green economies are more prone to appear on the periphery, but only if global economic justice is achieved first.
Date: August 2016
Creator: Valenti Possamai, Fabio
Partner: UNT Libraries

Toward an Ecofeminist Environmental Jurisprudence: Nature, Law, and Gender

Description: This thesis develops a legal theory reflecting the insights of feminism and environmental philosophy. I argue that human beings are not ontologically separate, but embedded in webs of relationality with natural others. My primary purposes are to 1) delineate ways in which institutions of modernity (such as law and science) have precipitated ecosocial crisis through the attempt to dialectically enforce mastery and control over nature and women; and 2) explore alternate political forms and ontologies which challenge the classical liberalist view of the (human) individual as a radically isolated, discrete, autonomous being. My overarching theme is that law functions as a narrative that can both hinder and enhance the promotion of ecological ideas, and how ecofeminism can contribute to transformative projects of environmental philosophy and feminist law.
Date: August 1999
Creator: Mallory, Chaone
Partner: UNT Libraries

A Restorative Environmental Justice for the Prison Industrial Complex: a Transformative Feminist Theory of Justice

Description: This dissertation provides a feminist restorative model of environmental justice that addresses the injustices found within UNICOR’s e-waste recycling operations. A feminist restorative environmental justice challenges the presupposition that grassroots efforts, law and policy, medical and scientific research, and theoretical pursuits (alone or in conjunction) are sufficient to address the emotional and relational harm of environmental injustices. To eliminate environmental harms, this model uses collaborative dialogue for interested parties to prevent environmental harm. To encourage participation, a feminist restorative model accepts many forms of knowledge and truth as ‘legitimate’ and offers an opportunity for women to share how their personal experiences of love, violence, and caring differ from men and other women and connect to larger social practices. This method of environmental justice offers opportunities for repair, reparation and reintegration that can transform perspectives on criminality, dangerous practices and structures in the PIC, and all persons who share in a restorative encounter.
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Date: May 2015
Creator: Conrad, Sarah M.
Partner: UNT Libraries

Expertise Revisited: Reflecting on the Intersection of Science and Democracy in the Case of Fracking

Description: This dissertation aims to explain the conditions under which expertise can undermine democratic decision making. I argue that the root of the conflict between expertise and democracy lies in what I call insufficiently “representative” expertise – that is forms of scientific research that are not relevant to the policy questions at hand and that fail to make visible their hidden values dimensions. I claim that the scholarly literature on the problem of expertise fails to recognize and address the issue correctly, because it does not open the black box of scientific methodologies. I maintain that only by making sense of the methodological choices of experts in the context of policy making can we determine the relevance of research and reveal the hidden socio-political values and consequences. Using the case of natural gas fracking, I demonstrate how expert contributions – even though epistemically sound – can muddle democratic policy processes. I present four case studies from controversies about fracking to show how to contextualize scientific methodologies in the pertinent political process. I argue that the common problem across all case studies is the failure of expertise to sufficiently represent stakeholders’ problems and concerns. In this context, “representation” has three criteria: (1) the operational research questions on which the qualified experts work are relevant to stakeholders’ problems and concerns; (2) the non-epistemic values and consequences of epistemic choices of experts are compatible with social and political values and priorities; and (3) hidden values attached to facts are fully transparent and openly debated. In the conclusion, I propose a normative version of this representation theory that can be used to evaluate the appropriateness of expertise for democratic policy making. Instead of the value-free science ideal, I propose a new ideal to legitimately allow non-epistemic values in scientific reasoning without compromising the soundness of ...
Date: December 2015
Creator: Ahmadi, Mahdi
Partner: UNT Libraries

Mapping Overlapping Constellations: Nature and Technology in Research in Philosophy and Technology/Techné and Environmental Ethics

Description: The overlap between the separate fields of philosophy of technology and environmental philosophy can be investigated using the two longest running flagship journals for each field, Environmental Ethics (EE) and Research in Philosophy and Technology, which is now published as Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology (RPT/Techné). By looking at the theoretical and conceptual ideas on nature and the environment expressed in RPT/Techné, at those on technology and artifacts expressed in EE, and at the individuals who contributed them using the principles of social epistemology as developed by Steve Fuller, a stereoscopic view incorporating the insights from both specializations can be constructed. The ideas developed in the articles can be charted like stars within constellations, loosely connected in groupings that are neither clear nor evident. Five constellations can be discerned from the relevant articles in each journal, and while there is some overlap, there is considerable difference. The stereoscopic view is developed in three ways: first, by reviewing the contributions of authors who have published in both journals; second, by utilizing resources in both specializations to add subtlety and depth to the ideas expressed, starting in this case from Jacques Ellul’s “Nature, Technique and Artificiality”; and third, by using W. D. Ross’s ethical theory, which fuses prima facie duties with virtues, to integrate traditional ethical concerns with those raised by philosophers focused on technology and those concerned with the environment.
Date: May 2015
Creator: Miller, Glen
Partner: UNT Libraries

Modern Philosophy: A Study of Knowledge [Part 1]

Description: Thesis written by a student in the UNT Honors College discussing a series of lectures pertaining to philosophy and epistemology. The intellectual contributions of various philosophers are included.
Date: Autumn 2000
Creator: Dodge, Catherine
Partner: UNT Honors College

Modern Philosophy: A Study of Knowledge [Part 2]

Description: Thesis written by a student in the UNT Honors College discussing a series of lectures pertaining to philosophy and epistemology. The intellectual contributions of various philosophers are included, as well as study aids and handouts containing short biographies and diagrams of their ideas.
Date: Autumn 2000
Creator: Dodge, Catherine
Partner: UNT Honors College

Indigenous Knowledge on the Marshall Islands: a Case for Recognition Justice

Description: Recent decades have marked growing academic and scientific attention to the role of indigenous knowledge in climate change adaptation, mitigation, and detection strategies. However, how indigenous knowledge is incorporated is a point of contention between self-identifying indigenous groups and existing institutions which combat climate change. In this thesis, I argue that the full inclusion of indigenous knowledge is deterred by certain aspects of modernity. In order to overcome the problems of modernity, I argue that a recognition theory of justice is needed as it regards to indigenous knowledge. Recognition justice calls for indigenous groups to retain meaningful control over how and when their indigenous knowledge is shared. To supplement this, I use the Marshall Islands as a case study. The Marshall Islands afford a nice particular case because of their longstanding colonial relationship with the United States and the impending danger they face of rising sea levels. Despite this danger, the Republic of the Marshall Islands calls for increased recognition as leaders in addressing climate change.
Date: December 2015
Creator: Gessas, Jeff
Partner: UNT Libraries

Urban Sustainability and the Extinction of Experience: Acknowledging Drivers of Biocultural Loss for Socio-ecological Well-being

Description: In this dissertation I address urban sustainability with a focus on loss of cultural heritage and ecological knowledge by expanding the concept “extinction of experience” (EoE). Conceptualized by conservationist Robert Michael Pyle, EoE is the loss of nature experiences leading to apathy towards biodiversity and degradation of the common habitat. I expand upon Pyle’s formulation of the concept by considering the EoE cycle as an indirect driver that amplifies biodiversity losses. Additionally, I introduce the analysis of interrelated losses of biological and cultural diversity in relation to EoE. With a biocultural approach I discuss that EoE is tied to the infrastructural inertia within the global urban economy. I propose that addressing the EoE cycle is critical in that as a complex and multi-faceted process, it cements threats to biological and cultural diversity as permanent fixtures within society by obscuring their significance in light of economic development. This cycle remains a hidden problematic in that it perpetuates the environmental crisis while making such losses invisible within day-to-day lifestyle habits, constructing an emerging urban culture within the global economy that is ignorant of ecological processes and sustainability requirements. I frame the implications of EoE with an analysis of the newly proposed revisions of the UN Sustainable Development Goals voted on in September 2015 to prioritize local ecological knowledge and biocultural heritage.
Date: December 2015
Creator: Poole, Alexandria K.
Partner: UNT Libraries

On City Identity and Its Moral Dimensions

Description: The majority of people on Earth now live in cities, and estimates hold that 60 percent of the world’s cities have yet to be built. Now is the time for philosophers to develop a philosophy of the city to address the forthcoming issues that urbanization will bring. In this dissertation, I respond to this need for a philosophy of the city by developing a theory of city identity, developing some of the theory’s normative implications, illustrating the theory with a case study, and outlining the nature and future of philosophy of the city more generally. Indeed, this dissertation is only a part of my larger project of founding and institutionalizing this new field of both academic and socially-engaged philosophical activity. Throughout the history of the discipline, other areas such a personal identity have received numerous considerations, along with the concept of identity as an abstraction. For example, there is a bounty of research addressing problems pertaining to how objects and people retain an identity over time and claims about identity in general. While one could argue that cities are not any different than any other object, such an account fails to consider that a city’s dynamic nature makes it dissimilar to other things. To illustrate this point, I develop a position called dynamic composition as identity theory that provides a framework for understanding the identity of a city, exhibiting that views within analytic metaphysics are too narrow to apply to all cases. After establishing a concept of city identity, I use an applied mereology to develop a model of city identity that shows how the parts of a city fit together to form a complete city. This model introduces the normative dimension of my project by providing a way to identify how incongruence between a city’s parts can cause problems ...
Date: December 2015
Creator: Epting, Shane Ray
Partner: UNT Libraries

Trans-boundary river basins: a discourse on water scarcity, conflict, and water resource management.

Description: This thesis is an inquiry regarding the interconnections between water scarcity, geopolitics, resource management, and the strategies for developing effective ways to resolve conflict and encourage sustainable water resource use in developing countries. The ecological services of trans-boundary rivers are explored in conjunction with the potential impacts to freshwater availability due to economic modernization, water resource development, and decision making regimes that determine how water is allocated among competing users. Anthropogenic stressors that induce water scarcity and the geopolitical mechanisms of conflict are studied. A discourse on the creation and functional extent of global and localized water ethics is investigated, emphasizing the importance of perceptual dispositions of water users in understanding the value of trans-boundary river basins.
Date: December 2003
Creator: Riley, Timothy
Partner: UNT Libraries

Sustainable Environmental Identities for Environmental Sustainability: Remaking Environmental Identities with the Help of Indigenous Knowledge

Description: 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.
Date: December 2012
Creator: Parker, Jonathan
Partner: UNT Libraries

Situating Cost-Benefit Analysis for Environmental Justice

Description: Cost-benefit analysis plays a significant role in the process of siting hazardous waste facilities throughout the United States. Controversy regarding definitively disparate, albeit unintentional, racist practices in reaching these siting decisions abounds, yet cost-benefit analysis stands incapable of commenting on normative topics. This thesis traces the developments of both cost-benefit analysis and its normative cousin utilitarianism by focusing on the impacts they have had on the contemporary environmental justice discourse and highlighting valid claims, misunderstandings, and sedimented ideas surrounding the popularity of cost-benefit analysis. This analysis ultimately leads to an alternative means of realizing environmental justice that both acknowledges the need for greater democratic interactions and attempts to work with, rather than against, the prevailing paradigm of reaching siting decisions.
Date: December 2010
Creator: Wohlmuth, Erik Michael
Partner: UNT Libraries

Between Logos and Eros: New Orleans' Confrontation with Modernity

Description: This thesis examines the environmental and social consequences of maintaining the artificial divide between thinking and feeling, mind and matter, logos and eros. New Orleans, a city where the natural environment and human sensuality are both dominant forces, is used as a case study to explore the implications of our attempts to impose rational controls on nature - both physical and human nature. An analysis of New Orleans leading up to and immediately following Hurricane Katrina (2005) reveals that the root of the trouble in the city is not primarily environmental, technological, political, or sociological, but philosophical: there is something amiss in the relationship between human rationality and the corporeal world. I argue that policy decisions which do not include the contributions of experts from the humanities and qualitative social sciences - persons with expertise on human emotions, intentions, priorities and desires - will continue to be severely compromised.
Date: May 2008
Creator: Moore, Erin Christine
Partner: UNT Libraries

Expendable Creation: Classical Pentecostalism and Environmental Disregard

Description: Whereas the ecological crisis has elicited a response from many quarters of American Christianity, classical (or denominational) Pentecostals have expressed almost no concern about environmental problems. The reasons for their disregard of the environment lie in the Pentecostal worldview which finds expression in their: (1) tradition; (2) view of human and natural history; (3) common theological beliefs; and (4) scriptural interpretation. All these aspects of Pentecostalism emphasize and value the supernatural--conversely viewing nature as subordinate, dependent and temporary. Therefore, the ecocrisis is not problematic because, for Pentecostals, the natural environment is: of only relative value; must serve the divine plan; and will soon be destroyed and replaced. Furthermore, Pentecostals are likely to continue their environmental disregard, since the supernaturalism which spawns it is key to Pentecostal identity.
Date: December 1997
Creator: Goins, Jeffrey P. (Jeffrey Paul)
Partner: UNT Libraries

Process environmental philosophy

Description: A process-information approach is examined as a foundation for an environmental philosophy that is dynamic and elastic, with particular emphasis on value, beauty, integrity and stability supporting Aldo Leopold's vision. I challenge one of the basic assumptions of Western philosophy, namely the metaphysical primacy of substance. The classical, medieval and modern metaphysics of substance is presented with particular attention given the paradoxes of substance. Starting from the philosophy of Heraclitus, relatively ignored by the Western tradition of philosophy, a process philosophy is developed as an alternative to standard metaphysical attitudes in philosophy. A possible resolution of Zeno's paradoxes leads to consideration of other paradoxes of substance metaphysics. It is argued that substance metaphysics is incompatible with evidence found in the shifting paradigms of ecology and general science. Process philosophy is explored as a basis for an environmental philosophy, attempting to put the environment back into philosophy.
Date: May 2003
Creator: Corbeil, Marc J.V.
Partner: UNT Libraries

Biodiversity Loss, the Motivation Problem, and the Future of Conservation Education in the United States

Description: 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 ...
Date: December 2011
Creator: Grove-Fanning, William
Partner: UNT Libraries

Ethics Naturally: An Environmental Ethic Based on Naturalness

Description: In this thesis I attempt to base an environmental ethic on a quality called naturalness. I examine it in terms of quantification, namely, as to whether it can quantified? I then apply the concept to specific areas such as restoration and conservation to create an environmental ethic and to show how such an ethic would be beneficial in general, and especially to policy issues concerning the environment. The thesis consists of three chapters: (1) the definition of nature and natural by way of a historical approach; (2) the place of humans in this scheme; and (3) the place of value and the discussion concerning quantification.
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Date: May 2004
Creator: Leard, Jason
Partner: UNT Libraries

Negotiating Environmental Relationships: Why Language Matters to Environmental Philosophy

Description: The medium of language is important to environmental philosophy, and more specifically, to the establishment and understanding of environmental relationships. The differences between animal and human language point to our unique semantic range, which results from our neuro-linguistic process of signification. An examination of the linguistic implications of the problem of nature and the tenets of semiotics challenges the idea of a clean word to world fit. Because signs are the medium in which meaning is constructed, questions about nature must in part be questions of language. Environmental discourse itself is bound up in sociolinguistic productions and we must attend not only to what language says, but to what it does. NEPA functions as a speech act that systematically invokes an ethical framework by which it colonizes the domain of valuation and fails to provide a genuine opportunity for non-commodity values to be expressed.
Date: December 2003
Creator: Martin, Vernon J.
Partner: UNT Libraries

Wilderness and Everyday Life.

Description: I challenge the dualistic view of wilderness that has influenced wilderness philosophy, politics and experience in recent years. In its place, I offer an alternative vision that recognizes wilderness areas and working landscapes as complementary elements of a larger, inhabited landscape characterized by a heterogeneous mixture of human-land relational patterns representing various points along an urban-wilderness continuum. In chapters 2 through 4, I explore the philosophical, political and experiential implications of this wilderness-in-context vision. Experienced and understood as part of the landscape we call home, wilderness may engender, renew, and sustain an engaged and integrated wilderness practice involving regular contact with wilderness places, committed activism on behalf of wild lands and their inhabitants, and grounded reflection on the meaning and value of wilderness in our everyday lives.
Date: August 2011
Creator: Friskics, Scott
Partner: UNT Libraries

Toward a philosophy of water: Politics of the pollution and damming along the Ganges River.

Description: This thesis sets out to develop a beginning of a philosophy of water by considering philosophical implications of ecological crises currently happening along the waters of the Ganges River. In my first chapter, I give a historical account of a philosophy of water. In my second chapter, I describe various natural and cultural representations of the Ganges, accounting for physical features of the river, Hindu myths and rituals involving the river, and ecological crises characterized by the pollution and damming of the river. In my third and final chapter, I look into the philosophical implications of these crises in terms of the works of the contemporary philosopher Bruno Latour.
Date: May 2007
Creator: McAnally, Elizabeth Ann
Partner: UNT Libraries

Redacted Dominionism: An Evangelical, Environmentally Sympathetic Reading of the Early Genesis Narrative

Description: 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 ...
Date: August 2011
Creator: Cone, Christopher
Partner: UNT Libraries