Why is it important to study the natural environment scientifically at all? On the one hand, science is a powerful tool for understanding and characterizing the natural environment, against the fact that nature has been exhibiting its complexity and uncertainty. Scientific research on the natural environment can satisfy one’s epistemic curiosity regarding nature. On the other hand, it is practical for us, to a degree, to deal with nature, since human beings started to strive for living on/with it. The natural environment supplies us with water, air, soil and food as being essential conditions for survival, while bringing about detrimental conditions like hurricanes, floods, tsunamis and wildfire. Also, humans can use resources from the natural environment to enlarge the space of choice, like excavating coal or uranium ore for powering a modern lifestyle and technological innovation, while brewing and agonizing in modern environmental risks, like air and nuclear pollution, and human-induced warming. It would not be unreasonable to secure provisions and minimize risks in the natural environment by better understanding and characterizing it. Through science, we see hope and fear in nature.
Our primary goal is to philosophically examine a couple of cases in natural and social sciences closely relating to our living conditions in the natural environment, among them including ecology, economics, seismology, climatology, demography and more. Hotly debated issues like biodiversity and climate change will be discussed without doubt, while historically significant ones like the population bomb, species extinction and earthquake prediction will not be ignored. By examining these cases, we attempt to answer general questions like “What is natural/nature?”, “What is a natural state?”, “Why does one need to protect/preserve/conserve nature at all, and how?”, “Why does one pursue sustainability of the natural environment, and how?”, and “What are the values of nature/the natural environment?”. The attendee is furthermore encouraged to explore, present and discuss relevant issues of their own interest from a philosophical perspective throughout the course.
The course covers five themes: “Economizing on the environment”, “risk, uncertainty & ignorance of the environment”, “biodiversity & conservation”, “climate change”, and “population & non-identity problem”.