For the End is a Limit: The Question Concerning the Environment
Butterworth, Charles E.
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This dissertation argues that Aristotle's philosophy of praxis (i.e., ethics and politics) can contribute to our understanding of the contemporary question concerning the environment. Thinking seriously about the environment today calls for resisting the temptation to jump to conclusions about Aristotle's irrelevance to the environment on historicist grounds of incommensurability or the fact that Aristotle did not write specifically on environmental issues as we know them. It is true that environmental problems are basically twentieth-century phenomena, but the larger normative discourses in which the terms "environmental" and "ecological" and their cognates are situated should be approached philosophically, namely, as cross-cultural and trans-historical phenomena that touch human experience at a deeper level. The philosophical perspective exploring the discursive meaning behind contemporary environmental praxis can reveal to us that certain aspects of Aristotle's thought are relevant, or can be adapted, to the ends of environmentalists concerned with developmental problems. I argue that Aristotle's views are already accepted and adopted in political theory and the praxis of the environment in many respects. In the first half of the dissertation, I explore the common ground between contemporary theorizing on the ethical and political aspects of environmental issues and Aristotelian ethics and politics. The second half of the dissertation locates the contemporary relevance of Aristotle in the recently emerging studies of "environmental virtue ethics" as well as "environmental citizenship" and "conservative environmentalism."