Toward a General Philosophy of Ecology

Dissertation, The University of Western Ontario (Canada) (1998)
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Abstract

This dissertation is a work in the philosophy of ecology and environmental philosophy. The central aims of the dissertation are to examine the role that ecological concepts and theories play in environmental philosophy, and to defend a conception of ecological science that is broad enough to address the philosophical and scientific concerns of environmental philosophers. As stated, these aims are consistent with the dominant tradition in contemporary environmental philosophy, but the dissertation is highly critical of the way the ecology-environmental philosophy relationship is conceived and theorized in contemporary environmental philosophy. Rather than view ecology as a conceptual and scientific resource that is relevant to environmental philosophy only insofar as it provides support for the ethical, social and political aims of environmentalism, I argue that the core problems of environmental philosophy are essentially problems for a general science and philosophy of ecology, which I define as "the philosophical and scientific study of system-environment relationships". This definition of ecology is broad, but it is not vacuous. A central aim of the dissertation is to defend the robustness of a conception of ecology that is sufficiently broad to encompass "ecological psychology", "ecological economics", and "ecological anthropology", as well as traditional ecological science. ;The dissertation is divided into three parts, with three chapters in Part One, four chapters in Part Two, and two chapters in Part Three. Part One is a survey and critique of the role of ecology in environmental philosophy. Part Two develops a conceptual framework for a general philosophy of ecology based on developments in complex systems approaches in theoretical ecology and ecological psychology. Complexity and complex systems theories play a large role in the argument of the dissertation, and Part Three explores in greater detail certain issues in the foundations of the complex systems sciences that are relevant to a conception of ecological phenomena as complex systems phenomena

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