Information, Background, and Instructions
Write a 5-7 page (double-spaced, 10pt or 11pt font) paper on the following topic.
Information, Background, and Instructions
In addition to Barry Lopez’ book, Horizon, assigned at the beginning of the semester, you need to read a paper by
Deborah Bird Rose, and a short essay by Erle C. Ellis. Rose’s article is titled, “Val Plumwood’s Philosophical
Animism: attentive interactions in the sentient world (2013)”. Ellis’ short essay is titled, “Too Big for Nature
(2015)”. In contrast to Lopez’, Plumwood’s, and Rose’s respective outlooks on environmental ethics, Ellis offers a
different path forward, one that might even appear dismissive of the ethos that they extol.
One of the only philosophers that Barry Lopez refers to explicitly in his book, Horizon, is Val Plumwood. She is a
noted Australian philosopher who provides a feminist critique of both the Western philosophical tradition, in
general, and accounts of environmental ethics, in particular. She died in 2008, but her work continues to resonate
As an introduction and supplement to some of the ideas and themes of Plumwood’s late thinking, especially, I’ll have
you read a self-contained essay by her friend and colleague, Deborah Bird Rose. The dense nature of Plumwood’s
books and journal articles makes it difficult to find a single work that encapsulates her thinking about environmental
ethics. (One needs to know a lot about the history of philosophy, and her specific and detailed references to other
thinkers are hard to track for readers outside of philosophy.) Rose proves to be a helpful guide, and suggests how
she and others may build on Plumwood’s thinking. For our purposes, Rose’s essay will serve to provide a kind of
ethical frame or filter for aspects of Lopez’ Horizon.
In your paper you should at least attend to the following tasks:
(1) Provide a clear thesis early in your essay and try to justify it as best you can.
(2) Elaborate on the ways in which Lopez’ views in Horizon appear to reflect or amplify some of the key
ideas/themes that Rose discusses as she attempts to articulate and develop Plumwood’s late thinking. For instance,
she specifically highlights philosophical/anthropological animism, knowledge, gratitude, and attentive presence.
She also puts some emphasis on storytelling, narratives, and poetry, forms of expression (written and spoken) that
can foster environmental awareness/understanding and engagement. Rather than providing an account in terms of
environmental rules, norms, obligations/duties, or rights, Rose outlines a kind of environmental ethos, an ethical
way of living in relation to the natural world.
(Given the length of Horizon, you need to be selective about what you discuss. It will likely be useful to rely upon
examples that stand out vividly to you, as well as the Index, which may help you quickly locate a detail, name, or
example. Some of the factual information about exploration or journeys may not be as vital for your account, so
select what is most relevant for your account.)
(3) Both Lopez and Ellis (especially) reflect on the advent of the Anthropocene, the geological age of humans that
may soon officially follow the Holocene. Given Lopez’ perspective, as you’ve described for task (2), compare and
contrast Lopez and Ellis in regard to the Anthropocene, and the relation between humans and the natural world,
generally. For instance, what are their respective presuppositions (as far as you can determine) about membership in
the moral community, justice, standards for determining the rightness and wrongness of actions (normative
approaches), or principles that should govern human relations to the natural world?
(4) Whose view or views about humans and the natural world, and the difficult challenges that lie ahead, do you
support, and why? Make sure to elaborate on and defend your claims. (This task will help you define your thesis.)
(5) Avoid simply reporting information from either Horizon or the assigned essays without providing some analysis
or elaboration, and avoid writing a kind of stream-of-consciousness response paper. Support your claims.
Restrictions and Other Information on Next Page
Restrictions and Other Information for Information, Background, and Instructions
Other than the assigned texts above, and texts, videos, and notes from the course, do not consult other noncourse texts or online sources for philosophical or scientific materials that might pertain to this paper topic.
Lopez, Plumwood, Rose, and Ellis have written a lot, and there is s a lot of material related to them on the web. If
you were writing a research paper, then I would expect you to consult some of these sources. However, in order to
keep this paper manageable, avoid the temptation to visit the sites or consult other works, at least until you have
turned in your essay.
I’ve also posted a short guide to writing philosophy papers borrowed from Harvard University. It’s on Blackboard in
the Assignments area. Look at that guide, using what is most relevant for this assignment. For instance, it probably
won’t make sense to include a reductio proof (p. 5 of the guide) or to attempt to provide a logical
formulization/symbolization of arguments.
If you quote or closely paraphrase Lopez, Plumwood, Rose, or Ellis, provide a simple citation. Just use parentheses
at the end of the quote, including the relevant page number: As Ellis says, “That one species has managed to
transform an entire planet is unprecedented (p. 30).” I do not require a works cited page for this paper.
You can exceed the page limit by one page, but no more than that.
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