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Environmental Ethics: From Philosophical Texts to Real Case Studies

Tuition fee


EARLY BIRD prices valid until 28.2.2019
NORMAL prices after 28.2.2019

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This course proposes an overview on environmental ethics as a philosophical discipline, progressing from the philosophical texts to the analysis of environmental case studies. It aims to raise awareness about the fundamental and ethical role of the natural environment in our lives. The theoretical part of the course introduces philosophical ethical theories and concepts starting from original environmental ethics texts written by philosophers, while a more practical section presents real case studies and ethical notions from different viewpoints. Some of the case studies take into account the indigenous peoples’ perspective and their worldview and possible origins of the ecological crises.

Why is ethics important to solve global challenges and understand conflicts and why should ethics be part of policy-making processes? In an attempt to answer such questions, this course will examine ethical concepts – such as Anthropocene, anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric ethics, limitations on moral consideration, intrinsic and instrumental value, Indigenous cultures and lifestyles, and concern for future generations – together with different types of Environmental Ethics theories. These include Deep Ecology, Utilitarianism, Gaia Hypothesis, Aristotelian Virtue Ethics, Deontological Ethics, Ecofeminism, Land Ethics, Teleological Stewardship, Social Ecology and Animal Rights.

The relevance of different ethical theories will be tested in light of philosophical texts and up-to-date case studies about natural disasters and environmental accidents. Examples of case studies are: the struggle to protect natural resources by Sami Indigenous people in the High European North, the North Dakota oil pipeline construction (2016–2017) near Indigenous lands; hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’ in the United States; the unfair polluting policy of TEXACO (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorian Amazon; the Water Wars in Bolivia; and many others.

Learning objectives

This course offers the students the analytical apparatus to critically analyse the significance of the role played by the natural environment in the life of humans and other living species. The course familiarises the students with basic concepts and theories of Environmental Ethics, fostering an understanding on how human factors carry responsibility for environmental problems. The students will be trained to see different perspectives, to apply moral theories and draw ethical conclusions from philosophical texts as well as from real-life cases in recent news. This enables the students to confront their worldviews in class debates, to better understand themselves, classmates and future work colleagues as citizens of world. The course also aims at training the students’ skills in discussions, argumentation, group works and above all public presentations.

Course format and teaching methods

Lectures, in-class group and pair work, screening of scenes from documentary films, participatory debates and student presentations. Small group tasks (in class and at home) seek to acquaint the students with ethical concepts and theories, and to train them to apply these theories to natural disasters and environmental case studies.

Target students

This course is conceived for students who are interested in environmental and ethical issues. It is intended for Bachelor’s and Master’s students of philosophy, social sciences, sociology, environmental studies, political sciences and economics. Previous studies in philosophy and/or ethics are helpful but are not required. (Doctoral students interested in the course can also participate but please contact the course coordinator Corinna Casi by email to check if the course fits your case.)


Corinna Casi, corinna.casi (at)
You may contact the course coordinator with questions concerning the course content.

With any other questions concerning Helsinki Summer Schoool or the application process, please contact

Apply now! Summer 2019
Application period has ended
Studies commence
Aug 6, 2019

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States