Ethics, animals and the environment

Course Dates: 25/05/22 - 29/06/22
Time: 16:00 - 18:00
Location: Online
This course invites you to take a closer look at ideas and debates in two major fields of practical ethics that emerged as independent disciplines in the second half of the last century: animal ethics and environmental ethics.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Book your place
In stock
Full fee £129.00 Senior fee £103.00 Concession £57.00

Course Code: HP203

Wed, day, 25 May - 29 Jun '22

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

The modern age is characterized by a tremendous increase in the level of control that humans have over the world they inhabit. This growth in human powers raises questions about the moral import of the human-nature relationship: Which moral values and principles should guide human conduct towards the natural world? What is the moral worth of natural things and beings? This course introduces a range of philosophical theories that try to answer these questions and that might therefore be said to constitute an ethics of nature. In contrast to more abstract branches of moral philosophy, such as metaethics and normative ethics, the ethics of nature is a practical ethics. Like ethics in general, practical ethics asks what is morally right and wrong (and how we can possibly know that). However, it does so with reference to concrete practices and states of affairs. This course invites you to take a closer look at ideas, theories, and debates in two areas of practical ethics, which only emerged as academic disciplines in the final quarter of the last century: animal ethics and environmental ethics.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

The course is divided into two main parts. Part One is about animal ethics: the moral status of animals. How should humans treat non-human beings? What do we humans owe animals, morally speaking? You will be introduced to the notion of animal rights: the idea that (at least some) animals have moral rights that are comparable to the rights of humans. We will also look at the theory of utilitarianism, which plays an important part in modern ethics in general. We will then apply these ethical theories to serious moral issues, such as keeping animals in captivity and killing them for food. And we will consider possible solutions, such as vegetarianism and in-vitro meat.
In Part Two we move on from the moral status of animals to environmental ethics and its concern for the moral status of the natural environment. Environmental ethics is a relatively new discipline which mirrors the emergence of an ecological consciousness throughout the 20th century. It is primarily concerned with establishing the principles that guide human interaction with nature at large, including inanimate nature. Given the tremendous destruction industrialized mass societies have inflicted on the natural world this is a pressing issue. All the more so in an age of rapid climate change. We will look at the historical emergence of ecological thinking, at attempts to translate concern for the environment into systematic philosophical theories, and at the ethics of climate change. Thus, we will ultimately address the perhaps single most important problem of environmental philosophy: Is it possible to find moral value in nature?

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

This course is designed to give you an overview of two important areas of contemporary practical ethics: animal ethics and environmental ethics. By the end of it, you should be able to orient yourselves within these fields and feel familiar with the debates and theories around which they revolve. Ideally, the course would help you to clarify your own position regarding an important question which, in one way or another, concerns us all: Do we have towards animals and the natural environment? If we do, what sort of duties are they and how do we justify having them?

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is at an introductory level. Some prior knowledge of philosophy and the history of ideas would be helpful, but it is not a necessary precondition for attending the course. You need not have any particular skills – just a desire to contemplate and discuss the morals of some of the more urgent challenges facing modern life.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The course will be taught by weekly online classes on Zoom. The tutor will begin each session with a presentation of the week’s topic. This will be followed by an open yet focused group discussion of a number of talking points, namely ideas and conceptions bound up with the topic in question, consecutively introduced by the tutor. There will be no compulsory work outside the class. However, each session comes with a recommended reading provided by the tutor, a text of 10-20 pages by an author who has made a significant contribution to the debate. You are encouraged to read these texts in preparation for the classes. The inclusion of a weekly reading option has a double advantage: It gives you the opportunity to find out more about the topic of the upcoming class, and it allows the tutor to illustrate ways of thinking about a specific issue by referring to the week’s reading during the class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

There are no additional costs and you don’t need to bring anything to the classes. You may of course want to bring pen and paper or your laptop in order to take notes.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

You may be interested in HP011 Introduction to moral philosophy.

We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.