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Environmental Ethics

Volume 23, Issue 1, Spring 2001

Meg Holden
Pages 37-56

Phenomenology versus Pragmatism

In this paper, I challenge the work of David Abram, who makes a case for phenomenology as the only philosophical tradition amenable to restoring balanced human-nature relationships. While phenomenology provides a useful conceptual framework for understanding the environmental ethics of oral cultures, this paper considers the tradition of American pragmatism to be more applicable to the environmental task at hand: devising an environmental ethic of reform for modern, capitalist, Western culture. The application of phenomenology and pragmatism to environmental ethics is compared according to four main philosophical questions: the essential uncertainty of life, the existence of a human/nature divide, the necessary conditions for claiming truth, and the relative role of metaphysics or imagination and that of science in relating to the world.

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