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Environmental Ethics

Volume 23, Issue 3, Fall 2001

Manussos Marangudakis
Pages 243-260

The Medieval Roots of Our Environmental Crisis

Controversy about Lynn White, Jr.’s thesis that Western Christianity is to blame for the ecological crisis we face today has recently shifted to medieval social developments and how they affected theological notions of nature. Contributing to the social perspective of the debate, in this essay I examine the emergence of materialism as an effect of the relationship between the Latin Church and Western society. Rationalism and utilitarianism, two main features of Latin theology, were appropriated by medieval political and economic elites to produce a radical anthropocentric and materialist Weltanschauung. Utilitarianism and rationalism came to be so strongly embedded in Western culture that they became a diachronic feature of European thought.

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