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Environmental Ethics

Volume 33, Issue 4, Winter 2011

Adam Riggio
Pages 395-413

John Dewey as a Philosopher of Contingency and the Value of this Idea for Environmental Philosophy

In recent years, scholars studying the writing of the American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey have attempted to use his ethical ideas to construct a viable environmental ethics. This endeavor has found limited success and generated some intriguing debates, but has been found wanting in many areas important to environmental ethicists of the twenty-first century. In particular, the humanist motivations behind many of his ethical writings stand in the way of a philosophy that takes nonhumans seriously. However, there is much environmental philosophers can learn from Dewey, not from his ethics, but from his ontological writings. A concept of the contingency of existence, found in Dewey, in particular in Experience and Nature, can be the foundation for a robust, if dark, ecological philosophy.

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