Environmental Philosophy

Volume 1, Issue 1, Spring 2004

W. S. K. Cameron
Pages 34-46

Heidegger’s Concept of the Environment in Being and Time

Heidegger’s characterization of Dasein as Being-in-the-world suggests a natural relation to environmental philosophy. Among environmentalists, however, closer inspection must raise alarm, both since Heidegger’s approach is in some senses inescapably anthropocentric and since Dasein discovers its environment through its usability, serviceability, and accessibility. Yet Heidegger does not simply adopt a traditionally modern, instrumental view. The conditions under which the environment appears imply neither that the environment consists only of tools, nor that what is true of the parts is also true of the whole, nor that an orientation to use—where appropriate—precludes any other orientation. Heidegger’s anthropocentric commitments thus do not rule out the possibility of a non-instrumental perspective on the natural world.