Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics

By Holmes Rolston III | Go to book overview

IV. NATURE IN EXPERIENCE

Nature is a philosophical and religious "resource," if we must use that word. Philosophy gone wild finds rich experiences--perhaps of solitude or serenity, perhaps of awe, mystery, vastness, aesthetic beauty. We confront the struggle for life, its conflict and harmony, the constructive, destructive, and regenerative powers within natural history, the agelong flow over time of kindred and alien forms of life. We love the smells, sights, sounds, surprises there, we learn truth about our sources, not less than our resources.

These are experiences of re-creation as well as of recreation. We gain a sense of proportion, place, identity; we are humbled in some ways, exalted in others. We are drawn into intimate contact with wildness, experiencing the nature within ourselves and the nature transcending ourselves. A paradox in wildness is that, despite its nonanthropocentric intrinsic values, only philosophical humans can know these values for what they are cognitively, ethically, metaphysically. Only humans can experience wildness in this richest, contemplative sense. We search nature, and the search returns upon ourselves.

The essays that follow take the experiential plunge into nature, mixing participatory immediacy and reflective distance, reason and emotion, romance and criticism, nature and spirit. We leave the forum, the debate, the academic argument and classroom, and go out into the field. We go wild. Natural values are in some respects objective, and we have earlier argued this. But that was nowhere meant to preclude but rather to provide the emergence of valued subjective experiences, consequent upon this human arrival in nature. We enter a natural scene, latecomers there. But we ourselves, when educated by our choices and patterns of response, compose spirited experiences that are critically novel in the levels of value attained, though also integral to our surroundings. Humans seek meanings in ways that nothing wild can. We accept commitments. When philosophers enter wild nature, the philosophical experience of nature is the consummating result of a historical, evolutionary, ecosystemic Earth. Such philosophical and religious experiences are not the only values there, but are

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Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • I. Ethics and Nature 11
  • 1: Is There an Ecological Ethic? 12
  • Notes 28
  • 2: Can and Ought We to Follow Nature? 30
  • 3: Philosophical Aspects of the Environment 53
  • 4: The River of Life 61
  • Ii. Values in Nature 73
  • 5: Values in Nature 74
  • Notes 89
  • 6: Are Values in Nature Subjective or Objective? 91
  • 7: Values Gone Wild 118
  • Iii. Environmental Philosophy in Practice 143
  • 8: Just Environmental Business 144
  • Introduction 144
  • References 177
  • 9: Valuing Wildlands 180
  • Iv. Nature in Experience 221
  • 11: Lake Solitude 223
  • 12: Meditation at the Precambrian Contact 233
  • 13: Farewell, Washington County 241
  • 14: Nature and Human Emotions 248
  • Subject Index 263
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