In Skeptical Environmentalism, Robert Kirkman raises doubts about the speculative tendencies elaborated in environmental ethics, deep ecology, social ecology, postmodern ecology, ecofeminism, and environmental pragmatism. Drawing on skeptical principles introduced by David Hume, Kirkman takes issue with key tenets of speculative environmentalism, namely that the natural world is fundamentally relational, that humans have a moral obligation to protect the order of nature, and that understanding the relationship between nature and humankind holds the key to solving the environmental crisis. Engaging the work of Kant, Hegel, Descartes, Rousseau, and Heidegger, among others, Kirkman reveals the relational worldview as an unreliable basis for knowledge and truth claims, and, more dangerously, as harmful to the intellectual sources from which it takes inspiration. Exploring such themes as the way knowledge about nature is formulated, what characterizes an ecological worldview, how environmental worldviews become established, and how we find our place in nature, Skeptical Environmentalism advocates a shift away from the philosopher's privileged position as truth seeker toward a more practical thinking that balances conflicts between values and worldviews.
"Unlike many environmental philosophy books, which are not easily accessible to lay people, this one is. It is engagingly written, and the philosophical arguments are laid out clearly and crisply. Kirkman addresses the basic question, Can philosophical understanding of the natural world contribute in a practical way to the public's discourse about environmental issues? He claims that it can and must [...] A very useful primer about skeptical environmentalism. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through graduate students; two-year technical program students."
– Choice, September 2002
Part 1. Knowledge
1. The Nature of Nature
2. Organism and Mechanism
Part 2. Obligation
3. A Place on Earth
4. The Moral Compass
Part 3. Hope
5. Environmentalism without Illusions
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Robert Kirkman received his Ph.D. in philosophy from SUNY, Stony Brook. He is currently Assistant Professor of Science and Technology at the Lyman Briggs School at Michigan State University. His research interests encompass environmental philosophy, the history and philosophy of science, the history of philosophy, and suburban environments.