Senior Theses

Publication Date

Spring 5-15-2023

Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy



Faculty Advisor(s)

Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza

Subject Categories



In this paper I will explore the question of whether or not humans, as natural beings, are morally responsible for their actions in relation to nature. After all most natural beings, i.e. deer, wolves, whales, or even plants, regardless of their level of intelegence, are held responsible for their effect on the environment. When a rabbit population explodes and an ecosystem is sent into turmoil, we do not morally find fault with the rabbits. With this in mind I ask: why is it so different when humans send an ecosystem into distress? What is our moral relationship to nature? To answer this question we will examine first, in section two, the major ethical starting points of the ‘relational field, ’ a stance delveloped by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess that, in important ways, stems from Bhuddism. In section three, this will be contrasted with prevalent views espoused in the West, specifically Chritianity, neoliberalism, and longtermism. Capitalism and its troublesome environmental and existential impact is examined next in section four. Then, section five offers a critique of these explores the social, ecological, and ethical consequences of where such stances lead us. Finally, section six, briefly explores some practical options before summing key ideas in the conclusion.

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