Module V82112/V83115 Environmental Ethics and Religious Thought Fridays 13:00pm-16:00pm, Portland E126 Lecturer: Mr.

Anthony Paul Smith (
Aims The module will introduce students to the relationship between environmental ethics and religious thought. This will mean considering both the ways in which religious thought may help form an ethical response to the ecological crisis and how religious thought is implicated in the crisis itself. In the process students will need to consider the relationship between thinking and practice as well as the meaning of religion. Learning Outcomes


Knowledge and understanding: Knowledge of the work of selected theorists and practitioners in the field of environmental ethics; understanding of the stated or implied theories of religion operating in theorists’ work; knowledge and understanding of religious motifs and themes evident in and through Western conceptions of nature.


Intellectual skills: Ability to read texts, primary and secondary sources, and do so critically; ability to locate discussion of nature and environment and the ethical practice within discussion of contemporary social organization.


Professional practical skills: Active participation in seminarand group exercise-based module, through individual preparation and group discussion skills; ability to research a topic through investigation of paper and electronic resources.


Transferable (key) skills: Ability to critically consider “green policies” of political groups, religious groups, and corporations; ability to research and construct a critical essay on a relevant and clearlyfocussed topic. Summary of content This module will provide an introduction to the relationship between environmental ethics and religious thought. The orientation for environmental ethics will be from the perspective of the ecological catastrophe that we are already caught up in and the looming problems that will arise because of this catastrophe. Due to time constraints our


orientation will largely be that of Western Christianity, but this will be from a “generalist” standpoint and so students are encouraged to engage with other religious traditions and cultures using the critical tools developed through the module. The module aims to investigate the underlying relationship between thought, meaning our conceptual frameworks for understanding the world and those that inhabit it, and practice, meaning what we do. The module will not then provide case-studies of ecological disasters that we then rigidly apply some ready-made ethical framework to, but our challenge is to consider how theology can confront this crisis and how it has helped to engender it. Considerable attention is given to the history of Christian theology as well as to . Through the analysis of our theological frame of thinking as well as our social practices under global capitalism participants will be required to create their own positions and assessments of the challenge to thought that the environmental crisis poses.

Teaching Pattern 3-hour sessions, comprising lecture, discussion, and seminar discussions lead by student groups. Fridays 1:00pm–4:00pm Individual tutorial help is available by appointment. Contact me at to set up a date and time. Note that I do not check my university e-mail regularly, so email me at the gmail address if you need a prompt reply.

Programme: Note that all readings are provided in the course reader and organized in order of when they are to be read. Readings listed are to be read for that class period. If the reading is listed for February 4th, it is to be read prior to the February 4th session of class. Each reading is preceded by a cover page that gives you the reference and page numbers. Date January 28th February 4th Content Introduction to Environmental Ethics and Religious Thought The Debate over the Religious-Historical Roots of our Environmental Crisis Required reading: White, pp. 1-6; Northcott, pp. 40-85 February 11th Established Church Responses to the Crisis from the


Required reading: Pope Benedict XVI; Pope John Paul II; Archbishop Rowan Williams, Wendell Berry February 18th Theological Roots I: Hierarchy and Nature as Creation in Pseudo-Dionysius and St. Thomas Required reading: Pseudo-Dionysius, pp. 107111; St. Thomas, ST Ia.q44, SCG, 2.2-4. February 25th Theological Roots II: Hierarchy and Nature as Brother and Sister in St. Francis and St. Bonaventure

Required reading: St. Francis; St. Bonaventure, Prologue and Ch. 13. March 4th From Nature to Environment Required reading: Heidegger, pp. 95-107; Ratzinger, pp. 13-39. March 11th Economy and Ecology: Theology of Money Required reading: Goodchild (2004), 151-177. March 18th Feminist Ecotheology Required reading: Ruether, pp. 143-172 March 25th Liberation Theology and Ecology Required reading: Boff, pp. 1-34, 104-114. April 1st Conclusion: Thinking and Doing Required reading: Goodchild (2002), pp. x-xvi, 179-196, 200-203, 208-219.


Seminars and Protocols Each class period will involve about two-hours of lecture and about onehour of seminar. The seminar will come first and will be a led by two student groups. Each group will have written a “protocol” (for more information see below), which should be a condensed set of notes covering the most important aspects of the last week’s lecture. Both protocol papers will be distributed to the other students and so must be emailed to me the Thursday before each class. Each group will be expected to come up with some question of their own relating to the text as well as a response to one of the questions I will set each week related to the readings. This should last between 20-30 minutes. The groups will then open up discussion between the two of them, with which the rest of the class may interact. Attendance at the seminar is compulsory. If you skip the first part of the class you may not, barring exceptional circumstances or a real reason for being late, attend the lecture component. Group size: Each group should contain 3-4 members. Each group must write the protocol together and the small size of the group should mean that each person is able to participate in this process. Assessment Requirements

1. One 2500-word reflection essay (50%): This essay is in part tied to your
seminar group and must mix a protocol section between 1000 and 1500-words with a critical reflection on a question set for the accompanying reading for that days lectures. The protocol section should provide a summary of the most important points covered in the lecture and must be written as a group. The second half of the essay will use the reading to respond to one of the questions I will set for each class session.

The protocol section must be completed the Thursday prior to the class and emailed to me so that I can make copies for the rest of the class. As each seminar will be lead by two groups this means that each student will have two sets of lecture notes for each lecture. However, the assessed essay can be turned in on any of the four dates given in the student handbook and is not to be turned in as a group paper (though the first section will be identical in each paper). The second section should focus on answering the question set by using the texts for the same lecture, but you may also use other texts read in the course and outside to help explicate the text. This essay may be turned in either the February 24th, March 17th, March 31st, May 5th.

2. One 2500-word essay (50%)
I will be providing a detailed bibliography by the third class session that will help you to organize your research. Also be aware that you are welcome and encouraged to contact me when you feel lost or if you would like extra resources for a specific problem. As


this is a 20-credit module I encourage you to display creativity alongside solid research. Your mark will largely depend on your use of your own critical skills developed in the course of the module, rather than your ability to summarize the work of others. The titles have been given to provide you with an orientation, but there is no predetermined answer and assessment will be made based on the creativity presented, the strength of your argument, and the quality of your research. This essay must be turned in on either March 31st or May 5th.

a. “The Environmental Crisis and the Preferential Option for the Poor.”
Is there a special relationship between poverty and the challenges posed by the environmental crisis? In this essay you could discuss the preferential option for the poor as presented in the various Christian traditions and ecofeminism or liberation theology, discussing their differences and similarities. Alternatively you could discuss the difference between Benedict’s Thomistic conception of nature with Boff’s Franciscan conception. Engage with at least two of the figures discussed in the course. Or, for a more general perspective, the relationship of capitalism to the crisis and the religious character of both (Goodchild).

b. “Historical Theology and the Environmental Crisis.”

For this essay you are asked to consider the relationship between historical theology and the environmental crisis. This can take a number of different shapes, of which you must choose one. First, what is the relationship between medieval conceptions of nature and creation theology with contemporary theological responses to the crisis (whether that be from a Church Authority or a theologian)? How do the contemporary theologians (Ruether, Boff, Ratzinger, Goodchild, etc.) challenge and/or develop ideas inherited from the medieval sources? Engage with at least two of the figures, one from each period. For this essay you are asked to consider the relationship between thought and practice, specifically with regard to the environment and religious forms of thought. Is thought formed in actions? Or are actions determined by thought? Or is there some more dialectical relationship? To answer this question you should consider the demands put upon religious thought by the “ecological turn”, or the ethical demand’s put upon both our thinking and doing by the environmental crisis. There are a number of ways to go about this. For instance, should theology (of a particular kind, i.e. either Protestant, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholic, Islamic, etc.) change in the light of ecological thought? If yes, why and what would that require theologically to remain broadly orthodox? If no, why and how can the current shape of orthodoxy (again of whatever tradition you engage with) accommodate the ecological outlook? In this essay you should engage with the different models of faith and reason presented

c. “The Relationship Between Thought and Practice.”


throughout the course as well as at least two of the figures. There are a number of different topics you could cover here: our ideas about God, anthropocentrism, hierarchy, relationality, etc. Alternatively you can take a more “philosophy of religion” approach as present in Goodchild. Can working with religious materials change secular forms of thinking? Are our ways of thinking already religious and if so must we think the environmental crisis also in the light of the death of God? Etc. Essays may be submitted, using the date-stamping machine and collection box in the Department reception area, at any time up to 4.45 p.m. on each of these days. (They can, of course, be submitted in advance, for any of these dates.) Details about essay submission may be found in Information for Students 2010/11, section 8.1.3. (Subsidiary students may obtain copies of this from the office.) No essay will be accepted without a fully completed cover sheet, including the signature on the plagiarism declaration.


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