Our Place in Nature: Toward a Heideggerian Ethos of the Environment

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DeLaFuente, Crystal Zeba
Heiddegger; nature; environment; environmental ethics
thesis / dissertation description
This thesis aims to show that Martin Heidegger?s notion of fundamental ontology can serve as the foundation for a new approach to environmental ethics. The thesis begins with a brief introduction to the traditional approaches of environmental thought and a description of how Heidegger?s interpretation of human existence as Dasein provides a new perspective from which to approach questions of the fitting relation between human beings and the nonhuman world. While traditional environmental thought approaches nature primarily as the object of modern science and technology, Heidegger?s thought allows nature to become meaningful for human beings as an important part of their everyday lives. The first chapter begins with an examination of the wilderness and environmental justice debates and argues that Anglo-American environmental thought has yet to understand and define the natural environment in a way that encompasses the needs of both human and nonhuman life. Heidegger?s existential analytic of Dasein describes human existence in a way that demonstrates its interconnectedness with the nonhuman world and can be used to rethink the fitting place of human existence within the natural environment. The second chapter demonstrates that Heidegger?s critique of the metaphysical foundations of modern science and technology clears the way for a renewed understanding of the interconnectedness of human and nonhuman life. Heidegger?s critique demonstrates that an authentic understanding of human existence necessarily entails a new approach to interpreting being. The final chapter of the thesis analyses Heidegger?s retrieval of the early Greek understanding of being as phusis together with Heidegger?s notion of poetic dwelling in order to provide a new perspective for interpreting the scope of a fitting relation between human beings and natural environment. Heidegger?s thought demonstrates that the natural environment must be understood as an essential condition of human existence and can thereby allow human beings to interpret the nonhuman world in a way that would encompass the needs of both human and nonhuman life.