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Philosophy Speakers: Katie McShane (Colorado State): "The Role of Awe in Environmental Ethics"

Date & Time:
January 22, 2016 | 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Social Sciences Tower, Room 1253

About the Talk

In both aesthetics and psychology, awe is typically treated as a good thing: as a pro-attitude, a positive moral emotion.  In ethics and political philosophy, however, awe is more often regarded with suspicion: as a tool of manipulation and coercion, with no place in egalitarian social relations.  This creates a puzzle for environmental ethicists who want to treat nature’s ability to inspire awe as evidence of its value.  Are the awe-inspiring features of the natural world a legitimate basis for claims about environmental value, or does pointing to them instead circumvent the rational discussion of such values?  I will argue that a clearer understanding of the nature of awe shows why there is no easy answer to this question: awe is indeed a powerful corrective to certain human vices, but when those vices are absent, awe can have a deleterious effect on human decision-making.

About the Speaker

Katie McShane is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University, specializing in environmental ethics and ethical theory. Her research interests lie at the intersection of ethical theory, particularly the theory of value, and environmental ethics. Her work explores the moral significance of the emotional attitudes that we take toward the natural world. She has published papers in journals such as Environmental Ethics, Environmental ValuesEthics & the Environment, and Philosophical Studies. Her current research analyzes the assumptions about value that might be present in various valuing attitudes (in particular, awe and respect) that environmentalists often urge people to take toward the natural world. 

McShane's website

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