Event Title

Field Philosophy: The Path from Dualism to Complexity

Location

Natural Resources Meeting Room

Event Website

http://uenr.warnercnr.colostate.edu

Start Date

23-3-2012 3:45 PM

End Date

23-3-2012 4:15 PM

Description

Field philosophy is fieldwork in the environmental humanities. It combines the intellectual content of environmental ethics with physical experiences in the natural world to develop personal, emotional, and concrete relationships with the natural world. For three years I have collected and analyzed student writing from a field philosophy course I developed and teach in Isle Royale National Park, a wilderness island in northwest Lake Superior. Through this qualitative content analysis I have found students’ pre-course and on-course writing to be an effective indicator of their ethical and knowledge baselines and a foil against which post-course growth can be understood. Observing pre-course reading responses alongside daily on-course and post-course reflections can help identify shifts in individual student thinking, make comparisons across students, and identify recurrent themes in the processes of ethical development, learning, and self-awareness. Pre-course writing across all three years demonstrates a reliance on dualistic thinking, including true/false and selfish/generous characterizations applied to people, the land, and motivations for action. These dualisms simultaneously impose evaluations of good and bad, right and wrong, indicating then both a description, as well as a moral judgment. From this language trend—which suggests a certain conceptualization of the world—and the way it changes, disappears, or is challenged during the students’ field philosophy experience, we can draw some conclusions about students’ ethical inclinations, learning, and perceived responsibility for environmental problem-solving. By the end of the course, though, many students inhabit a significantly more complex grey zone, demonstrate an ability to empathize with multiple points of view, and assume greater responsibility for effecting change. My data suggests a series of steps and relationships are integral to the development of this critical and complex awareness, as well as a wider moral community, or the belief that beings and systems other than humans deserve moral consideration. In this paper I will use student writing from the Isle Royale field philosophy course to illuminate the stages of this process, including the development of self-awareness, participation in a safe social learning community, full (cognitive and affective) engagement with course content, and, finally, responsibility for environmental change and transference.

Comments

Citation: Goralnik, Lissy. 2012. Field Philosophy: The Path from Dualism to Complexity. UENR 9th Biennial Conference. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cuenr/9thBiennial/Sessions/24/

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Mar 23rd, 3:45 PM Mar 23rd, 4:15 PM

Field Philosophy: The Path from Dualism to Complexity

Natural Resources Meeting Room

Field philosophy is fieldwork in the environmental humanities. It combines the intellectual content of environmental ethics with physical experiences in the natural world to develop personal, emotional, and concrete relationships with the natural world. For three years I have collected and analyzed student writing from a field philosophy course I developed and teach in Isle Royale National Park, a wilderness island in northwest Lake Superior. Through this qualitative content analysis I have found students’ pre-course and on-course writing to be an effective indicator of their ethical and knowledge baselines and a foil against which post-course growth can be understood. Observing pre-course reading responses alongside daily on-course and post-course reflections can help identify shifts in individual student thinking, make comparisons across students, and identify recurrent themes in the processes of ethical development, learning, and self-awareness. Pre-course writing across all three years demonstrates a reliance on dualistic thinking, including true/false and selfish/generous characterizations applied to people, the land, and motivations for action. These dualisms simultaneously impose evaluations of good and bad, right and wrong, indicating then both a description, as well as a moral judgment. From this language trend—which suggests a certain conceptualization of the world—and the way it changes, disappears, or is challenged during the students’ field philosophy experience, we can draw some conclusions about students’ ethical inclinations, learning, and perceived responsibility for environmental problem-solving. By the end of the course, though, many students inhabit a significantly more complex grey zone, demonstrate an ability to empathize with multiple points of view, and assume greater responsibility for effecting change. My data suggests a series of steps and relationships are integral to the development of this critical and complex awareness, as well as a wider moral community, or the belief that beings and systems other than humans deserve moral consideration. In this paper I will use student writing from the Isle Royale field philosophy course to illuminate the stages of this process, including the development of self-awareness, participation in a safe social learning community, full (cognitive and affective) engagement with course content, and, finally, responsibility for environmental change and transference.

http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cuenr/9thBiennial/Sessions/24