Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 447–463 | Cite as

Field philosophy: dualism to complexity through the borderland

  • Lissy Goralnik
  • Michael Paul Nelson


For 5 years, we have taught an interdisciplinary experiential environmental philosophy—field philosophy—course in Isle Royale National Park. We crafted this class with a pedagogy and curriculum guided by the ethic of care (Goralnik et al. in J Experiential Education 35(3):412–428, 2012) and a Leopold-derived community-focused environmental ethic (Goralnik and Nelson in J Environ Educ 42(3):181–192, 2011) to understand whether and how wilderness experience might impact the widening of students’ moral communities. But we found that student pre-course writing already revealed a preference for nonanthropocentric and nonutilitarian ethics, albeit with a naïve understanding that enabled contradictions and confusion about how these perspectives might align with action. By the end of the course, though, we recognized a recurrent pattern of learning and moral development that provides insight into the development of morally inclusive environmental ethics. Rather than shift from a utilitarian or anthropocentric ethic to a more biocentric or ecocentric ethic, students instead demonstrated a metaphysical shift from a worldview dominated by dualistic thinking to a more complex awareness of motivations, actions, issues, and natural systems. The consistent occurrence of this preethical growth, observed in student writing and resulting from environmental humanities field learning, demonstrates a possible path to ecologically informed holistic environmental ethics.


Natural World Environmental Ethic Traditional Ecological Knowledge Moral Community Wolf Population 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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