Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation is aimed at exploring the question of direct engagement with the natural world as a way of establishing certain moral and ontological truths, particularly those connected to our current environmental struggles. Contrary to the wave of much of modern Western thinking, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Buber and Aldo Leopold demonstrate an ethics that is relational in nature, action oriented, and bound up in inexpressible wonder. Consequently, these thinkers are also critical of a world which bases the whole of reality solely on the logic of rational investigation and the material facts of science. The heart of ethical responsibility in general, and the motive to care for nature in particular, are caught up in the phenomenon of relation. The implications of this for environmental ethics are profound. If our goal as environmental educators or religious professionals is normative and not just descriptive, if our hope is to increase awareness and care for all life, what philosophical arguments, scientific analyses, or even religious doctrines say will not be sufficient to generate sincere motivation. Today's science, philosophy, and religious dialogue need to be supplemented with engaged encounters with life. This highlights the need to focus on concrete practices that can plunge us into natural relationships and re-attune our inherent aptitude to perceive being. Cultivating practices like gardening, small farming, ecosystem restoration projects and the like can provide such opportunities.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.