Environmental Phenomenology

Fall 2012

Phil 4300W Senior Seminar

Dr. Janet Donohoe


Course Description:  This course serves as a capstone to the study of philosophy at UWG.  It is required for all graduating seniors in philosophy.  This semester’s topic is Environmental Phenomenology which means we will be studying texts that address many aspects of the environment through the phenomenological method.  We will be asking questions about how we experience the environment, what the environment is, how space and place are related, what it means to be embodied beings in relation to a world, and how differing conceptions of environment effect our experiences.


Learning Outcomes:  This course aims to engage students to examine current theoretical and practical issues in the discipline of philosophy; to read and discuss the debates surrounding the topic of the seminar; to develop, research, and execute a rigorous philosophical argument relating to the topic of the seminar; to develop the skills of leading class discussion, and presenting an academic paper.  By the end of the semester students will be able to:


Requirements:  The requirements for this class are fivefold.


                a) Class participation (including editing of anthology)                                                10%

                b) Synopsis paper                                                                                                20%

                c) Class presentations                                                                                         20%

                d) Seminar paper (including drafts)                                                                 50%

e) Intellectual Biography, Resume, Exit Survey, Assessment Exam

(required for graduation)


Class Participation:  Because this course is a small seminar, attendance and participation is mandatory.  Each student will be expected to be fully prepared having done the reading and thought about questions and issues for discussion.


Synopsis Paper:  Students will be required to lead class discussion of a secondary-source text once during the course of the semester.  Each student will need to meet with me prior to giving his or her class presentation of the text. (Friday afternoons from 12-1 pm are reserved for these meetings).  Presentations should last no longer than 20 minutes.  The student must provide a written synopsis of the secondary-source essay that he or she presents to the class. 


Class Presentations:  Each student will be required to present a near-final draft of their seminar paper and respond to questions posed by their fellow classmates and professor.  This presentation should be 10-13 minutes with an additional 4-5 minutes for questions and answers.  All students must attend every class presentation day failure to do so will result in a reduction of your own presentation grade.


Seminar Papers:  Seminar papers should be an original investigation of a text or texts focusing on a particular issue or problem raised by the text(s).  The paper should reflect research of secondary sources and should be a representation of active engagement with theoretical and critical issues currently important in the field.  The result should be a high-quality philosophical essay suitable for submission to undergraduate philosophy conferences.  Because you will be submitting multiple drafts of your paper, the editing process will be taken very seriously.  Editing your classmates’ work, including making comments about revision of grammar, style, organization, and content, is a requirement that will be graded in terms of serious and thoughtful assistance balanced with respect for other individuals’ ideas.


The class project of an anthology requires that you submit your final seminar paper both in hard copy and in an electronic version.  In order for your paper to be included in this collection, you must successfully complete all steps in this process and meet minimum criteria for the paper.  Not every paper is guaranteed to be published in the anthology.  The paper must be of high enough quality for its inclusion.


Extraneous Materials:  Because this is feasibly the last class you will take as you prepare to graduate, there are certain materials we must get from you for your senior portfolio which we keep on file for assessment purposes.  The senior portfolio consists of a) a program advising sheet; b) an example of the student’s best written work; c) an intellectual biography; d) the student’s resume. 


Intellectual Biography:  You will write your intellectual biography as part of this course.  It should be approximately two pages in length and should address your growth as a scholar.  The intellectual biography might include: a discussion of a favorite philosopher; first memory of scholarly interest; the impact of a mentor; and/or, a topic of past, present, or future research.

                Resume:  You will be asked to produce a draft resume during the semester which the senior seminar professor will help to improve.  It is highly recommended that you seek out the services of the Career Center in how to write a successful resume.

                Exit Survey:  This survey is for the Philosophy Program’s use in determining weaknesses and growth areas of our program.  It is not graded and does not factor into your course grade.  It is submitted anonymously

                Assessment Exam:  This is a written exam to be used by the Philosophy Program in assessing our effectiveness in teaching you philosophy.  It is not graded and does not factor into your course grade.  It essentially tests what you have learned in your time in the Philosophy Program.


Late papers will not be accepted.  Class Presentations cannot be made up.


Availability:  I am available outside of class during office hours, or by appointment.  If there are questions or problems, do not hesitate to see me.


Hours:  M, W, F 9:00-10:00 am; 12:00 noon-1:00 pm.

Office:  TLC 2230

Phone:  678-839-4743

e-mail:  jdonohoe@westga.edu


Book List: The following book is available in the bookstore. 

Martin Heidegger                 Poetry, Language, Thought Translated by Albert Hofstadter.  (New York: Harper Collins, 2001).


The readings listed below will be available via Docutek

David Abram                       The Spell of the Sensuous (NY: Pantheon Books, 1996) (referenced as SS).

ed. Charles Brown and Ted Toadvine.                            Eco-Phenomenology: Back to the Earth Itself (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2003), pp. 73-101,108-120, 139-153. (referenced as EP).

Ed Casey                               Getting Back into Place (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), pp. 3-39, 146-181.

ed. Suzanne Cataldi and William Hamrick    Merleau-Ponty and Environmental Philosophy (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007), pp. 191-201, 259-272.

Bruce Foltz                           Inhabiting the Earth: Heidegger, Environmental Ethics, and the Metaphysics of Nature (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1995), pp. 154-180.

ed. Foltz and Frodeman     Rethinking Nature (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004), pp. 207-230.  (referenced as RN).

Karsten Harries                    The Ethical Function of Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), pp. 152-178, 214-227, 254-267.

Edmund Husserl                  “Origin of Spatiality in Nature” from Edmund Husserl: Shorter Works.

Edmund Husserl                  Crisis of European Sciences (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), pp. 173-190.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty     Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1992), pp. 98-147, 243-298.

Robert Mugerauer               Interpretations on Behalf of Place (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994), pp. 93-106.

Christian Norberg-Schulz   Genius Loci (New York: Rizzoli Press, 1979), pp. 5-23.

Anthony Steinbock             Home and Beyond (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1995), pp. 173-185.

Yi-Fu Tuan                           Space and Place (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), pp. 118-148.

ed. Karen Warren                Ecological Feminist Philosophies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996)  pp. 19-41.




Section I: Primacy of Place or Nature?



Primary Text

Secondary Text/Presentation

August 20

Introduction to critical philosophical methods/research methods



Introduction to Ecophenomenology

Zimmerman “What Can Continental Philosophy Contribute” in RN pp. 207-230.

One-page reflection paper due


Husserl “Origins of the Spatiality of Nature”



Husserl “The Task of an Ontology of Lifeworld” in Crisis on European Sciences, pp. 173-190

Abram “Philosophy on the Way to Ecology,” Part I in SS pp. 31-44.

September 3

Labor Day—No Classes



Husserl “The Task of an Ontology of Lifeworld

Anthony Steinbock “Introduction to the Problematic of Homeworld/Alienworld,” pp. 173-185.


Ed Casey Getting Back Into Place, pp. 3-39.



Getting Back Into Place, pp. 3-39.

Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci, pp. 5-23


Getting Back Into Place, pp. 146-181.

Tuan Space and Place, ch. 9-10, pp. 118-148.


Section II: Dwelling and the Built Environment



Primary Text

Secondary Text/Presentation

September 19

Heidegger “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” and “…Poetically Man Dwells”

Zimmerman “Heidegger’s Phenomenology…” in EP, pp. 73-101.



Langer “Nietzsche, Heidegger and M-P…” in EP, pp. 103-120.



Mugerauer “Using Heidegger: A Critique and Shift Toward Praxis” pp. 93-106.


1-page abstract due/peer editing

October 1

Karsten Harries Ethical Function of Architecture ch. 10, 11, pp. 152-178.

Foltz “Dwelling Poetically Upon the Earth: Toward a New Environmental Ethic” pp. 154-180.





Harries ch. 14, 17, pp. 214-227 & 254-267.

Karen Warren “The Power and the Promise of Ecological Feminism” pp. 19-41.





Section III: Embodiedness and Environment



Primary Text

Secondary Text/Presentation




3-page prospectus due with outline and annotated bibliography/peer editing


Merleau-Ponty Phenomenology of Perception, pp. 98-147

Abram “Philosophy on the Way to Ecology,” part II in SS pp. 44-72.


Phenomenology of Perception

Molly Jensen “Fleshing Out an Ethic of Diversity” in MP, pp. 191-201.


Phenomenology of Perception, pp. 243-298

1st draft due/peer editing


Phenomenology of Perception

Ted Toadvine “The Primacy of Desire and Its Ecological Consequences” in EP, pp. 139-153.



Phenomenology of Perception

Martin Dillon “Merleau-Ponty and the Ontology of Ecology or Apocalypse Later” in MP, pp. 259-272.


PAPER PRESENTATIONS (3 per class session)

2nd paper draft due



PAPER PRESENTATIONS (possibly IAEP Conference—No Class)










Final paper draft due


Thanksgiving Break



Working day/anthology Title selection



Assessment Exam

Error-free version of paper due in hard copy and electronically


Intellectual biographies, Resumes, and Exit Surveys are due no later than 2:00 pm December 7, 2012.


The Seminar Paper



      The seminar paper is central to the class and will probably be far more extensive in terms of the process of writing than you have experienced in other classes.

      Because the essay (50% of your grade) will be published in a collection and preserved by the department, your writing is a very public activity.  The first important thing to remember is that the class is now your peer group of editors; we begin with a healthy respect for each other’s work but part of your job is to critique, in helpful ways, the progress of your peers’ projects and, in the same way, be willing to use the critiques from others on your own work.

      Also, the work of this paper takes up the majority of the class after midterm.  This fact has two serious implications: one, you must choose a project early and you must complete a draft early; second, you must show extreme discipline and maturity about scheduling and work.  Any student who cannot make this effort may be encouraged to withdraw.

      Finally, the paper itself may be longer than others you have done.  The projected length is a minimum of 15 pages.  You should make sure that you use at least 4-8 substantive sources.


Deadlines for the paper process:


August 20: Begin thinking about your essay the first day of class.

September 26: 1-page abstract due

October 10: 3-page prospectus with outline and annotated bibliography due

October 22: 1st draft due

October 31: 2nd draft due

November 14: final paper draft due

November 28: error-free version due in hard copy and electronically


Paper Topic Selection

      First do some long hard reflection upon your coursework—review syllabi, readings, conflicts of theories regarding some texts.  No philosopher works in a vacuum. Environmental philosophers, like all philosophers, are in dialogue with philosophers of the past and contemporary non-philosophers who are concerned about the environment are in dialogue with environmental philosophers.  Think about what kinds of philosophical theories of the environment might be relevant for environmental issues we face today. Or think about how contemporary environmental problems/questions may have been influenced by some of these thinkers.  There needn’t be direct links, but links that you could flesh out in your paper.


The Abstract

      The abstract is a brief summary of what you intend to do in your paper.  You should present the thesis of the paper and a general idea of what the argument will be.


The Prospectus

      The prospectus is a more detailed version of the abstract.  It should include a more detailed description of the topic indicating the method you will use in elaborating the thesis of the paper.  The prospectus should also include an outline of the parts of the paper showing the clear organization of the argument.


The Annotated Bibliography

      The annotated bibliography should describe and evaluate the subject and scope of a bibliographical research source, such as an article, book, or chapter in a book.  It might be helpful to use the following 4-sentence pattern for each entry.

a) a report of the author’s thesis in a that clause, introduced by the author’s name and qualifications, if known, and a rhetorically accurate signal verb, for example, argues, claims, explains, reports, etc.


b) a brief but accurate explanation of the author’s evidence, in other words, the facts, definitions, examples or other support the author uses to develop, prove or explain his or her argument, usually in the same order as the main points in the source.


c) a statement of the author’s purpose or motive (answering the question “Why did the author bother to write this?”), followed by an in order to phrase that identifies the author’s goal, that is, what the author hopes to achieve.


d) a description of the author’s intended audience in answer to the question, “Who exactly is the author addressing?”  In other words, what kind of people does the author hope to inform or convince?


(from Margaret Woodward, “The Rhetorical Precis,” Rhetoric Review, vol. 7(1), 1988, pp. 156-63.)




The Department of English and Philosophy defines plagiarism as taking personal credit for the thinking of others as it is presented in electronic, print, and verbal sources.  The Department expects that students will accurately credit sources in all assignments.  Plagiarism is grounds for failing the course and may result in further consequences of being expelled from the University.