Environmental Ethics 24 (2):169-188 (2002)

Steve Vanderheiden
University of Colorado, Boulder
William Cronon has recently argued that the current debate concerning justifications for protecting wilderness relies upon conceptions of natural value premised upon a nature/society dualism that originated in older nature writing but which still animates contemporary thinking. This dualism, he argues, prevents adequate realization of the human and social places in nature, and is ultimately counterproductiveto the task of articulating the proper relationship between humans and the natural world. While the origin of one of these conceptions of natural value (the frontier) can be traced back to Rousseau, I argue that Rousseau’s writings reveal a far more complex and nuanced treatment of the value of nature in and for society (and the persons that compose it) than has thus far been acknowledged. Moreover, by unpacking several arguments made by Rousseau on behalf of the stewardship and accessibility of natural areas, one can not only gain a more accurate view of Rousseau’s environmental thought than is ordinarily recognized by authors who focus on his primitivism and anti-modern critique, but also some insights that may help bridge the nature/society dualism plaguing contemporary environmental ethics and noted by Cronon
Keywords Applied Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0163-4275
DOI 10.5840/enviroethics200224229
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