Dissertation, University of South Florida (2019)

Environmental philosophers have argued that Kant’s philosophy offers little for environmental issues. Furthermore, Kant scholars typically focus on humanity, ignoring the question of duties to the environment. In my dissertation, I turn to a number of underexploited texts in Kant’s work to show how both sides are misguided in neglecting the ecological potential of Kant, making the case for the green Kant at the intersection of Kant scholarship and environmental ethics. I build upon previous literature to argue that the green Kant matters for both sides. Rather than a liability, Kant is indeed a conceptual resource. Though many conceive of Kant’s philosophy as environmentally problematic, I argue that underappreciated evolutionary, aesthetic, and holistic sides of Kant’s philosophy can provide conceptual resources for issues in climate change and environmental ethics. Some aspects, such as the pre-critical view of nature, are quite green and merely require an application, while others, such as Kant’s philosophy of history, require a green appropriation to be relevant. The theoretical foundations I develop in these texts will allow Kantians to articulate duties regarding nature and duties for sustainability. This re-thinking of Kant redresses the complaints environmental thinkers hold against Kant. By means of a philosophical interpretation, defense, and application of particular texts from Kant’s works such as Universal Natural History, Critique of Judgment, and Idea for a Universal History, I show how the greening of Kant is not only helpful for contemporary issues, but also defensible. This will make the green Kant agreeable to Kant scholars yet all the while relevant for today with regard to environmental ethics and, more importantly, climate change.
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