Department of Philosophy

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M.A. Environmental Philosophy

Requirements for the Master of Arts degree, Environmental Philosophy

36 graduate credits; thesis.

A. 36 graduate credits:

1. 27 credits must be in philosophy. These include:

(a) Environmental Ethics (PHL 427E, 3 credits)

(b) Philosophy of Technology (PHL 501, 3 credits)

(c) Philosophy of the Science of Ecology (PHL 501, 3 credits)

(d) Topics in Value Theory (PHL 502, 3 credits)

(e) Topics in Environmental Philosophy (PHL 504, 6 credits)

(f) Philosophy Forum (PHL 510, 2 credits)

(g) Supervised internship with a suitable environmental organization or government agency (PHL 598, 3 credits)

(h) Thesis (PHL 599, 4 credits)

2. 9 elective credits. These courses must be approved by the Graduate Advisor and may be philosophy courses or courses taken outside the department.

3. At least half the credits required for the degree (excluding a combined total of 10 credits for thesis and research) must be at the 500 level.

B. Thesis: Students must successfully complete and defend a 30-40 page thesis on a topic in environmental philosophy.



Bugbee and Guth Lectures

The department also sponsors two major lectures each year, often in conjunction with the Presidential Lecture series. The Henry Bugbee Lecture commemorates the work of a former Professor and Chair of the philosophy department at the University of Montana. In addition to being a notable and influential thinker and an esteemed colleague and teacher, Henry Bugbee was known for his eloquence in writing and storytelling, and for his love of flyfishing and the Montana landscape. He died in December 1999 in Missoula, Montana. The Brennan Guth lecture series is offered in memory of a former philosophy major, environmentalist, and world-class kayaker who died tragically in an accident on a river in Chile in 2001. Brennan´s love of philosophy and of environmental issues inspired many in Missoula to continue his legacy in numerous ways. In addition to the annual Brennan Guth lecture, a broad citizen effort in Brennan´s memory led to the construction of Brennan´s Wave on the Clark Fork River. An old irrigation diversion was converted into a standing wave for recreational kayaking where the river flows through downtown Missoula.

Both lecture series bring nationally and internationally known figures to campus to talk about important contemporary issues that often bear on environmental science, literature, and politics.

Recent Guth lecturers include Kathleen Dean Moore (2010), David Orr (2009), Terry Tempest Williams (2008), James Hansen (2007), Robert Bullard (2006), Larry Rasmussen (2005), and Wendell Berry (2004). Recent Bugbee lecturers include Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (2011), Alexander Nehemas (2010), Albert Borgmann (2009), Jonathan Lear (2008), Michael Ruse (2007), Robert Bellah (2006), Elliot Sober (2005), Susan Haack (2004), and David Chalmers (2003).

Internship and Field Course Option

As part of the Environmental Masters Degree, students are required to take three credits in an internship or field course. 

For the internship, a faculty advisor will assist in setting up an internship with one of the numerous non-profit organizations in Missoula (alternatively, a student could coordinate an internship in their hometown or eleswhere).  Alongside whatever work the internship involves, the advisor will assign suitable philosophical reading to blend practical and theoretical learning.  Forty-five contact hours are required at the host organization as well as several short reports and a concluding internship paper.  Recent students have worked with Women's Voices for the Earth, Garden City Harvest, a Missoula City Councilman, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Starting in August 2012, there will be an opportunity for graduate students to complete their internship by participating as an assistant in a three-week Wild Rockies Field Institute course on environmental ethics.  The course will typically take place in one of Montana's famed natural areas such as the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, or the Big Snowy Mountains.  Students will assist the Wild Rockies Field Institute instructors in all aspects of the course, from logistical matters to leading discussion groups.

Mini-Colloquium with the University of Idaho

An annual graduate student mini-conference with the University of Idaho enables students to present their work in environmental philosophy before their peers. For more details of the Idaho Program see,

Students and faculty at the first Montana-Idaho graduate student colloquium held in Moscow, ID in April, 2008.

Students and faculty at the first Montana-Idaho graduate
student colloquium held in Moscow, ID, in April, 2008.

The Summer Environmental Ethics Institute

The Center for Ethics at The University of Montana perioodically holds a summer institute focusing on environmental issues. The summer classes, typically lasting from 2-6 days and requiring 2-3 weeks of online preparation, bring nationally recognized speakers from around the country to Missoula for intensive discussion involving students and professionals from a mixture of backgrounds. Previous workshop leaders include Yuriko Saito (Rhode Island Instituted of Design), Andrew Light (University of Washington), and Karen Warren (Macalaster University).



Albert Borgmann is Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of Montana, Missoula where he has taught since 1970. His special area is the philosophy of society and culture. Among his publications are Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life (University of Chicago Press, 1984), Crossing the Postmodern Divide (University of Chicago Press, 1992), Holding On to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium (University of Chicago Press, 1999), Power Failure: Christianity in the Culture of Technology (Brazos Press, 2003), and Real American Ethics (University of Chicago Press, 2006).

Deborah Slicer has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing, both from the University of Virginia. Her interests in the environment and the arts converge in her seminars on Thoreau, environmental narrative, and environmental aesthetics. She is the recipient of the 2003 Autumn House Prize for Poetry for The White Calf Kicks.  She also guest edited a special issue on environmental narrative for Ethics and the Environment, and her articles have appeared in such journals as Environmental Ethics, Ethics and Agriculture, Religion and Literature, and in several anthologies including Reading the Earth, Ecofeminist Literary Criticism, and Animals and Society: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences.

Christopher J. Preston is the author of Saving Creation: Nature and Faith in the Life of Holmes Rolston, III (forthcoming, Trinity University Press, 2009). Grounding Knowledge: Environmental Philosophy, Epistemology, and Place (University of Georgia Press, 2003) and co-editor of a collection of essays on Holmes Rolston, III titled Nature, Value, and Duty: Life on Earth with Holmes Rolston, III (Springer, 2006). He has published more than a dozen articles in environmental philosophy and related areas. His philosophical interests include value theory, ecofeminism, the science/ethics interface, and environmental epistemology. He has a Masters degree in applied ethics from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. He is a research fellow at the university’s Center for Ethics, works as a tool librarian at a local non-profit, and has commercial fished a number of summers in Alaska. Christopher was born and raised in England.

Soazig Le Bihan has a double Ph.D. from the University of Bielefeld (Germany), 2008 and the University of Nancy (France). She joined the department in the Fall of 2008 as a philosopher of science specializing in the philosophy of quantum physics. She has since taken particular interest in the budding field of philosophy of the science of ecology. Philosophy of the science of ecology is one of the few relatively untouched areas of philosophy of science. It presents a great challenge to philosophers of science as traditional conceptions of topics such as scientific explanation, laws of nature, scientific theories, and scientific understanding, which have been developed by reflecting primarily on physics, simply don't do justice to the science of ecology. Starting spring 2012, she will be teaching a seminar on the philosophy of the science of ecology.

Armond Duwell In the fall of 2006, Prof. Duwell joined the Department of Philosophy at The University of Montana as an Assistant Professor. He specializes in philosophy of science. Professor Duwell teaches classes in the philosophy of science that support the emphasis.

Dan Spencer is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and has taught at The University of Montana since 2002. Some of his areas of teaching and research interest include ecological ethics, ethical issues in ecological restoration, the relationship between religion, spirituality, and the environment, and globalization, justice, and environmental issues in Latin America. He was born and raised in California and Colorado, and received his B.A. in Geology from Carleton College, Minnesota in 1979, and his Master's (1983) and Ph.D. (1994) in Environmental Ethics from Union Theological Seminary, New York. He is the author of Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology and the Erotic, published by The Pilgrim Press (1996).

Vicki Watson was born on a small family farm on the Texas prairie. She grew up watching her parents care for their land and struggle to protect the small creek on their land from the wastewater of a growing town upstream. Since then she completed degrees (and worked to protect lakes and streams) on the Texas coastal plain and the Wisconsin deciduous forest. At UM since 1983, her research, teaching and service focus on the conservation, preservation and restoration of watersheds. In this effort, she has worked with federal, state, and local governments and with citizen groups and individuals. With her students she provides technical assistance to watershed groups through the UM Watershed Health Clinic (, working for sustainability, social justice, and peace.

Environmental Philosophy Links within The University of Montana

Center for Ethics -
Environmental Studies -
Environmental Writing Institute -
Wilderness Institute -
Wilderness Information Network -
Native American Studies -
Division of Biological Sciences -
Department of English -
College of Forestry and Conservation -

Environmental Philosophy Links outside The University of Montana

Center for Environmental Philosophy -
International Society for Environmental Ethics -
International Association for Environmental Philosophy -
Bibliography of Environmental Ethics -
University of Idaho Philosophy Department -

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