Dale Jamieson, "Respect for Nature," pp. 188-193

from Reason in a Dark Time: Why The Struggle Against Climate Change Failed and What it Means for our Future


1.      Important points

         a.      Respect for nature an important virtue that we should cultivate as part of an ethics for the Anthropocene

         b.      Nature is not a single thing and we can respect elements/dimensions of nature while expressing contempt for others

         c.      Respecting nature is respecting ourselves

2.      Respect for nature is both a duty and a virtue

         a.      Jamieson treats it as a virtue

3.      A, persistent, if not universal value

         a.      In Romantic tradition

         b.      Attributed to indigenous peoples

         c.      Found in some Asian traditions


4.      Domination = Agent overwhelmingly compromising a subject’s autonomy

         a.      A type of agent power over an autonomous subject

         b.      Certain kind/extremity of power can compromise a subject’s autonomy

         c.      Compromising a subject’s autonomy to a certain extent/kind is domination

         d.       In so far as we are dominating the planet, hence dominating nature, we fail to respect it

         e.      Domination is one way to fail to respect something

5.      Nature’s autonomy involves it being self-determining

         a.      Being governed by its own laws and internal relations

6.      Nature losing/lost its autonomy

         a.      Rather than being autonomous, nature is increasing affected (governed?) by human action

         b.      While humans have always influenced nature, the extent/degree of human influence today makes the relation one of human’s dominating nature.

         c.      Our influence is so thoroughgoing it constitutes domination

7.      Ned’s idea that nature is still in charge

         a.      That humans are dominating nature is tension with my idea of nature’s ongoing agency

         b.      Nature still pervades and governs the planet

         c.      Humans are not “governing” the planet

         d.      We have compromised nature’s autonomy, but we are not (yet) dominating nature; we do not govern the earth/planet.

         e.      This does to undermine Jamieson’s idea that we fail to respect nature since attempting to dominate/control/govern it and undermine its autonomy is disrespectful of it

8.      Attitudinal domination (or disrespect for nature)

         a.      In how we think/feel about nature, not just how we act

         b.      Treating nature as mere means: as if it did not have an value/existence independent of its role as resource for us

         c.      Nature as toy: As a society we treat Earth and its fundamental systems as if they were toys that can be treated carelessly, as if their functions could easily be replace by minor exercise of human ingenuity


9.      Seeing nature as amoral

         a.      “Heaven/Earth are impartial, treat all of creation as straw dogs” (Lao-Tse)

         b.      Forces that govern world indifferent to human welfare

         c.      We should respect nature because of its blind force and power

10.    Seeing nature as a fierce adversary

         a.      Respecting nature for its power and abilities to pursue its ends which are fundamentally at odds with those of humanity

11.    Nature as enemy of humanity:

         a.      Seeing nature as amoral and adversary can provide grounds for respecting nature or dominating it.

         b.      See nature as immensely powerful and malevolent adversary, and humanity as weak, vulnerable and in need of protection

                  i.      If humanity and its projects are to survive/thrive, nature must be subdued and kept at bay

         c.      This makes some sense for early human civilization before our technology became so successful and powerful

                  i.      Now it is a misguided view

12.    Nature as other

         a.      Nature can be respected for its radical otherness, can’t be assimilated to human practices

13.    Nature as sublime (object of wonder, awe, astonishment, admiration or reverence)

         a.      Profound aesthetic significance in its overwhelming power and vastness

         b.      Experience of sublime in nature

                  i.      Delight, a most powerful human emotion

                  ii.     Includes negative emotions like fear, dread, terror

                  iii.    Exp deprivation, darkness, solitude, silence

                  iv.    Exp immensity, infinity, magnitude, grandeur

                  v.      Exp of un-imagined eloquence, greatness, significance, power

14.    Nature as a partner in a valued relationship

         a.      Nature as friend, lover, parent

         b.      Nature lovers;” Their relation to nature helps define them

                  i.      Devoted to nature

                  ii.     Identity shaped by that relationship to nature they love

                  iii.    Just as mother shaped by her love of her children

                  iv.    Appreciating and defending nature is a mode of existence and self-realization

                  v.      Like the value of art to art lovers

15.    Nature as home

         a.      Associate nature with feelings of being home

         b.      Astronaut Scott Kelly return to earth after 340 days in space

         c.      Damaging nature, damages ourselves

                  i.      Destroying the planet is destroying our own home


16.    Three different reasons for respecting nature that seem quite robust across times/cultures

         a.      Prudence (self-interest)

         b.      Meaning: Fitting response to roles nature plays in giving our lives meaning

         c.      Psychological wholeness

17.    Prudence: In our interest to respect nature

         a.      Changing climate as we are doing is “like poking a dragon with a sharp stick”

                  i.      Angering the dragon of climate not a good business plan for maintaining human life on earth

         b.      Nature knows best; Rolston: we should not rebuilt this promising planet; Basis of precautionary principle (don’t mess with important things you don’t understand)

18.    Nature provides meaning: For many people/cultures, nature important background condition for lives having meaning

         a.      Role that landscape plays in lives of indigenous people

         b.      How flatirons define Boulder, Colordo

         c.      Nature important to Southern Identity

         d.      Nature important dimension of sense of place which in turn is important to our well being and self-understanding

         e.      We delight in nature and take joy in its operations

                  i.      Feel grief and nostalgia when familiar patterns are disrupted and natural features destroyed

19.    Respect nature out of concern for psychological integrity/wholeness

         a.      Respecting the other is central to knowing who we are and respecting ourselves

         b.      Failing to respect other is a form of narcissism (inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity)

         c.      Some environmental psychologists suggest that respecting nature as other beyond our control at the root of our self-identify and communal life

         d.      “Many of same reasons for respecting nature apply to respecting those who have gone before and those who will come after

         e.      Seeing ourselves as related to others is important to respecting ourselves and knowing who we are and giving meaning to our lives”


20.    How respect nature as other when we are part of nature?

21.    Contrast importance of seeing nature as other as important for self-respect and meaning with idea that humans part of nature

22.    Many believe that it is our separation from nature that is cause of environmental problems

23.    Humans are natural beings

         a.      Nature inside us, we are part of nature, our skin is permeable membrane that is itself part of natural world

24.    Claim is important and also irritating

         a.      Of course we are part of it. What else could we be part of?

25.    Truth in idea humans part of nature

         a.      Humans as natural objects are part of carbon, nitrogen cycle

         b.      Breathing/respiration are instances of same cycles that govern atmosphere

         c.      Our circulatory system and cellular processes are instances of hydrological cycle

         d.      Digestion/metabolism recapitulate the soil cycle

         e.      As subject to laws of thermodynamics as any planet or start

         f.      Nature brought us into existence and sustains us, constitutes our identity

26.    However, also important to distinguish humans and their activities from nature and what it does

         a.      No moral difference between human killed by earthquake and one killed by another human?


27.    Admits section is sketchy and unsatisfactory

28.    Important points

         a.      Respect for nature an important virtue that we should cultivate as part of an ethics for the Anthropocene

         b.      Nature is not a single thing and we can respect elements/dimensions of nature while expressing contempt for others

         c.      Respecting nature is respecting ourselves

Questions on Jamieson’s Respect for Nature

1.      What is the difference between respect for nature as a duty and as a virtue?

2.      Define and then explain the relationship between domination and nature’s autonomy. What is the relation between domination of nature and respect for nature? Are humans dominating nature in your opinion?

3.      What does it mean to say nature is “amoral?” That it is “other?” That it is “sublime?” That it is “home.”

4.      Explain why someone might think of nature as the enemy of humanity. Does this make sense in your own view?

5.      What is a “nature lover?” Are you a nature lover? Why or why not?

6.      Jamieson identifies 3 reasons for respecting nature as prudence, meaning, and psychological wholeness. Explain what he means by each of these reasons.

7.      Identify at least one reasons to think humans are part of nature and at least one reason it is important to distinguish humans from nature.