Thinking through nature, ecology and the environment Thinking through nature, ecology and the environment

With environmental concerns amongst the most topical and pressing of our time, our research pursues philosophical investigations of the phenomena that inform these anxieties and questions concerning the fundamental relations between human life and the natural world. The research interests of staff members centre around the following broad themes in this area:

  • Conceptions of nature and the environment and of our place as human beings in the natural world
  • Ethical, social and political dimensions of the relationship between humans and their natural environment
  • Aesthetics of nature and ecological phenomenology
  • Questions in the philosophy of science and technology relating to the study and value of the natural world

Interdisciplinary collaboration within within the school of Politics, Philosophy and Language and Communication Studies, as part of the Ecological Studies Research Group, and together with others from the Schools of Literature and Creative Writing, Environmental Sciences and Development Studies produces a vibrant research environment. We hosted the Annual Meeting of the International Society of Environmental Ethics in 2013, only the second time it has been held outside the US. 

We welcome applications from Postgraduate students wishing to work on topics relating to the philosophy of nature and the environment. Please feel free to email any of us to discuss supervisory and other arrangements. 

Academic members working in this area

Dr Rupert Read's main work now is in environmental philosophy. He is writing a book provisionally entitled ‘The end of liberalism and the dawn of a permanent culture', which proposes the overthrow of the political philosophy of liberalism and its replacement by a new eco-communitarian philosophy suitable for sustaining an indefinite human presence on Earth. (See Publications and page)

Key publications  
Read, R., N.Taleb et al., 2014 'The Precautionary Principle (with application to the Genetic Modification of Organisms)', NYU Extreme Risk Initiative Working Paper Series, Sept. 4 2014  
Read, R., 2015. 'Green economics vs. growth economics', Radical Philosophy 189.  


Dr Thomas Greaves works primarily in the field of ecological phenomenology and environmental philosophy. One of his key interests is the relationship between environmental aesthetics and environmental ethics. Another important dimension of his work concerns the history and philosophical significance of concepts such as nature, environment and animality. He is currently developing a project that investigates the significance of Charismatic Megafauna in our experience of the natural world. (See page)

Key publications
Greaves, Tom, 2016. ‘Natural Phenomena: The Birth and Growth of Experience’ in Bryan Bannon (ed.) Experience and Nature: Phenomenology and the Environment , Rowman and Littlefield International.

Greaves, T. and R. Read, 2015. ‘Where Value Resides: Making Ecological Value Possible’, Environmental Ethics Vol.37.


Professor Gary L. Francione is concerned with the moral and legal status of nonhuman animals. He has written extensively on how the status of animals as chattel property effectively limits the legal protection we provide to them to that level that will ensure their efficient exploitation. He has developed a theory of animal rights centered around the right of sentient nonhumans to not be used as property, the recognition of which requires the abolition of institutionalized exploitation. He maintains that veganism is the only rational response to the recognition that animals have moral value. 

Key Publications
Francione, G. and A. Charlton, 2017, "Animal Rights," in The Oxford Handbook on Animal Studies, Oxford University Press. 
Francione, G., 2008, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation. Columbia University Press.


Prof Catherine Rowett has a long-standing interest in classical texts that discuss the status of the natural world, creation, and the relation between human and non-human animals. In her work in this area she has focused particularly on the meta-ethical basis of animal rights, and the idea that the division of nature into ethically significant divisions is a work of imagination, not of scientific discovery. Ancient texts in the Western tradition (from the Presocratics to late antiquity) on animal minds, vegetarianism, transmigration of souls and the scala naturae are a key focus of her research. (See Publications and page: published as Catherine Osborne until 2011)

Key publications  

Osborne, C., 2007. Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers: Humanity and Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature, Oxford University Press. 


Academic members outside philosophy willing to co-supervise interdisciplinary research projects

Dr Alex Haxeltine, based the School of Environmental Science

Dr Adrian Martin, based in the School of International Development

Dr David Nowell Smith, based in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing

Current and Recent PhD projects in this area

Samantha Earle (Current) ‘The (il)logic of sustainability and the better alternative of embeddedness’; Janis Loschmann (Current) ‘Towards a Political Philosophy of the Commons’; Henrietta Rose-Innes (Current, Co-Supervised with Literature, Drama and Creative Writing) – A creative and critical project concerned with liminal spaces and urban ecology; Dr Ruth Makoff (PhD 2011) ‘Confronting Climate Crisis: A framework for understanding the criteria for addressing dangerous climate change’