Wonder and environmental virtue
van Zyl, L. (2017). Wonder and environmental virtue. Presented at the Annual conference of the Philosophical Society of Southern Africa, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, 15 - 18 January 2017.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/11177
Wonder is a familiar human emotion. It involves a feeling of delight, admiration, curiosity, and appreciation and is directed towards something that is beautiful, remarkable, mysterious, or unfamiliar. The objects of wonder can include nature and natural entities, works of art, and other cultural objects. In her essay, “Environmental Virtue Ethics” (2007) Rosalind Hursthouse puts forward the question of whether there could be a virtue of being rightly disposed with respect to wonder. For an Aristotelian, such a virtue would involve a disposition “to feel wonder the right way, towards the right objects, for the right reasons, to the right degree, on the right occasions, in the right manner, and to act accordingly” (2007: 161). Hursthouse further suggests that the putative virtue of being rightly disposed with respect to wonder is explicitly – though not exclusively – concerned with our relations to nature, and could therefore form an important part of an environmental virtue ethic. Many environmentalists appeal to our sense of wonder, and write about the wonders of nature, but the role of wonder in environmental ethics has not been explored in any detail. My aim in this paper, then, is to consider whether there is an environmental virtue (or set of virtues) that involves being rightly disposed with regards to wonder.