Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Development


About this course

The present-day political and economic systems are not sustainable and we are heading for global environmental disasters (ecocide). The notions ‘sustainability’, ‘development’ and ‘sustainable development’ have gradually entered political and social debates, and scientific and philosophical investigations. It is rooted in concern about environmental degradation of our planet. Philosophical reflection about sustainable development and the human-nature relationship starts with clarifying key concepts of environmental science. Sustainable development should at least encompass three dimensions: (1) the environment (conservation and preservation), (2) economy (growth vs. steady state), and (3) the social structure (equity, welfare). These dimensions form the pillars of sustainable development and will be studied from a philosophical viewpoint.

This course aims at providing philosophical reflection on sustainable development-related issues as part of environmental philosophy. We start with reflection on three kinds of relationships from the perspective of sustainability: humans-humans, humans-animals, and humans-nature. During the course key concepts and methods of environmental philosophy are dealt with. We will explore concepts such as biodiversity and vulnerability, demographic transition and inter- and intragenerational (environmental) justice.

The emphasis of the course is normative deliberation on the environmental crises and sustainable development. What insights can science and environmental philosophy give to sustain life, future generations and a healthy ecosystem of planet Earth?

Learning outcomes

Please note: the information in the course manual is binding.
After completion of the course, the student is able to:

  • describe the philosophical dimensions of sustainable development;
  • perform an in-depth analysis of the concepts ‘sustainability’ and ‘development’;
  • give an overview of contemporary environmental ethics;
  • perform an integral and critical assessment of moral stances on environmental problems and sustainable development;
  • communicate to a general audience on environmental issues, using philosophical tools & knowledge.

Good to know

Do you study at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) or Wageningen University and Research (WUR)? You can enrol via

Required prior knowledge

You must meet the following requirements

  • Assigned study entrance permit for the master

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Utrecht University.


  • Start date

    2 September 2024

    • Ends
      8 November 2024
    • Term *
      Period 1
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      3 Jun, 09:00 - 21 Jun 2024
    Only 8 days to enrol
These offerings are valid for students of TU Eindhoven