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Philosophical Thought

At the dawn of environmentalism: nature and human in the philosophy of R. W. Emerson

Tsypina Lada Vital'evna

PhD in Philosophy

Docent, the department of History of Philosophy, Saint Petersburg State University

199034, Russia, g. Saint Petersburg, ul. Universitetskaya Nab., 7/9

Chenskikh Ekaterina Petrovna

PhD in Philosophy

Docent, the department of English Philology, Moscoe State Pedagogical University, Institute of Foreign Languages

105064, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Malyi Kazennyi Per., 5B




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Abstract: The subject of this research is the philosophy of nature of Ralph Waldo Emerson as one of the reputable sources of modern environmentalism. The object of this research is the philosophy and body of texts of the American transcendentalism. The authors examine the aspects of Emerson's natural philosophy, due to which his outlook upon nature became in demand by such reputable areas of modern thought as deep ecology, ecocriticism, and environmental ethics. Special attention is turned to the analysis of Emerson's essay “The Nature” that follows an ecocritical narrative, as well as historical origins and philosophical contexts of Emerson's anthropocentrism and values of environmental ethics. Analysis of paramount for the founder of American transcendentalism analogy of nature and man allows concluding that the used by Emerson weak version of anthropocentrism does not exclude holistic approach towards man as part of the natural world, and contains an ecological impulse that allows interpreting nature as a complex environment requiring different descriptive languages. The proposed by Emerson interpretation of nature as a “symbol of spirit”, realized through convenience, beauty, language and discipline, contains the anticipation of values of environmental ethics and allows seeing an apologist for ecosophy in the “Concord wiseman”.The authors’ special contribution consists in actualization of natural philosophy of R. W. Emerson as one of the reputable sources of environmentalism and consideration of his interpretation of human – nature relationship as a constructive components of the currently relevant environmental values. The scientific novelty consists in examination of Emerson’s ideas in the context of the ideas of ecocriticism and deep ecology, as well as in thematicization of the analogy of nature and man through the prism of environmental ethics.

Keywords: natural philosophy, aesthetics of nature, eco- wisdom, biocentrism, anthropocentrism, Nature, environmentalism, philosophical canon, Emerson, eco-critical narration
This article written in Russian. You can find full text of article in Russian here .

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