Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Andrea Westlund

Committee Members

Blain Neufeld, Stan Husi


Biophilia, Care About Nature, Care About the Natural Environment, Information Content of Natural History, Natural Dimensions of Places, Rationally Defensible Care


This paper helps address the question of how people who currently care about the natural environment, or nature, might rationally persuade those who do not currently have such concern. Philosophers have largely ignored this question, but it is important outside philosophy. For instance, many environmental advocates seem to believe that others should care about nature. At least much writing that falls under the broad category of environmentalism intends to persuade us to care about nature in one way or another.

In this paper, I argue that people should care about nature to the extent that they have three other, rationally defensible cares, which I call the etiologies of care about nature: (1) care about the natural dimensions of particular places, (2) care directed at the informational content of natural history, and (3) care originating in biophilia. To show this, I first argue that we have good reason to doubt that care about nature for purely instrumental reasons and in response to nature’s intrinsic value are adequate for having rationally defensible care about nature. I then describe the three etiologies and show how together they lead to rationally defensible care about nature. I also discuss what care and nature are and how the topic of care about nature’s rational defensibility relates to the broader question of how people who care about nature might rationally persuade those who lack such concern.