Pick one of the main arguments in Leopold’s “The Land Ethic,” and get to work on that argument.  The goal of the short paper is to start a line of inquiry for the sake of trying to improve upon one of the main arguments Leopold is trying to develop. Start by clarifying the questions he is trying to address and the theses he is putting forward as answers. Then, reconstruct the main premisses in the argument he is developing.  Having reconstructed the line of inquiry you have chosen, consider an objection to one of the main premisses in that arguments. Draw on the readings in ecology and on complex systems to dig deeper into the conceptions of community and interdependence that figure so prominently in Leopold’s central arguments. Try to explain how we might use some of these ideas in order to further refine these conceptions. Having examined some of the resources we might draw from ecology and the study of complex biological and social systems in order to refine the key conceptions in the argument, provide a sketch of how you might draw on a few of the illustrations and examples in the A Sand County Almanac, or in Austin’s The Land of Little Rain, or in Muir’s Yosemite to show how the more “poetical” points concerning the beauty and sublimity of nature might help to more fully respond to the objection and thereby strengthen the arguments.
II.  Use the case study on water issues in Flagstaff to illustrate how the philosophical questions bear on the practical issues we face.
III. Finally, draw on Emerson’s Essays and/or Thoreau’s Walden in order to develop the arguments and to formulate responses to possible objections.  Don’t try to draw on both.  Make a choice, and then use a clearly articulated set of ideas in order to bolster the response on Leopold’s behalf. Your goal is to try to improve upon Leopold’s and Wilson’s arguments by filling in some of the gaps and strengthening the reasons.  If you are feeling ambitious, see what you can do to build an argument that draws on Leopold, Wilson, and Emerson or Thoreau in such a way that you construct the best response that you are able to the objection you are considering.  In doing so, ask yourself, how might you push the arguments in new directions?  Finally, step back from the arguments and objections you’ve considered and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the main points you are considering.

 

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