IEP 405: Phenomenology and Environment

AWAYMAVE - The Distance Mode of MA in Values and the Environment at Lancaster University


The course work for this module is in the form of an essay of 5,000 words (max) and this is due in on the 18th July at the latest. I hope that the web contributions you make of your own attempts at applying the phenomenological method will be the starting point or dry runs of material for essays and would certainly encourage you to use them in this way. If you would like to submit a portfolio of web contributions and a 3,500 word essay please do so. Further advice on portfolios can be found on the distance learners home page under assessment.

If you would like feedback on an essay plan please send it to me in plenty of time for you to make use of the comments.

Please note there is a penalty of 5 marks for work that is seriously overlength (seriously overlength is defined as more than 10% longer than the maximum or guidline length).

I have given some essay questions below, you are welcome to make suggestions of alternatives, but please consult me first before getting too far into something.

Essay questions

In what way does Husserl's idea of things being constituted in consciousness differ from the idea of things being socially constructed?

What does it mean to dwell authentically, and should it be encouraged?

What is involved in thinking of ourselves as embodied and are there any environmental benefits to be gained from this shift of perspective?

Compare and contrast Goethean science and phenomenology as presented by Husserl, Heidegger or Merleau-Ponty.

Does phenomenology give us a different approach to our environment and in what sense is it helpful/useful (or not) with regard to a specific environmental problem?

Specific pitfalls on writing essays on Phenomenology

Guard against the temptation to write 'in the style of' e.g., Heidegger, and worst still to cover a lack of clear understanding with extensive direct quotation. If something is not clear to you when you come to writing include your problem in the essay, for example, give multiple interpretations and why you are favouring a particular one.

If you are addressing one of the more applied questions, you will need to use your own descriptions and examples rather than repeating classic ones. Rich description is a feature of phenomenological writing and can be used here. However, remember you only have 5,000 words and so the analysis and argument need to be tightly focused to allow scope for laying out experiences in a manner that make clear the difference between saying, it rained today when I walked home', and giving a full account of exploring that experience with all of its extended horizons. You will need to write long phenomenological descriptions to capture experience and then select portions to use and discuss.

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