Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Charles Guignon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephen Turner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joanne Waugh, Ph.D.


Environmental Ethics, Heidegger, Naess, Phenomenology


This thesis examines the connections between Arne Naess's Deep Ecology and Martin Heidegger's Phenomenology. The latter provides a philosophical basis for the former. Martin Heidegger's critique of traditional metaphysics and his call for an "event" ontology that is deeper than the traditional substance ontology opens a philosophical space in which a different conception of what it is to be emerges. Heidegger's view of humans also provides a basis for the wider and deeper conception of self Arne Naess seeks: one that gets rid of the presupposition that human beings are isolated subjects embedded in a framework of objects distinct from them.

Both Heidegger and Naess illustrate how the substance-ontological dogma affects human culture, encouraging humans to live as if they were divorced from their environmental surroundings. When humans live according to an atomistic conception of themselves as independent from their context, alienation results, not only from each other, and not only of humans from the surrounding environment, but from themselves as well.

This thesis focuses on Heidegger's employment of the conception of poiesis or self-bringing-forth as clarifying the "root" of such ecosystemic processes as growth, maturation, reproduction, and death. Thus, Heidegger's call to phenomenology -- "to the things themselves" -- is a call away from the objectifying dichotomies through which substance ontology articulates the world into isolated components.

It is the purpose of this thesis to demonstrate not only the connections between the later Heidegger and Naess, but also to argue in favor of their claims that traditional philosophical perspectives regarding humans, the environment, and ethics need to be re-appropriated in a new way in order to avoid further ecological degradation and provide for the health and well being of the future generations that will inevitably inherit the effects of our present actions.