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Opportunities for Study in the Department of Philosophy

Philosophical and ethical thinking and skills can play important roles in our efforts to address many environmental and agricultural issues. The MSU Department of Philosophy offers graduate and undergraduate courses on environmental and agricultural topics. Past graduate courses have included Environmental Justice, Animal Ethics and Sustainability Ethics. Other, regularly offered graduate courses on bioethics, feminist philosophy, and the philosophy of science often provide complimentary topics, issues and frameworks for environmental philosophy and ethics.

Annual undergraduate courses include Environmental Ethics, Ethics and Biotechnology, and Animal Ethics. Faculty and graduate students also pursue grant funded and other collaborative projects that address environmental and agricultural issues. Coursework and participation in such projects are crucial to how we engage in research, teaching and outreach in environmental philosophy and ethics.

Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Study at MSU

Seminars on environmental and agricultural issues are available in other departments. Units that focus on environmental research and education include Fisheries and Wildlife, Community Sustainability, and Crop and Soil Sciences. Other departments have strong groups of faculty interested in environmental issues, including Writing, Rhetoric and American Culture, Sociology, and Anthropology. Our students have the opportunity to expand their curriculum by pursuing graduate specializations in related interdisciplinary fields:

Animal StudiesAnimal-Studies-300x225: The Graduate Specialization in Animal Studies: Social Science and Humanities Perspectives, which is administered by the Department of Sociology, provides graduate students with basic knowledge of relationships between humans and other animals and how they are linked together in a fragile biosphere. The program includes a doctoral and master’s graduate specialization, cutting-edge research, a monthly seminar series on the MSU campus, and a registered student organization that connects academic initiatives with the local community.

Ecological Food and Farming Systems (EFFS)2013-10-16-11.36.43-300x300: The Ecological Food and Farming Systems (EFFS) graduate specialization is designed to foster understanding of biogeochemical, socioeconomic, and policy concepts critical to sustainable agriculture and food systems. The program provides a foundation of agroecology and community food systems principles that allow for cross-disciplinary consideration of multifaceted agricultural sustainability issues. Shared courses provide the opportunity to meet students from other programs and better understand work and research that includes multiple perspectives. The EFFS Steering Committee includes faculty from several social and biogeochemical fields related to agriculture who work to expand the learning opportunities and constantly enhance the courses for the specialization.


Environmental Science and Policy (ESPP)2013-10-13-15.27.36-300x300: MSU’s Environmental Science and Policy Program was established in 2003 to build graduate education programs that are innovative, interdisciplinary, and campus-wide. The program facilitates interdisciplinary environmental research and MSU and, in particular, links MSU research with national and global research priorities. The doctoral specialization offers courses designed to show how different disciplines conceptualize environmental issues and how scientific information can be brought to bear on environmental decision-making and environmental policy.


Ethics and Development2013-10-13-17.33.00-300x300: The Specialization in Ethics and Development provides graduate students and faculty with the opportunity to address collaboratively and in a philosophically sophisticated manner the difficult ethical issues that arise in the course of social, economic, political, and cultural development within an increasingly inter-connected global context. These issues include, but are not limited to, the introduction of transgenic crops, climate change, foreign aid, economic liberalization, the representativeness of international political organizations, gender equity, the effectiveness of war crimes tribunals and international courts, and the role of traditional medicine in addressing health care needs.


Gender, Justice and Environmental Change (GJEC)2013-10-13-15.12.31-300x300: Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change is a graduate specialization available as an elective for students who are enrolled in master’s and doctoral degree programs at Michigan State University. The specialization is sponsored jointly by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the College of Social Science. This program, first offered in Fall 2000, is the first of its kind in the nation explicitly focusing on the intersection of gender, environmental change, and social and environmental justice. The program is designed in particular to examine these issues and processes from both local and global perspectives, challenging traditional dichotomies between the First and Third Worlds, the North and the South.