Guy L. Leonard Lecture Series

Stephen Gardiner
Professor of Philosophy

University of Washington

"Geoengineering and Moral Schizophrenia: What's the Question?"
Thursday, October 18, 2012, 4:00 p.m.

Davidson Science Building, Room 103
University of Nevada, Reno



Two questions are central to the ethics of geoengineering.  The justificatory question asks ‘Under what future conditions might geoengineering become justified?’, where the conditions to be considered include, for example, the threat to be confronted, the background circumstances, the governance mechanisms, individual protections, compensation provisions, and so on.  The contextual question asks ‘What is the ethical context of the push toward geoengineering, and what are its implications?’  Unfortunately, early discussions of geoengineering often marginalize both questions because they tend to focus on arguments from emergency that illegitimately brush them aside.  One sign of this is that some emergency arguments seem ethically short-sighted, and morally schizophrenic.  In this talk, I illustrate this problem by drawing an analogy between two paradigm cases of moral schizophrenia and our current predicament with geoengineering.  One implication of this analysis is that serious ethical resistance to the current push towards geoengineering need not rely on more contentious claims about humanity’s relationship to nature.


Stephen Gardiner was born and raised in the UK, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Hertford College in the University of Oxford.  He received his MA in Philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his doctorate from Cornell University with a dissertation on virtue ethics.  He taught in New Zealand for several years before taking a position at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he is currently Professor of Philosophy in the Program on Values in Society as well as Ben Rabinowitz Endowed Professor in Human Dimensions of the Environment in the College of Environment.  He has been a visiting fellow at Princeton, Oxford, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, and Melbourne.  He is the author of A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change (Oxford UP 2011) and editor or coeditor of Climate Ethics (Oxford UP, 2010) and Virtue Ethics Old and New (Cornell UP, 2005).



Sponsored by: The Department of Philosophy, UNR, and The Guy L. Leonard Memorial Endowment
Co-sponsored by: The Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology (EECB)

Free and open to the public