Green Politics and the Concept of Nature
: Heidegger, Nature, and the Earth

  • Reetta Maija Mirjam Vaahtoranta

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis investigates the role that the concept of nature plays in green politics. Nature, in the green literature, is usually assumed to refer to the nonhuman environment. But critics of this way of thinking about nature argue that humans exist in such interconnected networks with their environments that environments cannot be divided into categories of human and nonhuman. These criticisms suggest that we should abandon talking about nature and concentrate instead on investigating the complex relationships we share with our environments. But even in the light of these criticisms the idea of nature does seem to articulate something important about green politics which cannot be communicated by just investigating the relationships that we share with our environments. I turn to the philosophy of Martin Heidegger to make sense of this concept of nature. Heidegger makes numerous references to the unfolding of nature and the earth in his works. His philosophy has thus been used to make sense of what is at stake in taking care of our environments. In mainstream green readings of Heidegger, nature is understood as referring to the spontaneous growth of a nonhuman nature. However, I will approach nature in Heidegger’s work differently, divorcing these concepts of nature and the earth from descriptions of the material growth of nonhuman natural beings. This allows us to understand the importance of the idea of nature in green politics. Paying attention to nature is important not because it allows us to address environmental crisis, but because it allows us to stop thinking that we can represent things through calculations and to think of them as mere resources. This thesis proposes thinking of green politics as having two separate goals, the goal of protecting nature and the goal of protecting the environment.
Date of Award10 Feb 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorHidemi Suganami (Supervisor) & Richard Beardsworth (Supervisor)

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