Steven Fesmire

Visiting Professor of Philosophy

 M 12:45-1:45, W 12:45-2:45, and by appointment
 Twilight Hall

Steven Fesmire is Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Middlebury for 2017-18.  Professor Fesmire’s teaching and research interests include ethics (including environmental, animal, and food ethics), the history of American philosophy (including pragmatists such as William James, Jane Addams, and John Dewey), social and political philosophy (including philosophy of race), environmental philosophy, early modern philosophy, philosophy of education, and theories of imagination and metaphor.

Professor Fesmire is the author of Dewey (Routledge Press, 2015), winner of a 2015 Choice “Outstanding Academic Title” award.  He is also the author of John Dewey and Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics (Indiana University Press, 2003), winner of a 2005 Choice “Outstanding Academic Title” award.  He is editor of the 37 chapter Oxford Handbook of Dewey (Oxford University Press, 2017) and is completing a manuscript titled Beyond Moral Fundamentalism:  Pragmatic Pluralism and Ecological Imagination in Ethics and Education.  He was a 2009 Fulbright Scholar at Kyoto University and Kobe University, a 2015-16 Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College, and a 2016 Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh.

For more information about Professor Fesmire’s teaching and research please visit his home webpage as Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Green Mountain College.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

PHIL 0156 - Contemporary Moral Issues      

Contemporary Moral Issues
We will examine a selection of pressing moral problems of our day, seeking to understand the substance of the issues and learning how moral arguments work. We will focus on developing our analytical skills, which we can then use to present and criticize arguments on difficult moral issues. Selected topics may include world poverty, animal rights, abortion, euthanasia, human rights, just and unjust wars, capital punishment, and racial and gender issues. You will be encouraged to question your own beliefs on these issues, and in the process to explore the limit and extent to which ethical theory can play a role in everyday ethical decision making. 2 hrs.lect./1 hr. disc. (formally PHIL 0206) PHL

Fall 2017

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PHIL 0210 - Contemporary Ethical Theory      

Contemporary Ethical Theory
In this course we will explore some major texts in recent moral and political philosophy. Our primary focus will be on twenty-first century issues and insights. We will attempt to formulate our own views on questions such as: Is substantive moral and political theory still possible? If so, what is justice? What actions, practices, or dispositions are good or bad, right or wrong, virtuous or vicious? Are a plurality of approaches to moral decision-making justified? Or should we strive for an approach that organizes moral cognition around a single supreme value, principle, standard, law, concept, or ideal? (Previous PHIL course or PSCI 0101 recommended, but not required.) 3 hrs. lect. AMR NOR PHL

Spring 2018

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PHIL 0211 - Animal Ethics      

Animal Ethics
What is the appropriate ethical relationship between humans and other animals? This course is a systematic study of animal ethics, a field that has emerged as a response to the profound impact of human practices on other species and rising concern about animal use and treatment. Topics may include livestock agriculture, hunting, animal experimentation, biodiversity and invasive species, companion animals, vegetarianism and veganism, animals in entertainment, zoos and aquariums, activist ethics, animal rights, animals and biotechnology, and animal cognition.  The perspectives we will explore have a significant bearing on how we understand ourselves and nature and what policies we will endorse in relation to other animals. PHL WTR

Winter 2018

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PHIL 0250 - Early Modern Philosophy      

Early Modern Philosophy
This course offers an introduction to some of the most influential European philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries: Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. We will consider and critically examine the responses these thinkers gave to various questions in metaphysics and epistemology, including the following: What is the relationship between reality and our perception of reality? What is the nature of the mind and how is it related to the body? What is the nature of physical reality? Which of our beliefs, if any, do we have good reason to maintain in the face of radical skepticism? 3 hrs lect. EUR PHL

Spring 2018

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PHIL 0356 - Philosophy & Environment      

Philosophy and the Environment
In this course, we will examine several environmental issues from a philosophical perspective. We will be interested in what arguments can be provided to support particular views, but more important, we will try to identify the deep philosophical issues that underlie particular debates. For example, what is the basis for our determinations of value? We will also examine the challenges that large scale environmental issues present for particular philosophical theories. For example, how well can particular ethical theories handle certain environmental problems? Topics may include animal rights, wilderness preservation, biodiversity, attitudes toward nature, over-population, and economic arguments for the protection of the environment. (Previous course in philosophy or waiver) 3 hrs.lect. PHL

Fall 2017

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PHIL 1017 - Pragmatists & Env. Pragmatism      

The Pragmatists and Environmental Pragmatism
William James and John Dewey approached philosophy as a practical necessity for interpreting, evaluating, criticizing, and redirecting culture. In this course we will introduce their philosophies – along with the philosophies of Charles S. Peirce, Jane Addams, and George Herbert Mead – and explore their continuing relevance for current struggles, with an emphasis on environmental problems. Our principal focus will be Dewey, the foremost representative of American pragmatism. We will dedicate at least a full day each week to environmental pragmatism, a contemporary movement among philosophers who are struggling to think more perceptively, imaginatively, and effectively about environmental issues. Course work will culminate in a philosophical analysis of a chosen environmental problem. This course counts as a cognate for ENVS majors who have a focus in the natural sciences. PHL WTR

Winter 2016

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Department of Philosophy

Twilight Hall
50 Franklin Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

802.443.6011 fax