HEYD, Thomas

Author Tags: Environment


Thomas Heyd was raised on the Mediterranean Coast of Spain and moved to Canada for university studies. He teaches philosophy and environmental studies at the University of Victoria. He has studied in Berlin , Valencia, Spain, Calgary, and at the University of Western Ontario in London, where he obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy.

Always drawn to philosophy, he also studied business and psychology in order to understand the causes of impoverishment in non-Western countries. After a backpacking trip to interview development specialists in various East Asian countries he decided to focus further on the study of fundamental links between conceptions of our world, ethics and action and thus returned to philosophy. Starting from the assumption that we should be capable of grasping how human beings conceive the world, he researched conceptions of consciousness as generated in philosophy and psychology. Seeing the limitations of psychology, he decided to continue by studying the history and philosophy of the science of psychology. This led him to his Ph.D. project on the theory of cognition of the external world of British empiricist John Locke.

In the meantime his interests developed increasingly in two other directions. On the one hand, he increasingly sought to understand the aesthetics of contemporary Western art. Taking note of the fact that art manifestations are ubiquitous and go back to time immemorial, he took an interest in art manifestations on various rock surfaces (rock art) carried out by people since prehistoric times. This led him to organise several interdisciplinary symposia, which issued in the publication of the collection Aesthetics and Rock Art (2005, co-edited with John Clegg). On the other hand, seeing how natural spaces are continuously disappearing and living beings, including human beings, are ever more subject to threats to their integrity due to certain types of human activities, he began to write in environmental philosophy.

In order to understand how we may come to a greater respect for the integrity of the natural environment, he focussed on the question how interaction with nature affects our conception of the natural environment, and our consequent ways of living with and in that environment. This led him to publish a number of works, including Environmental Consciousness and Action (co-written with Schluchter et al., 1996), Recognizing the Autonomy of Nature (2005), and Encountering Nature: Toward an Environmental Culture (2007).

In the light of the difficulties for human and other living beings that are to be expected from drastic changes in natural systems, especially those connected to climate change, he is presently engaged in a research project on the cultural dimensions of human responses to changes in the natural environment.


Encountering Nature: Toward an Environmental Culture (Ashgate Publishing, UK, 2007)

Recognizing the Autonomy of Nature (Columbia University Press, 2005)

Aesthetics and Rock Art (with John Clegg) (Ashgate Publishing, UK, 2005)

Environmental Consciousness and Action (Bonn: Ministry of the Environment, Germany, 1996) Analyse der Bedingungen für die Transformation von Umweltbewusstsein in Umweltschonendes Verhalten; with W. Schluchter, G. Dahm, U. Elger, E. Holzer)

[BCBW 2008] "Environment" "Philosophy"