Sino-hellenic Environmental Philosophy

A Comparative Perspective on Environmental Thought in Early China and Graeco-Roman Antiquity


Bird and fish on a painted pottery
Spring landscape (fresco wall painting from Akrotiri), Wikimedia Commons, image by User:Zde, CC BY-SA 4.0

Thursday, 9 – Sunday, 12 December 2021 (online via Zoom)

Organised at the Institute of Philosophy, The University of Bern, Switzerland

The environmental crisis has been one of the most serious challenges of our age. It includes climate change, natural disasters, destabilised ecosystems, energy resource depletion, air, soil, and water pollution, animal abuse, and rapidly increasing population. All these issues we are facing today have raised certain doubts about the modern focus on high economic growth and consumption industries and technologies that have been developed since the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions in the 17-18th centuries. It is clear that the philosophy and sense of values which have urged great success in developed countries have also nonetheless left negative legacies. The question arises whether the implementation of environmental policies and technological countermeasures is enough to overcome them, or whether we also need to reflect on and change our mindset to coexist with nature and sustain the planet.

This workshop attempts to make a contribution to the current environmental interests from historical and cross-cultural perspectives by throwing fresh light on and comparing Greek and Chinese views of nature-human relations in antiquity. Those views are thought to have provided a fundamental epistemic framework of each of these two distinctive intellectual traditions. How did they observe and understand the natural world and its connection to human life? How did they construe natural events and phenomena? Did they find only instrumental values in non-human beings such as animals and plants? Did they notice any anthropogenic environmental degradation? If they did, what solution did they suggest? What did they think about the value of the natural world in general, and the role that humans play in it? To what extent are their ethics and politics anthropocentric, bio-centric, or cosmo-centric? Did they anticipate any ecological ideas or theories? Scholars in ethics and the histories and/or philosophies of science, especially biology, medicine, and cosmology, jointly discuss and propose answers to these questions.

(Alphabetically by speaker’s surname. Titles subject to change.)


The Implications of Greek Ontology and Confucian “Zoetology” in Environmental Thinking

Roger T. Ames
(Peking University)

Plato’s Ecological Insights and His Environmental Ethics

J. Baird Callicott, Jorge Torres, and Jeffrey Gessas
(University of North Texas, University of Bern)

The Intrinsic Value of the Living Natural World according to Aristotle and It’s Relation to Contemporary Environmental Ethics

Sophia Connell
(Birkbeck, University of London)

The Stoic Contribution to Environmental Ethics

Christopher Gill
(University of Exeter)

A Little Bestiary of the Zhuangzi

Christoph Harbsmeier
(University of Oslo)

The Seasonality of the Emotions in Chinese Medicine

Elisabeth Hsu
(University of Oxford)


Richard King
(University of Bern)

Aristotle and Hippocrates on Winds, Wombs, and Healthy Cities

Mariska Leunissen
(The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

The Ethics of Vitality in the Zhuangzi

David Machek
(University of Bern)

Porous Bodies and Mobile Spirits: Rethinking Inner and Outer in Early China

Lisa Raphals
(University of California, Riverside)

Death is Not Only a Natural Thing …

Discussing the Human-Nature-Relationship in the Zhuāng zǐ

Dennis Schilling
(Renmin University of China)

Early Chinese Thought and Its Environmental Misreadings

Roel Sterckx
(University of Cambridge)

Plato and Xunzi on the Role of Humans in the Cosmic Order

Yumi Suzuki
(University of Bern)

Medical Ecology in Hippocratic Medicine

Jorge Torres
(University of Bern)

Towards a Shared Beauty of Nature and Human

Guorong Yang
(East China Normal University)


Please register here for the Zoom meeting.