本課程旨在檢閱眾多西方傳統文獻(文學和哲學兩領域)中對於大自然和人類的自然環境的概念的演進，在此背景之下，「自然」一詞有多種解讀方式，例如，物質世界被視為人類的居住環境，也就是規範人類生活中集體組織和行為的來源，於是乎，自然不僅是複雜的科學研究對象，而且是個人經驗和直接性觀察的對象。由此意涵來詮釋「自然」，我們可以推論現代中的「環境」(the environment)，指涉了三個人類與自然息息相關的概念。第一個概念是，在古老的醫療理論和氣象觀念中，地理性的自然(geographical nature) 被當作是一個中性的媒介(neutral agency)，影響並且改變了人類的特質和建制；第二個概念則來自於西方傳統宗教和正統古典思想，地球的構造設計就是一個適合人類居住的環境，最起碼有泥磚屋可擋風遮雨，而人民或政治生活都必須配合自然界；第三個概念由來已久，但卻是在很久之後才受到重視，其內容是，自然和人類是互相敵對的，一方必須征服另一方，優勝劣敗。
本課程將討論一連串複雜的議題，以下問題則是其具體說明：什麼是自然世界的概括性特質？它是有次序的，可以自我調節的，或是隨機而且不穩定的？如果自然是有次序的，那人類是自然界的一份子還是局外人？如果人類不是自然的一份子，那麼，對於那些不具共同體關係的事物，人類仍須負起道德責任嗎？(例如，山川有沒有所謂的權利？ ) 如果是的話，那麼人類與地球的關係是 (a) 職責所在，關心照料，(b) 彼此倚賴的夥伴，(c) 開發性的管理，(d) 彼此對立，互相摧殘？ 或者，人類自許為殖民者，把地球視為一個異化的世界？ 這些有關自然環境的衝突概念，都將呈現在文藝復興到當代時期的詩歌、小說和諸多辯論之中，不過本學科也將簡單的檢視亞里斯多德的觀點，以及，禁慾主義（譯者注*1）者對於西塞羅 (Ciceron)（譯者注*2）的《論上帝之本性》(On the Nature of the Gods) 第二部所抱持的觀點。
*1譯者注：Stoic, 斯多葛，其所衍生的學派名之為斯多葛學派或是禁慾主義。這是源自希臘第三世紀的學說，在西方傳統中最著稱的代言者是西塞羅(Ciceron)和蒙田 (Montaigne)。
*2譯者注：拉丁原名是 Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 av.J.-C.)，羅馬時期的政治家、演說家和作家。書名《論上帝之本性》參自《亞里斯多德》，作者 Jonathan Barnes，譯者李日章，西方思想譯叢，聯經，台北，1983.
第一堂課將閱讀和討論舊約創世紀第一章，以及諾亞大洪水之後為人類所作的第二次祈禱。第一份指定作業則是佛爾斯特 (M. Forster) 早期的科幻小說《停止機機器運轉》 (The Machine Stops)，這本書描述一個完全人工打造、機械控制的人類世界。這些基本閱讀是引導同學進入普遍性討論的跳板，然後，課程重點將會自現代初期(the Early Modern period)開始，延續至之後的三個世紀，最後結束於當代所謂的「自然的終結」(the end of nature)，即人類和自然固有的關係已在現代工業文化中喪失殆盡的議題。閱讀文獻將包括亞里斯多德、迪福 (Defoe)（譯者注*3）、休謨 (David Hume)（譯者注*4）、盧梭，華茨華斯(Wordsworth)（譯者注*5）、梭羅 (Thoreau)（譯者注*6）、威爾斯 (H.G. Wells)（譯者注*7） 及福克納 (William Faulkner)（譯者注*8）。
*3譯者注：Daniel Defoe (1660? –1731)，英國記者及小說家。
*6譯者注：Henry David Thoreau，1817-1862，美國作家。
*7譯者注：Herbert George Wells，1866-1946，英國小說，歷史，和社會學家。
本課程每週兩堂課，每堂一個半小時。每堂課一開始先由教授講課，時間長短不一，隨著一般性討論的進行而調整。課程要求大家主動參與討論，同學的評論和觀點論據的說服性都是評分依據。每週的閱讀頁數大約是75頁上下。評分重點端賴三份指定作業的優劣，作業行距需維持固定：全部報告加起來應是20 頁，其中兩份最少6頁，期末報告則至少8頁。報告內容可以是閱讀文獻和討論中的部分議題﹔也可以自行選擇主題，但如果同學需要，繳交報告的前兩週，我會提供一份範圍廣泛的報告參考主題讓大家傳閱。每份報告的初稿經批閱之後會發還同學，請按照教師的指正修改並交回修訂稿，如果教師認為修訂稿仍不臻完美，則須再次修改。因應本課程的討論形式，亦會安排學生口頭報告，每組兩到三名學生(依註冊人數而定)，進行兩次報告，每次15 分鐘，主題則是指定作業所衍生的內容，並遵從學期初教師提供的範例。本課程沒有期末考試。
This subject offers a broad survey of texts (both literary and philosophical) drawn from the Western tradition and selected to trace the growth of ideas about nature and the natural environment of mankind. The term nature in this context has to do with the varying ways in which the physical world has been conceived as the habitation of mankind, a source of imperatives for the collective organization and conduct of human life. In this sense, nature is less the object of complex scientific investigation than the object of individual experience and direct observation. Using the term "nature" in this sense, we can say that modern reference to "the environment" owes much to three ideas about the relation of mankind to nature. In the first of these, which harks back to ancient medical theories and notions about weather, geographical nature was seen as a neutral agency affecting or transforming agent of mankind's character and institutions. In the second, which derives from religious and classical sources in the Western tradition, the earth was designed as a fit environment for mankind or, at the least, as adequately suited for its abode, and civic or political life was taken to be consonant with the natural world. In the third, which also makes its appearance in the ancient world but becomes important only much later, nature and mankind are regarded as antagonists, and one must conquer the other or be subjugated by it.
The argument underlying this subject is that notions in the Western tradition about the relation of culture to the natural environment have been imbued with these three ideas, sometimes alternatively, sometimes in combination, and that the history of ideas about nature is a history of the varying emphases placed upon them, rather than a progress or succession in which one of these ideas triumphs upon a predecessor. The purpose of the subject is to acquaint the student with some of the classic texts embodying these ideas and to show their contemporary relevance.
A series of complex issues will run throughout this subject and are best exemplified by the following series of questions: What is the overall character of the natural world? Is it orderly and self-adjusting or random and unstable? If nature is orderly, is mankind part of the natural community or an exile from it? If unnatural, can mankind have ethical responsibilities to anything with which it is not in communal relationship? (Do mountains have rights?) If ethical, is mankind's relation to planet earth one (a) of stewardship and care, (b) of partnership and mutual dependence, (c) of management for exploitation, or (d) of mutual hostility and destruction? Or does mankind relate to planet earth as colonists to an alien world? Our conflicting ideas about the natural environment will be exemplified in poetry, in narrative fiction, and in discursive arguments from the renaissance to the present, but the subject also admits a brief examination of the views of Aristotle and the summation of the Stoic view expressed in the second part of Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods.
The subject begins with the first chapter of Genesis and the second blessing on mankind after the Flood, which are read during the first meeting of the class and then discussed. The first assignment is E. M. Forster's early work of science fiction, "The Machine Stops", which depicts a human environment that is wholly man-made and subject to engineering control. After these initial readings, which are meant to serve as the jumping-off point for general discussion, the syllabus will begin with works from the Early Modern period, range through the next three centuries, and end with some consideration of the contemporary theme of "the end of nature", that is, sense that of a proper relation between nature and mankind has been lost in modern industrial culture. Among authors read will be Aristotle, Defoe, David Hume, Rousseau, Wordsworth, Thoreau, Darwin, H. G. Wells and William Faulkner.
The subject meets twice a week for two one-and-a-half sessions. Each session begins with a lecture of varying length, but changes over early into general discussion. Active participation in discussion is essential to the life of the class and the force and cogency of students' remarks will have a marked influence on grades. Readings will total approximately seventy-five pages a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. Much of the grade will also depend upon the quality of the three written assignments required by the course, and spaced fairly evenly over the term: the papers will total twenty pages in entirety, two papers running to at least six pages each and a final paper running to at least eight pages. The papers will each deal with some aspect of the readings and discussion; topics may be invented by the students but an extensive list of suggested topics will be circulated two weeks in advance of each paper's due date for those students who require it. The first of these papers will be rewritten upon its return and resubmitted in a form complaint with corrections made by the instruction on the pages of the first version. The second paper may be treated in the same way, depending upon the instructor's judgment. The subject will also offer students opportunity for oral expression by reason of (a) its discussion format and (b) a division into groups of two or three students (depending upon enrollment), each of which will make two fifteen-minute presentations of materials conducive to the discussion of a given assignment, following the model of such presentations offered by the instructor at the outset of the term. There will be no final examination.