An ontology for the environmental crisis

International Conference

University of Turin, 1 & 2 February 2018

Who is responsible for the current environmental crisis—including the two intertwined phenomena of climate change and biodiversity declining? Typically, our species with its activities—habitat interruption, pollution, overexploitation of natural resources, etc.—is pointed at both as the main cause and the alleged agent who has the duty to redress the crisis. But what does that actually mean? Does it make any sense to speak of species responsibility? Could a species, as distinct from its individual members, be a moral agent? Answering these questions requires a preliminary reflection on the nature, on the one hand, of the very notion of collective responsibility (and the related notions of personal and shared responsibility); and, on the other hand, on the ontological status of our (and other) species, as well as collective subjects such as groups and communities.



Book Of Abstract

Invited Speakers

Tiziana ANDINA, University of Turin
Dirk MAES, Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Belgium
Virginie MARIS, CEFE/CNRS, Montpellier
Markku OKSANEN, University of Eastern Finland
Jan SPRENGER, University of Turin, Italy

Tiziana ANDINA is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Turin, Italy. (www.labont.it/andina). She is an expert in metaphysics and ontology with a specialization in social ontology. Since 2016 she is the director of the research center LabOnt – The Laboratory for Ontology at the University of Turin (www.labont.it). Her recent publications concern social ontology, transgenerational actions, the relationship between generations and problems of social justice, fostering the interdisciplinary research between philosophy, social sciences, and law. Among the most recent titles: An Ontology for Social Reality, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2016, and (ed. by), Bridging the Analytical Continental Divide. A Companion to Contemporary Western Philosophy, Brill 2014, a reference book on contemporary philosophy. She is co-editor of the international journal Brill Research Perspectives in Art and Law.

Virginie MARIS is a Researcher at the Centre d’écologie fonctionnelle et évolutive (CNRS) in Montpellier. Her work lies at the intersection between epistemological and ethical issues regarding biodiversity conservation. She has written scientific papers in various subjects linked to conservation (predictive ecology, Anthropocene, ecosystem services, biodiversity values, invasion biology, sustainable development…) and she is the author of two books: Philosophie de la biodiversité – petite éthique pour une nature en péril (Buchet-Chastel, second edition in 2016) and Nature à vendre – les limites des services écosystémiques (Quae, 2014). Her publications are available on https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Virginie_Maris.

Markku OKSANEN is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Department of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland. His areas of expertise are environmental philosophy, applied ethics, ethics, and social philosophy. Among his book Philosophy and Biodiversity (ed. with J. Pietarinen), Cambridge University Press, 2004 and Environmental Human Rights: A Political Theory Perspective (ed. with A.  Dodsworth and S. O’Doherty), Routledge 2017. His publications are available on https://uef.academia.edu/MarkkuOksanen

Dirk MAES is a Senior Researcher at the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO) in Brussels, Belgium). The focus of his research is on the applied conservation of insects using evidence-based approaches with butterflies as model organisms. He is also the co-ordinator of the Red List assessments in Flanders (northern Belgium). Some of his recent publications deal with the use of citizen science data in conservation and methodological aspects of the use of species distribution models to predict future distributions of butterflies in Europe (for more publications, see https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dirk_Maes2). Dirk is currently one of the three editors-in-chief of the Journal of Insect Conservation.

Jan SPRENGER (http://www.laeuferpaar.de) is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Turin, Italy. Before coming to Turin in 2017, he was Professor of Philosophy at Tilburg University, The Netherlands, and Director of the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics and Philosophy of Science. His papers appear in journals such as Philosophical Review, Mind, Philosophy of Science, and BJPS; and his monograph “Bayesian Philosophy of Science” (with Stephan Hartmann) is scheduled for publication with OUP in 2018. Currently, Jan is working on an ERC project on scientific objectivity (http://msio.wordpress.com), which aims to improve the reliability of scientific reasoning. The project team works on novel methods for statistical inference and models of explanation and causation. Jan is particularly interested in the interface between science and public policy, as evidenced by publications on group decision-making, values in science, and the Precautionary Principle. For a full list of writings, see http://www.laeuferpaar.de/papers.

Scientific Committee

Simona Bonelli, University of Turin; Vincenzo Crupi, University of Turin; Maurizio Ferraris, University of Turin; Philippe Huneman, IHPST-CNRS/ Université Paris 1 Sorbonne; Philip Kitcher, Columbia University; Federica Liveriero, University of Massachusetts, Lowell; Jorge Marques da Silva, University of Lisbon; Sahotra Sarkar, University of Texas at Austin, USA and Presidency University, Kolkata, India.

The conference is part of the activities of the project SOFEE- Social Ontology For Environmental Emergencies funded by the European Union’s Fp7 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 609402 – 2020 (Train to Move) hosted at the LabOnt, Laboratory for Ontology (University of Turin), and is organized in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Development and Territory Management and the Master in Socio-environmental Sustainability of Agrifood Networks.

Call for Abstracts

The present call for abstracts is directed to philosophers of biology, conservation biologists, ethicists, philosophers of politics, social ontologists, and metaphysicians. The aim of the workshop is to provide an interdisciplinary context for discussing the ontological, political, and ethical dimensions of the current environmental crisis.

Potential topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • The ontological status of (our and other) species as well as of possible targets of conservation policies and actions (species, subspecies, populations, evolutionarily significant units, etc.);
  • Models and forecasts about future environmental changes: policy making under conditions of uncertainty;
  • The nature of the collective subjects involved in the management of the environmental crisis (such as the scientific community, the general public, the governments, the States, the NGOs…) and/or their possible different understanding of the environmental crisis;
  • The nature of responsibility (with a particular focus on collective / personal / shared responsibility as well as on intergenerational responsibility) and the links between human responsibilities and human rights in the era of environmental crisis.

CFA is now closed

The language of the conference is English and attendance will be free.


The conference will be held at Campus Luigi Einaudi, Lungo Dora Siena 100a, Sala lauree blu, Turin


Elena Casetta, Francesco Camboni, Davide Pala, Vera Tripodi

Website:  Ricardo Pestana