SAAP Annual Meeting 2015

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Liberty Hyde Bailey and Pragmatic Naturalism

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This paper argues that Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954), a horticulturalist and faculty member of Cornell University in the early twentieth century, was an proponent of pragmatic naturalism. He articulated a philosophy of the environment that offered an expansive conception of human culture and experience, one that included the non-human world. He believed that humans were not stewards of an environment from which they stood distinctly apart, but, instead, were thoroughly embedded in it. Drawing on archival research and Bailey’s published works, I highlight the similarities between Bailey and John Dewey by looking specifically at the former’s environmental ethics, epistemology, and political theory. In many ways Bailey complicates the history of American environmental thought, which has traditionally been understood as divided between anthropocentrism and ecocentrism. I argue that Bailey’s thought provides evidence of a form of pragmatic naturalism that resists these categorizations.


Daniel Rinn    
University of Rochester
United States


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