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A Historical and Systematic Survey of European Perceptions of Wilderness

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This paper develops a historical and systematic typology of perceptions of wilderness that exist in contemporary western European cultures. After describing notions of wilderness associated with worldviews that emerged during the Enlightenment period (theological, early Enlightenment, liberalism, democratism) and as a critical response to it (Rousseauism, early Romanticism, English and German conservatism), we outline four recent transformations of these traditional notions of wilderness: wilderness as an ecological object, as a place of nature's self-reassertion, as a place of thrill and as a sphere of amorality and meaninglessness. In our conclusion, we suggest what practical relevance arises from such a nuanced understanding of the inherently ambiguous concept of wilderness.

Keywords: Europe; history of ideas; perceptions; values; wilderness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2020) of 2.518. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.313.
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