Wilderness: Theory and Practice

Wilderness is one of the fundamental concepts of environmental philosophy.

It is commonly recognized as being a place without human presence; yet is also a feeling of fear and awe, and a particular state of heightened consciousness, as the “–ness” (re: happiness & sadness) implies.

Wilderness: Theory and Practice is designed to help you understand “wilderness”; you’ll learn how it is a key idea in environmental philosophy & Western history;

& more profoundly, you’ll learn how you can tap and harness the “wilderness” feeling, and state of mind, to achieve existential, creative and professional goals.

above bear lake emigrant copy 2

“Wilderness” contains immense powers, and by becoming intimately familiar with them, you can gain the ability to release & use them—beneficially. We’ll read about, and play with new words & ideas to express how, wilderness is a “space” where 1) “structure” does not (appear to) exist and 2), as one brings “structure” to it, one also adapts to and assumes its character: a transformative process.

from Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket: A Romance by Edgar Allan Poe; illustration by A. D.  McCormick
from Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket: A Romance by Edgar Allan Poe; illustration by A. D. McCormick 1898

Wilderness is always a space of transformation—& b/c it appears at the edges of our presence, it is always accessible. We just have to re-cognize* it, inside and outside of us; then we can be at “home” with(in) it.

Isla Wollaston, Cape Horn archipelago, Patagonian Chile
Isla Wollaston, Cape Horn archipelago, Patagonian Chile

This 4-part course is designed to promote and celebrate such re-cognition by providing you understanding of how, and why, “wilderness” was invented by Western culture. You will explore the primary sources & vocabulary of the idea & reality of wilderness, so you can understand and articulate your feelings of, & yearning for, it.

*re-cognize means to “know again”


We will read texts by the authors listed below at home, & meet and discuss the texts for 2 hours. The goal of this philosophy course is to improve the clarity and quality of our every moment. In this era of global climate change, our study of “wilderness” will awaken our adaptative capacities, and give us courage and hope.

—Wilderness as Western Construct, catalyzed by the 1st and 2nd Ages of Discovery:

selections from Hakluyt, Bradford, Morton, Darwin, Poe

—Wilderness as a feeling, and type of consciousness

Selections from Upanishads, Bible, Kant, Poe, Nietzsche, Abbey

—Wilderness and the Sacred

selections from Burke, Snyder, Heidegger & rereading of Upanishads, Bible

—Wilderness as home

selections from Jefferson, Thoreau, Leopold, Lame Deer/Erdoes, Heidinger


We’ll be meeting around a large table at Packard’s in Northampton on Thursday nights from 7-9 pm. This is an adult class, designed to be a directed discussion group, enjoyed in a European salon fashion.

These our our 4 class dates: Thursday May 7, 14, 21 and 28

No special equipment or gear is needed. At home, you’ll read the texts and jot responses to prompts; then, you’ll bring your own questions and interpretations to the table. Each class will begin with a 20 minute lecture that sets the context and interpretive focus for the ensuing free play.

Texts will be provided, either by links or pdfs; you’ll be welcome to buy & bring your own versions.


To register, please send a note in the comment box below or to info@biocitizen.org; you can also call 413-320.0052 and talk to Kurt Heidinger, who will be teaching the course. If you are ready to register, you can pay the tuition of $100 either by check (send to Biocitizen, 1 Stage Rd., Westhampton, MA 01027) or here by paypal.


Once tuition is paid, you will contacted and sent the course plan & materials.

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