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Dates and Fees

SHO fee for the selected program you wish to partake in is a nearly all-inclusive fee, and really does cover all of the essentials of the student´s study abroad experience.

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Study Semesters

SHO provides multiple options for students to participate in four different periods of time according to their needs or time limitations.

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Transfer Credit

Charles University in Prague uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). All course subjects must be approved by your home institution for departmental credit.

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Philosophy of Nature

Course name: Philosophy of Nature
Course number: PKIN705
Language of instruction: English
Credits: 3 ECTS
Contact Hours: 22
Term: Fall 2015, Spring 2016
Course meeting times: Will be updated
Course meeting place: Will be updated

Professor:Assoc. Prof. Irena P. Martínková, Ph.D.

Contact Information:
Office address: H225
Office hours: Will be updated

Course Description

This course examines philosophical issues in nature and outdoor education. Several conceptions of nature will be discussed from various Western perspectives of (ancient Greek philosophers, modern science, existential philosophy and non-philosophical thinkers) and also Far Eastern (Taoism). The impact and consequences of these ideas on human existence and, in particular, outdoor activities and sports, will be discussed and critically examined. The course will include topics such as, for example, danger versus the safe society, the meaning of danger in outdoor activities, instrumental and non-instrumental approaches to nature in outdoor activities, and leadership in outdoor activities.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
– Learn about different concepts of nature and their relationship to the outdoors
– Better understand our relationship to nature
– Discuss and better understand values of outdoor activities and sports
– Understand aspects of safety and danger in outdoor activities and sports

Course Prerequisites

Methods of Instruction
Partly lectures (with and without PowerPoint presentations), but the main focus is on group work (small group discussions) dealing with various questions arising from the given theme, and from interpretations and discussions of selected philosophical texts on nature and the outdoors.

Assessment and Final Grade

1. Assessment Type 1: Essay on one of the recommended topics 40%

2. Assessment Type 2: Individual presentation about a recommended theme 20%

3. Assessment Type 3: Homework 20%

4. Assessment Type 4: Participation in sessions 20%

Marking scheme assessment PG 1-4 (1 = excellent; 4 = fail)

Course Requirements


The assessment essay should be on one of the recommended topics.
Criteria of evaluation: scope and depth of coverage of a topic, quality of interpretation, originality.

Individual presentations

The presentation must be designed so as to be interactive, making the group think about and work upon the highlighted theme.
Criteria of evaluation: scope and depth of coverage of a topic, appropriateness of the form of the session, engagement of other students.


Reading recommended texts before the sessions, so that students are prepared for discussions of the suggested themes.

Participation in sessions

Engagement in groupwork, willingness to interact effectively, meaningful contribution to the sessions.

Attendance is mandatory.

Weekly Schedule

Week 1

Session 1: Philosophical concepts of nature
Nature in philosophy and science: a concept of nature in ancient Greek philosophy and in modern science (Logos versus Nomos)

Session 2: Non-philosophical concepts of nature
Concepts of nature of non-philosophical thinkers: Thoreau, Emerson, etc.
Chapters for presentations from Thoreau (1991): Where I Lived and What I Lived For (pp.67-81); Higher Laws (pp. 170-180); Solitude (pp. 105-113); Emerson – Nature (1836): I. Nature

Week 2

Session 3: Human existence and its relationship to nature
Various approaches to nature – instrumental and scientific, artistic, mystical, etc., applied to outdoor activities. Concepts are based on the philosophy of existence, e.g. Heidegger.
Chapter by Pietarinen (1991).

Session 4: Human nature
Human nature in philosophy, especially in Nietzsche and Sartre.
Selected aphorisms in Nietzsche (2004); selected passages in Sartre (1946)

Week 3

Session 5: Nature in Taoism (Daoism)
Introduction to Chinese thinking, discussion of the main ideas of Taoism, with a focus on the ideas of Taoism on nature and human nature (e.g. the ideas of constant flux, changing nature of things, relationship between people and nature, control and letting go, distinguishing of concepts, non-thinking, etc.).
Selected chapters in Laozi – Tao Te Ching

Session 6: Leadership in outdoor activities
Two ways of leadership – the concept of the leader in our common understanding in contemporary society and in Taoism, applied to outdoor activities.

Week 4

Session 7: Non-instrumental activities and the outdoors
Discussing and designing non-instrumental activities that can be performed in the outdoors, advancing our experience in and of nature.
Chapter 5 in Martínková (2013).

Session 8: Values of outdoor activities
Discussion of values of outdoor activities in general, followed by a discussion of values of various particular types of outdoor activities. Comparison of values of outdoor activities with those of Olympic sports; distinction of intrinsic and extrinsic values.
Chapter 10 in Martínková (2013).

Session 9: Guest lecture: Moral problems in outdoor activities*
Consideration of moral problems and dilemmas in outdoor activities; discussion of a selected case-study.
Selected moral dilemmas from Smith and Allison (2007).

Week 5

Session 10: Harmony
Uncovering the ideal of harmony in human life, its relationship to human nature, and understood as an ideal of education – the contribution of outdoor activities to this ideal, as well as views from Western and Eastern thinking.
Article by Martínková (2003).

Session 11: Values of danger in a safe society
Discussing the values of safety and danger, especially in the context of the relatively safe Western society. The meaning of danger in outdoor activities. Human mortality in outdoor activities and sports, as compared to indoor activities and sports.
Article by Martínková and Hsu (2009).

Week 5

Required reading

Emerson, R.W. (1836). Nature. Available at:

Laozi – Tao Te Ching

Martínková, I. (2013). Instrumentality and Values in Sport. Prague: Karolinum Press.
Martínková, I. (2003). Understanding Harmony. Acta Universitatis Carolinae Kinanthropologica, 39(2), 85-90.
Martínková, I. and Hsu, L. (2009). Justification of Dangerous Sports and the Question of Values. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 5(2), 93-99.

Nietzsche, F. (2004). Human, All Too Human. London: Penguin Books.

Pietarinen, P. (1991). Principal Attitudes toward Nature. In P. Oja & R. Telama (Eds.), Sport for All. Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 581-587.

Sartre, J.-P. (1946). Existentialism is a Humanism. Available at:

Smith, T. and Allison, P. (2007). Outdoor experiential leadership: Scenarios describing incidents, dilemmas and opportunities Tulsa, Oklahoma: Learning Unlimited.

Thoreau, H.D. (1991). Walden, or Life in the Woods. Vintage Books/The Library of America.

Further reading

Breivik, G. (2007). The quest for excitement and the safe society. In M. McNamee (Ed.), Philosophy, Risk and Adventure Sports. London: Routledge, pp. 10-24.

Howe, L.A. (2012). Different Kinds of Perfect: The Pursuit of Excellence in Nature-Based Sports. Sport, Ethics & Philosophy, 6(3), pp. 353-368.

Heidegger, M. (2007). Phenomenological Interpretations with Respect to Aristotle: Indication of the Hermeneutical Situation. In Becoming Heidegger: On the Trail of His Early Occasional Writings, 1910-1927, edited by T. Kisiel and T. Sheehan. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, pp. 155-184.

Howe, L.A. (2008). Remote Sport: Risk and Self-Knowledge in Wilder Spaces. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 35(1), 1-16.

James, S.P. (2009). The Presence of Nature: A Study in Phenomenology and Environmental Philosophy. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Krein, K. (2007). Nature and risk in adventure sports. In M. McNamee (Ed.), Philosophy, Risk and Adventure Sports. London: Routledge, pp. 80-93.

Loland, S. Outline of an Ecosophy of Sport. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 1996, 23, 70-90.

*The exact time of this session is subject to change, depending on guest lecturer´s time.

About program

SHO works, partly, under the assumption that in many contexts the theoretical and participatory aspects of physical education and culture are often experienced as separate phenomena. SHO’s aspiration is to […]

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Admission Requirements for SHO Full Semester and Short-term program SHO accepts undergraduate students from all over the world, including universities that do not have a direct exchange agreement with Charles […]

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Contact: Luděk Brouček SHO Program Director Luděk Brouček is responsible for the overall management and operation of the SHO program, working in consultation with the SHO Faculty Academic Board. […]

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SHO’s extracurricular programs are, but not limited to, the following opportunities: Guest lectures that correspond directly with the students’ studies SHO Buddy Program Sport and Cultural Events (there are several, […]

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