The (Religious) Naturalist's Eye

An Introduction to ‘Aldo Leopold: Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions’


  • Gavin Van Horn Center for Humans and Nature



Aldo Leopold, religious naturalism, scientific metaphysics, natural history, nature as sacred


Aldo Leopold is remembered as a consummate nature writer, a scientist with a philosophical bent, a naturalist informed deeply by his ecological ?eldwork, and as an active citizen and conservationist committed to bringing private and public land management into concord. While many of his contemporaries have faded into obscurity, Leopold’s work continues to inspire scholars and conservation practitioners to think of social and ecological systems as necessarily integrated. The authors in this special issue probe why this is so by focusing on the ethical, religious, and spiritual roots and branches of Leopold’s environmental philosophy and his understandings of land health. I suggest that Leopold’s work continues to endure, and receive growing scholarly and popular attention, because he subtly traversed the realm of metaphysics in his writing, creating a challenging dialogue between the sciences and the humanities.


Brown, David E., and Neil B. Carmony (eds.). 1995. Aldo Leopold’s Southwest (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press).

Callicott, J. Baird. 1989. In Defense of the Land Ethic: Essays in Environmental Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press).

———. 1999. Beyond the Land Ethic: More Essays in Environmental Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press).

Callicott, J. Baird, and Michael P. Nelson (eds.). 1998. The Great New Wilderness Debate (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press).

Crosby, Donald A. 2007. ‘A Case for Religion of Nature’, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 1.4: 489-502.

Devall, Bill, and George Sessions. 1985. Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered (Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith).

Elton, Charles. 2001 [1927]. Animal Ecology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Flader, Susan L. 1994 [1974]. Thinking Like a Mountain: Aldo Leopold and the Evolution of an Ecological Attitude toward Deer, Wolves and Forests (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press).

Katz, Eric. 1997. Nature as Subject: Human Obligation and Natural Community (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield).

Leopold, Aldo. 1938. ‘Natural History, the Forgotten Science’, Speech at University of Missouri, 26 September. Online:

———. 1989 [1949]. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press).

———. 1991 [1939]. ‘Farmer as Conservationist’, in Leopold 1991: 255-65.

———. 1991 [1940]. ‘State of the Profession’, in Leopold 1991: 276-80.

———. 1991 [1944]. ‘Conservation: In Whole or in Part?’, in Leopold 1991: 310-19.

———. 1991. The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold (ed. Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott; Madison: University of Wisconsin Press).

———. 1999. For the Health of the Land: Previously Unpublished Essays and Other Writings (ed. J. Baird Callicott and Eric T. Freyfogle; Washington, DC: Island Press).

Meine, Curt. 1988. Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work (Madison and London: University of Wisconsin Press).

———. 2004. Correction Lines: Essays on Land, Leopold, and Conservation (Washington, DC: Island Press).

Minteer, Ben A. 2006. The Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought in America (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

Nelson, Michael P., and J. Baird Callicott (eds.). 2008. The Wilderness Debate Rages On (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press).

Newton, Julianne Lutz. 2006. Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey (Washington, DC: Island Press).

Norton, Bryan G. 1988. ‘The Constancy of Leopold’s Land Ethic’, Conservation Biology 2.1: 93-102. Doi:

———. 1991. Toward Unity among Environmentalists (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press).

———. 1995. ‘Why I Am Not a Nonathropocentrist: Callicott and the Failure of Monistic Inherentism’, Environmental Ethics 17: 341-58.

———. 1999. ‘Pragmatism, Adaptive Management, and Sustainability’, Environmental Values 8: 451-66. Doi:

Noss, Reed. 2002. ‘Aldo Leopold Was a Conservation Biologist’, in Richard L. Knight and Suzanne Riedel (eds.), Aldo Leopold and the Ecological Conscience (Oxford: Oxford University Press): 106-17.

Rolston III, Holmes. 1994. Conserving Natural Value (New York: Columbia University Press).

Tallmadge, John. 1987. ‘Anatomy of a Classic’, in J. Baird Callicott (ed.), Companion to A Sand County Almanac: Interpretative and Critical Essays (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press): 110-27.

Taylor, Bron. 2010. Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future (Berkeley: University of California Press).



How to Cite

Van Horn, G. (2011). The (Religious) Naturalist’s Eye: An Introduction to ‘Aldo Leopold: Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions’. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 5(4), 397-409.