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Environmental Values

A Historical and Systematic Survey of European Perceptions of Wilderness

Thomas Kirchhoff and Vera Vicenzotti

Environmental Values 23 (2014): 443-464. doi: 10.3197/096327114X13947900181590


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.


Europe, history of ideas, perceptions, values, wilderness

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Wildness as a Critical Border Concept: Nietzsche and the Debate on Wilderness Restoration. Martin Drenthen

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Borders and Boundaries. Simon Hailwood

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