The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics

Front Cover
Routledge, May 25, 2017 - Philosophy - 252 pages
0 Reviews

In this second edition of The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics, Paul B. Thompson reviews four worldviews that shape competing visions for agriculture. Productionists have sought increasing yields—to make two seeds grow where only one grew before—while traditional visions of good farming have stressed stewardship. These traditional visions have been challenged by two more worldviews: a call for a total cost accounting for farming and an advocacy for a holistic perspective. Thompson argues that an environmentally defensible systems approach must draw upon all four worldviews, recognizing their flaws and synthesizing their strengths in a new vision of sustainable agriculture. This classic 1995 study has been thoroughly revised and significantly expanded in its second edition with up-to-date examples of agriculture’s impact on the environment. These include extensive discussions of new pesticides and the effects of animal agriculture on climate and other areas of the environment. In addition, a new final chapter discusses sustainability, which has become a dominant idea within environmental studies and agrarian political philosophy.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


The Ethics of Soil
The Environmental Critics of Agriculture
The Productionist Paradigm
Agricultural Stewardship and the Good Farmer
Calculating the True Cost of Food
The Holistic Alternative
Sustainable Agriculture
The Agrarian Vision
2015 Preface to the Japanese Translation
Deleted Agricultural Biotechnology Section from

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2017)

Paul B. Thompson has done research and teaching on the environmental ethics of agriculture and food systems for over 35 years. He was a founding member and former President of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society, and a two- time winner of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association’s Award for Excellence in Communication. Prior to assuming his present post at Michigan State, he held faculty positions in philosophy at Texas A&M University and Purdue University.

Bibliographic information