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Philosophy, Mountains and Mountaineering


I am a keen mountain-goer, so this page combines my professional and sporting interests.

There are links to various connections between philosophy, mountains and mountaineering.

Part of the eventual aim is to encourage young philosophers to devote some of their thinking, and writing, to questions concerning mountains and mountaineering.

I am adding to the page incrementally, as entries arise; so if you if have any suggestions to include, I'd be very happy to receive your email:


Philosophical Themes Relating to Mountains

This section lists philosophical themes that relate to mountains or mountaineering. Some of the links are to information on university courses that explicitly combine a philosophy, mountain and mountaineering component. (More content, and links, to follow)

Acknowledgements: Simon Blackburn, Bill Child, Roger Crisp, Tim Hankinson


Environmental Aesthetics
Aesthetics of High-Risk Sports
Moral Philosophy

Environmental Ethics
Ethics of High-Risk Sports

Vagueness of the concept mountain
Running Sorites arguments between hills and mountains

Existential question: Do mountains exist?
Constitutive question: What are mountains?
Individuative question: How do we count mountains?
Philosophy of Mind
Imagination in our Perception of Mountains
Philosophy of Religion

How are we to understand the beliefs of cultures that take mountains to be sacred?
Mountaineering and Fear of Death
Social and Political Philosophy

Members of ethnic minorities are, proportionately, less likely to visit the UK mountains. Does this 'passive apartheid' matter; and if so, why?
Feminism and Mountaineering

Thoughtful Books About Mountains and Mountaineering

This section contains a selection of references to books, not necessarily by philosophers, that offer valuable philosophical reflections on mountains or mountaineering.

Mountains of the Mind Robert Macfarlane 2003
The Evidence of Things Not Seen W.H. Murray 2002
A Slender Thread Stephen Venables 2000

Philosophers' Texts Relating to Mountains

This section contains references to philosophers who, in their writing, have illustrated a philosophical point with an example concerning mountains or mountaineering.

So far I think Nietzsche certainly deserves to be called the 'patron saint of mountaineering philosophers'. (More names, and links, to follow)

Acknowledgements: A special thanks to Nigel Tubbs for bringing Nietzsche's great love of the mountains to my attention, and to Bill Child for several suggestions. Thanks also to Ramiro de Ávila Peres for drawing my attention to Petrarch's account of his ascent of Mont Ventoux.

Blackburn, Davidson, Descartes, Frege, Kant, Meinong, Nietzsche, Peacocke, Petrarch, Russell, Ryle, Wittgenstein.

Mountaineers With a Connection to Philosophy

This section contains references to mountaineers with some connection to philosophy. (More names, and links, to follow)

Acknowledgements: H.E. Allan

Robin Smith, Willi Unsoeld

Worldwide Philosophy and Mountaineering Universities

This section is intended to be useful to students who are seeking a university with both a philosophy and a mountaineering community. The criterion for inclusion is that the university should: (i) be English speaking; (ii) have a philosophy department/school; and (iii) have an outdoor club which includes significant mountain-going or climbing activities.

New Zealand
Northern Ireland
South Africa
United States