This paper explores the moral underpinnings of education for sustainable development by studying the humanization of nature in contemporary teaching materials. To this end, Spinoza’s and Freud’s naturalistic psychological accounts – suggesting, among other things, that the human psychological constitution tends to further a reversed sense of causality – are invoked as resources for explaining the image of nature as portrayed in education for sustainable development. It is argued that the examples looked at rely on two problematic assumptions: (1) that there exists a metaphysical gulf between humanity and nature, and (2) that natural forces, like humans, act intentionally and therefore appear to be motivated by an underlying, albeit seemingly unexplainable, sense of teleology. To conclude, the humanization of nature in education for sustainable development is taken to make for a potential democratic problem insofar as the image of nature may be conceived as a powerful instrument for governing the everyday lives of people. That is, being able to influence the humanized image of nature also implies having a degree of influence over the ways that people live.
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