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Objectivity in Environmental Aesthetics


Objectivity in Environmental Aesthetics & Protection of the Environment Ned Hettinger College of Charleston July 2006 * Resistance to Carlson s scientific monism ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Objectivity in Environmental Aesthetics

Objectivity in Environmental Aesthetics
Protection of the Environment
  • Ned Hettinger
  • College of Charleston
  • July 2006

The WorryNatural beautys subjectivity
relativity make it unsuitable for justifying
environmental protection
  • Contrast John Muirs description of a sunset
  • The sunset was glorious. To the east the water
    was a rose lavender, the sky at the horizon blue,
    eight or ten degrees above a red purple. In the
    west gold and purple on horizontal bars of cloud,
    shading off into lilac. Islands dark
    purple. John Muir, Journal (1899)
  • With his contemporary Oscar Wildes
  • "Nobody of any real culture . . . ever talks
    nowadays about the beauty of a sunset. Sunsets
    are quite old-fashioned. They belong to the time
    when Turner was the last note in art. To admire
    them is a distinct sign of provincialism of
    temperament. Upon the other hand they go on.
    Yesterday evening Mrs. Arundel insisted on my
    going to the window, and looking at the glorious
    sky, as she called it. Of course I had to look at
    it. . . And what was it? It was simply a very
    second-rate Turner, a Turner of a bad period,
    with all the painter's worst faults exaggerated
    and over- emphasized."
  • Oscar Wilde The Decay of Lying An Observation

The Response
  • Along with a pluralism of acceptable judgments
    about natural beauty come constraints that
    specify better and worse aesthetic responses to
  • Such constraints provide sufficient objectivity
    for the aesthetics of nature to play an important
    role in environmental protection (i.e.,
    aesthetic protectionism)

Beauty of the environment motivates
environmental protection
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Env. beauty matters to people
  • Magnificence of Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss
    sprouting Resurrection Fern
  • Sprawls vulgarity

How aesthetically valuable is the Arctic Refuge?
  • Godforsaken mosquito-infested swamp shrouded in
    frozen darkness half the year Former
    Interior Secretary Gail Norton

  • A place of solitude, unmatched beauty, and
  • Jimmy Carter

Aesthetic Protectionism
  • Environmental beauty not only motivates but also
    provide significant justification for
    environmental protection

Worries about Aesthetic Protectionism
  • Natural beauty is weak and trivial compared to
    utilitarian values used to protect the
    environment (such as health, recreation) or to
    exploit it (jobs, growth)
  • Natural beauty counts for little in assessing how
    we should treat humans why think it amounts to
    much in determining how we should treat the
  • Aesthetic value is anthropocentric and
    instrumental (its simply pleasurable experiences
    for humans) and the best defenses of nature
    should be intrinsic

Environmental aesthetics too subjective to help
with environmental protection?
  • If aesthetic value judgments are merely personal
    and subjective, there will be no way to argue
    that everyone ought to learn to appreciate or
    regard natural beauty as worthy of preservation.

    Janna Thompson, "Aesthetics and the Value of
    Nature" Environmental Ethics (1995)

Environmental aesthetic
  • Great aesthetic value lost when
  • Tranquil, tree-lined roads punctuated by
    farmhouses, small fields, and ponds
  • Symbolic of human harmony with nature
  • Are replaced with
  • Aggressive, strip-highway sprawl of auto dealers,
    gas stations, and parking lots
  • Symbolic of our societys careless exploitation
    and disregard of the natural world
  • Better slide for MT

Development aesthetic
  • Great aesthetic value is gained when
  • When monotonous and boring, weed-infested dirt
  • Are replaced with
  • Useful and well-built stores
  • That express and reward hard work, determination,
    and entrepreneurial ingenuity

If beauty in the eye of the beholder
  • How can aesthetics help us adjudicate between
    developers who like strip malls and
    environmentalists who dont?
  • W/o some objectivity, aesthetic responses to
    environment would be a poor basis for
    environmental protection.

Carlsons Science-Based Objectivity
  • The leading model for environmental aesthetic
    objectivity is Allen Carlsons
  • He provides for objectivity by arguing that
  • Aesthetic appreciation of nature must respond to
    what nature is (rather than what it is not)
  • Because science tell us what nature is
  • Aesthetic appreciation of nature must be informed
    by science (or more broadly natural history)
  • Just as aesthetic response to art must be
    informed by art history
  • Because science is objective, an env. aesthetics
    informed by science will also be objective

Carlsons monism
  • Carlson frequently characterizes his view thus
  • The appropriate or correct or true
    aesthetic appreciation of nature must be guided
    by science
  • Aesthetic responses to nature uninformed by
    science or natural history are therefore
    inappropriate, incorrect, or even false

Resistance to Carlsons scientific monism
  • Not plausible that acceptable nature appreciation
    must be guided by science
  • Rather than by other sorts of cognitive,
    emotional or imaginative responses
  • Nor is it helpful to limit our assessment of
    aesthetic judgments about nature to the language
  • Correct or incorrect
  • True or false
  • Appropriate or inappropriate

A scientifically uniformed aesthetic response
need not be unacceptable
  • A child or a uneducated adult may not know that a
    glacier is a river of ice, but there is nothing
    incorrect, false, or even inappropriate about
    their being wowed by the sight of a calving

Yet informed responses are often better
  • Knowledge about the nature of glaciers can deepen
    our response to them
  • For example, we might begin to listen and hear
    the groaning of the ice as it scrapes down the

I propose aConstrained PluralismIn Env.
  • There are a plurality of better and worse
    aesthetic responses to environment
  • Better and worse should be understood in a
    variety of ways
  • Not just correct/incorrect, true/false,
  • Most plausible type of objectivity
  • Hopefully, it provides sufficient objectivity to
    make aesthetic protectionism viable

Constrained pluralism falls between extremes
about objectivity/subjectivity
  • Naïve monism
  • There are uniquely correct and appropriate
    aesthetic responses to environment
  • Anything-goes subjectivism
  • Any aesthetic response to environment is as good
    as any other

Virtually everybody in env. aesthetics
distinguishes between better and worse responses
  • True of thinkers with drastically divergent
    approaches to aesthetics
  • Science-based (cognitive) theories like Allen
  • Emotional-arousal theorists like Noel Carroll
  • Imagination-based theorists like Emily Brady
  • A good source Ronald Hepburns "Trivial and
    Serious in Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature

Varieties of better and worse aesthetic responses
  • Deep
  • Multisensuous
  • Lively, active
  • Discriminating
  • Attentive
  • Mature
  • Unbiased
  • Patient, careful
  • Perceptive
  • Thoughtful, reflective
  • Knowledgeable
  • Experienced
  • Superficial, Shallow
  • Ocular-centric
  • Feeble, lazy, passive
  • Including perceptually passive
  • Undiscriminating
  • Inattentive, inappropriately attentive
  • Immature
  • Biased
  • Hasty
  • Confused
  • Unthinking
  • Ignorant, distorted
  • Inexperienced

Doubts about the objectivity of environmental
  • Nature appreciation lacks the objectivity of art
  • Art appreciation is much more objective than
    nature appreciation
  • An initially plausible and relatively popular
    idea in the philosophy of art
  • Held byamong others
  • Malcolm Budd
  • John Fisher
  • Kendall Walton
  • I have my doubts about this claim

Fishers relativism about environmental aesthetics
  • A great mountain, Mt. Fuji or the Grand Teton,
    would probably strike us as noble and strong . .
    . , but it is perfectly conceivable that it might
    strike an observer from an alien culture as
    comical or agonized. In the case of a natural
    object, such as a mountain, such relativity of
    perception is no real problem, because the
    mountain itself isnt really noble or comical.
    We can only say that there are different ways to
    regard the mountain. . . . There is no real fact
    of the matter about whether Mount Fuji is noble
    or comical. . . .

Fisher on arts objectivity
  • It is harder to swallow such relativism when it
    comes to the expressive properties of art. . . .
    What I am suggesting is that the emotional
    qualities that artworks express are not
    dispensable facts about them, although the
    emotional qualities are dispensable facts about
    natural objects.
  • Edvard Munchs The Scream is truly frightening .
    . . The fact that The Scream might strike a
    viewer from another culture as cheerful should
    not make us think that The Scream is a cheerful
    painting. . . .
  • John Fisher, Reflecting on Art (1993)

The typical argument
  • The constraints on art appreciation provided by
    artistic design and social convention are absent
    in nature appreciation
  • Natural beauty lacks an artist whose design and
    intentions put limits on appropriate appreciation
  • E.g., Cubist paintings are not intended to be
    judged in terms of their representational
  • In contrast, nature does not intend you to
    appreciate it one way or another
  • Additionally, there are no social conventions for
    the appreciation of nature as there are for art
  • E.g., One should ignore the coughing during a
    concert, but one can choose whether or not to
    make the sound of a distant train part of
    environmental appreciation
  • E.g., Words in literature have a meaning dictated
    by convention, but whatever meaning nature has
    (if any) is created by the individual
  • Further, there are no nature critics in the mold
    of art critics

Fisher on sounds of nature"What The Hills Are
Alive With--In Defense of the Sounds of Nature
  • The person who listens to nature is simply free
    of the criteria that govern appreciation of music
    and that function to rule out many possible ways
    of listening
  • Suppose you are sitting in a hot tub in a city
    in the Arizona desert listening to the sounds
    around you. Do you just listen to the Western
    Warblers and the wind in the fruit and palm trees
    or do you (should you) also notice the sounds of
    hot tub jets and popping bubbles making a
    pleasant hissing on the water? Do you add or
    ignore the sounds of ventilator fans spinning hot
    air from the attics and occasional jet planes
    overhead? . . . In the Tuscan countryside do I
    ignore the high pitched whining of mosquitoes?
    Shall I just focus on the loons from across the
    lake in Minnesota or shall I strain to hear
    others from more distant parts, and do they go
    together with the chattering of squirrels and the
    buzzing of flies?
  • Nature does not dictate an intrinsically correct
    way to frame its sounds in the way that a
    composer does . . . There are a large
    multiplicity of structures and relations that we
    might hear and all seem equally legitimate.

Budd generalizes this point
  • The aesthetic appreciation of nature is . . .
    endowed with a freedom denied to artistic
  • Malcolm Budd, The Aesthetics of Nature

Freedom and relativity in framing nature
  • Fisher and Budd suggest that nature
    appreciationunlike art appreciation--involves
    full framing freedom
  • Unlike art, where the artist (or art category)
    frames the aesthetic object, how to frame the
    aesthetic experience of nature is up to us
  • E.g., One doesnt look at the backside of a
    painting or knock it to see how it sounds
  • But these are perfectly permissible approaches to
    appreciating a tree

Budd argues that
  • No proper level of observation for nature
  • One can look at nature though a telescope or a
    microscope, or with ones unaided eye
  • No proper or optimum conditions for observation
  • One can observe nature when it is foggy or clear,
    bright or dark, from near or far
  • Permissible to use any sense modality or mode of
  • Can choose to look, hear, touch, taste, or smell
  • In general, we are free to frame and appreciate
    natural objects as we please

Full framing freedom?
  • Budd overstates the freedom involved
  • There are constraints on framing nature
  • Once one has settled on a particular natural
    object as the object of aesthetic attention
  • Many other framing choices are ruled out

Constraints on framing of nature
  • One should not appreciate trout in a mountain
    stream with a telescope or microscope
  • So there are better and worse levels of
    observation in particular cases
  • Aesthetically appreciating a cliff is not best
    done from an airplane six miles high or in ones
    Winnebago on a pitch black night
  • Thus there are better and worse conditions of
  • Are we really free to use any sense modality in
    appreciating a mountain?
  • Taste? Touch?

Framing pluralism exists
  • Environmental appreciation does have greater
    framing freedom than art
  • Artists and art forms direct our attention to
    properties of the aesthetic object in a way
    nature does not
  • But some pluralism need not be a problem for
    aesthetic protectionism
  • The aesthetic freedom to
  • Focuses on one loon or forty, or to listen to
    wind in the trees alone or along with warblers
  • Seems irrelevant to the possibility of using
    environmental beauty for environmental protection
  • Whether I look at mountain
  • Through the fog in the early morning light
  • During the middle of the afternoon on a perfectly
    clear day
  • Or instead focus on the smell of the mountains
    spruce trees after the rain or savor the taste of
    its wild huckleberries
  • Does not seem a threat to aesthetic protectionism

Some pluralism might even support aesthetic
  • When the multiplicity of acceptable ways to
    appreciation nature are virtually all
    aesthetically positive
  • And when such responses are of greater aesthetic
    value than the aesthetic responses to degraded

But other framing pluralism creates trouble for
aesthetic protectionism
  • Consider whether or not human intrusions should
    be included in environmental appreciative

Snowmobiles in Yellowstone?
An appropriate and compatible winter use?
Race track next to Cypress Swamp Nature Preserve?

Helicopter/airplane flights over National Parks
Houses on ridge tops
Environmental vs. anti-env. framing
  • Environmentalists Engine noise degrades natural
  • But if framing choice is arbitrary
  • Anti-environmentalists can argue that such sounds
    can be framed out of the experience
  • The Yellowstone skier can be asked to frame out
    the stench and whine of snowmobiles
  • The developer can ask those on the Beidler Forest
    owl walk to ignore the sounds of the nearby
    Friday night races
  • Hikers in the National Parks can tune out the
    aircraft noise
  • The developer can ask those hiking in the forest
    to ignore the trophy homes on the ridge tops
  • And if there are no better or worse ways to frame
    these aesthetic experiences, why shouldnt they?

An overall aesthetic assessment must include
these sounds, smells, and sights
  • Fitting and natural to include--and even to focus
    on--these sensual properties
  • To ignore them would be like standing in the
    Snake River Valley of Wyoming and refusing to
    look up to the West
  • Not a serious attempt to aesthetically appreciate
    Grand Teton National Park
  • Aesthetic judgments about environments that frame
    out human intrusions similarly distort
  • A developer who insists that putting a sky
    scraper in the Snake River Valley will not
    detract from the aesthetic beauty of the valley
    and neighboring Teton Park because it can be
    easily framed out
  • Relies on a mistaken conception of how free
    framing choices in environmental appreciation can
    legitimately be
  • Like a symphony companion saying Dont worry
    about that foul smell or machine-gun fire
    outside, just listen to the music

Some framing decision are more natural, fitting
and appropriate (given circumstances)
  • Certain natural expanses have natural frames or
    what I prefer to call nature closure caves,
    copses, grottoes, clearings, arbors, valleys,
    etc. And other natural expanses, though lacking
    frames have features that are naturally salient
    for human organisms -- i.e., they have features
    such as moving water, bright illumination, etc.,
    that draw our attention instinctually toward
  • Noel Carroll, On Being Moved by Nature (1993)

Consider scale-dependence of aesthetic response
  • The mountain that we appreciate for its majesty
    and stability is, on a different time-scale, as
    fluid as the ripples on the lake at its foot
  • Ronald Hepburn, Trivial and the Serious in
    Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature (1993)
  • But this should not make us think that the
    aesthetic qualities we enjoy in the mountain are
    not appropriately appreciable.
  • Clear-cuts are a paradigm of environmental-aesthet
    ic disvalue, but if one scales up, they are
    temporary blips in an ongoing and
    aesthetically-exciting process of forest recovery
  • But this should not lead us to agree with the
    forest-industry executive that they are not ugly
    because we should adopt the 200 year scale

  • Aesthetic qualities can be made to vanish and
    aesthetic judgments can be undermined by taking a
    different perspective
  • But this does not show thatfrom a particular
    perspectiveany aesthetic responses is as good as
    any other
  • Nor should we accept the idea that any
    perspective is as appropriate as any other

Some framing of env. appreciation is awkward,
forced, and myopic
  • Given the kind of beings we are
  • Scales on which we operate
  • Legitimate purposes of aesthetic appreciation
  • Some ways of framing environmental appreciation
    are not acceptable
  • Including the anti-environmentalists demand
  • To frame out human intrusions
  • To appreciate nature form irrelevant or distorted

Not denying some relativity in aesthetic value
  • One person finds the coo coo sounds of a
    flock of doves to be extremely harmonious and to
    express a soothing calm a friend may find the
    same sound to be insistently obtrusive (Fisher)
  • Perhaps the Grand Tetons will appear puny rather
    than majestic to someone who grew up in the
    Himalayas or comical to one contemplating the
    meaning of the French word teton
  • The sound of an approaching snow mobile may well
    be soothing--rather than obnoxious--if one is
    lying hypothermic in the snow waiting for help,
    or if one is the owner of a snowmobile rental
    business threatened by a proposed ban on
    snowmobiles in national parks


Clear cuts may not appear to be eyesores
to those who hunt the deer feeding off the new
growth or to the logger who cut the trees
Resources to constrain aesthetic appreciation of
  • I now turn from doubts about objectivity in env.
    appreciation to factors that help with such
    objectivity and with aesthetic protectionism
  • (1) Cognitive factors
  • (2) Objectivity in emotional responses to nature
  • (3) Disinterestedness of aesthetic responses

(1) Cognitive factors as constraints on
environmental aesthetic response
  • For example
  • Sometimes there are correct and incorrect
    categories with which to appreciate natural
    objects and they help distinguish appropriate
    from inappropriate aesthetic responses

Cute woodchuck or massive, awe
inspiring rat?
  • Which aesthetic qualities are appropriate is it
    massive and awe-inspiring or is it cute?--depends
    on correctly categorizing the object

  • Spectacular full moon or obnoxious satellite dish?

  • Amazing lime green creek

    or revolting mine

Information about environment can improve our
aesthetic responses
  • For example, knowing that one has encountered an
    ivory billed woodpecker thought to be extinct
    until recently, enhances and deepens ones
    aesthetic response
  • Lacking information about the env. can impoverish
    our aesthetic response to it


Are Swamps Yucky?
  • A negative aesthetic response to swamps based on
    a stereotyped and ignorant belief that they are
    bug-infested wastelands
  • Unacceptable because the aesthetic attitude rests
    on false beliefs about swamps

False beliefs dont necessarily disqualify an
aesthetic response
  • I may be excited by the grandeur of a blue
    whale. I may be moved by its size, its force,
    and the amount of water it displaces, etc., but I
    may think that it is a fish. Nevertheless my
    being moved by the grandeur of the blue whale is
    not inappropriate.
  • Noel Carroll, On Being Moved By Nature (1993)
  • But this aesthetic response remains appropriate
    only because the false beliefs have no bearing on
    the aesthetic response
  • When false beliefs affect an aesthetic response,
    as in some of the above cases, they do undermine
    that response


  • Judgment
    about whether the trans-Alaska pipeline enhances
    or detracts from Alaskas beauty needs to be
    informed by knowledge of the environmental and
    social impacts of our societys oil addiction

More generally, knowledge of environmental
problems should inform environmental aesthetic
  • In a world where human dominance over nature was
    not so extensive, perhaps the sight of an 800
    mile-long pipeline through wild lands need not be
  • But in todays world--at least for those informed
    and properly appreciative of the massive human
    impact on the planet--the appropriate response to
    these types of human intrusions in nature should
    not be positive

No apartheid for aesthetics
  • These points depend on rejecting formalistic and
    other narrow conceptions of aesthetic experience
  • Aesthetics is not separate from the rest of life,
    and this means that there is no strict separation
    of aesthetics, ethics, and cognition

Are cognitive approaches best for aesthetic
  • Marcia Eaton thinks they are
  • She identifies numerous flawed environmental
    policies that are based on ecologically-ignorant
    appreciative responses
  • For example
  • The sentimental Bambi-image of deer as sweet and
    innocent ignores the ecological devastation they
    can cause and this makes it hard for forest
    managers to convince the public of the need to
    reduce deer populations

Forest fires have been prevented in part because
blackened forests strike people as ugly, with the
result that fire-adapted species are dying out
and many forests are tinder boxes

  • As long as people want large, green, closely
    mowed yards no matter what the climate or soil or
    water conditions, they will continue to use
    polluting gasoline mowers and a toxic cocktail of
    fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
  • Marcia Eaton, Professional Aesthetics and
    Environmental Reform
  • Presumably they would not find these lawns so
    appealing once they consider their ecological

Cognitive approach to environmental aesthetics is
a double-edged sword
  • Insisting that aesthetic responses to nature be
    informed by correct environmental knowledge can
    also lead to environmentally harmful behavior

  • Some popular--but fallacious--ecological ideas
    are often environmentally beneficial
  • Claims about
  • Deep interconnections in nature
  • Natures delicate balance
  • Are significantly overstated but quite useful for
    environmental protection
  • Thus insuring that ones aesthetic responses to
    nature are informed by scientific facts will not
    necessarily contribute to aesthetic

(2) Objectivity in emotional responses to nature
  • Noel Carroll argues that objectivity is possible
    not only in a knowledge-based environmental
    aesthetic, but also for one based on emotional
  • Just as it is inappropriate
  • To be amused when a dog is hit by a car
  • To dance gaily to somber music
  • So it is inappropriate
  • To be bored by a thundering waterfall crashing
    down on ones head
  • To be soothed by the hum of snowmobiles

Better and worse emotional responses to
  • Emotions are underpinned by beliefs and have more
    or less appropriate objects
  • For those properly sensitive to the massive,
    harmful human impacts on the planet
  • Sounds of chainsaws will alarm
  • Belching smokestacks will disgust
  • Pollution sunsets will not strike them as

Positive emotional responses to environmental
  • Glee at the sight of a polluted river and the
    smell of its dead fish
  • Satisfaction from seeing trophy homes on top of
    mountain ridges
  • Manifests ignorance about the human impact on the
    planet, a skewed emotional constitution, or
    blinding self-interest

(3) Disinterestedness and positive aesthetic
responses to environmental degradation
  • Many argue that aesthetic appreciation requires
  • A freeing of the mind from self-interested and
    instrumental attention toward the aesthetic
  • E.g. If we react favorably to a play because we
    stand to make a lot of money from it, this is not
    an aesthetic response to the play
  • Because it is not properly disinterested

Positive responses to env. degradation are often
self-interest and thus not properly aesthetic
  • Clear-cuts may appear attractive to loggers or
    forestry executives
  • Snowmobiles in the wilderness may sound
    harmonious to someone for whom it means more
    business or perhaps soothing to a person lying
    hurt and in need of evacuation
  • But such responses are so infused with
    self-interest as to be disqualified from
    disinterested aesthetic response
  • The developers aesthetic mentioned at the
    beginning may not be an aesthetic at all

  • Environmental aesthetics should play an important
    role in environmental protection
  • Aesthetic relativity and subjectivity do not
    cripple such a project
  • Legitimate pluralism and relativity in responses
    to environmental beauty do not prevent
    distinguishing between better and worse aesthetic
  • Env. aesthetics contains numerous resources for
    objectivity that allow it to play a useful role
    in environmental protection

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Follow are hyperlink slides
Natural Beauty only a tie-breaker?
  • An attempt to justify a ban on logging in the
    Pacific Northwests remaining old-growth forests
    solely in terms of these forests special beauty
    would be on very shaky ground if the ban would
    cause economic dislocation of thousands of
    loggers and mill workers.Only in this context
    (i.e., other things being equal) do aesthetic
    considerations seem compelling.
  • Gary Varner, In Natures Interests (1998)

  • If a doctor had to choose between giving one of
    two patients a heart, she could not justify her
    decision by saying that one of the patients was
    more beautiful than the other . . . But if a
    doctor cannot make a decision regarding who gets
    a heart based on aesthetics, how can
    environmentalists ask thousands of loggers to
    give up their jobs and way of life on the basis
    of aesthetics?
  • Rob Loftis, Three Problems for the Aesthetic
    Foundations of Environmental Ethics (2003)

  • A guide in Lewis and Clark Caverns kept
    introducing the stalagmites as Disney characters
  • Look theres Pinocchios nose
  • Such responses are superficial, irrelevant and

Scenery Cult as Shallow Nature Appreciation
  • Well-developed literature criticizing the
    inability of many to appreciate unscenic nature
  • An aesthetic vice
  • Scenery cult Appreciating only natures
    dramatic landscapes
  • A trip to the national park involves driving
    though the park, stopping at scenic viewpoints
    for snap shots and the gift shop for postcards of
    the scenery
  • A lazy appreciation interested only in easy
    beauty, the picturesque, and in visual
    appreciation rather than deeper, multi-sensuous

Stereotyped responses are worse
  • Ah, look,
    its Bambi!
  • Isnt she

Multisensuous and active
  • Contrast appreciating a mountain lake by
  • Gazing from the shore
  • or
  • Going for a swim
  • Consider watching a storm through a window or
    appreciating the storm while outside

Self-indulgent responses are worse
  • Look at the rainbow placed here for me!

Responses that distort, ignore or suppress
important truths about the objects of appreciation
Consider the romanticized view of wolves that
ignores their predatory lifestyle
John Donne on mountains
  • God originally made the world a smooth sphere but
    then warped it in punishment for human sins
  • His aesthetic judgment
  • Warts, and pock-holes in the face of the earth

  • Following are slides that are extra and cut from
    earlier versions of the presentation

Carlsons view that aesthetic appreciation of
humanized environments should focus on their
  • If environmentalists are right that many human
    env. are unsustainable hence dysfunctional
  • Then on Carlsons account of aesthetic
    appreciation of human envs, such environments are
    aesthetically negative

Carlson 2
  • Thus sustainable developed human environments or
    undeveloped nature (assuming one holds some
    version of positive aesthetics)
  • Are to be preferred aesthetically to typical
    human environments that are not sustainable
  • Note that the issue of the functionality of human
    environments has significant dimensions of

Slides to insert
  • Westvaco pollution slide
  • Beach rip rap slides
  • I of p house in marsh

  • If items in nature (trees, countryside,
    wilderness) were of low or negative aesthetic
    value, both practice of and justification for of
    environmental protection would be far weaker
  • Show pict of trash
  • Clear cuts, strip mines, toxic waste dumps,
    spewing sewage pipes, fish belly-up in the
    creeks, belching smokestacks, urban blight,
    junkyards, billboards, tacky neon
    strip-developments, and suburban sprawl.

Objections to Carlson
  • One might object to a number of features of this
  • Carlsons cognitivism (the idea that aesthetic
    appreciation involves thought, knowledge, and
    understanding) is controversial
  • Carroll argues that uniformed emotional arousal
    is an appropriate type of aesthetic app
  • Carlsons idea that only science can provide the
    understanding of nature needed for aesthetic
    appreciation of it is also open to challenge
  • ?To use an example from the literature
  • ?If I do not know that a whale is a mammal rather
    than a giant fish, my awe at its size need not be
    an incorrect or false aesthetic response

Scenery cult
  • There is a well developed literature criticizing
    the idea that the aesthetic appreciation of
    nature is appropriately limited to the, as if
    seeing nature from ready-made viewpoints (i.e.,
    getting out of ones car only at highway
    pullovers) was a serious way of appreciating the
    Natural Parks or nature in general.
  • Ignoring (or worse) being unable to appreciate
    unscenic nature is an aesthetic vice
  • A lazy response interested only in easy beauty
  • Pict of scenic versus unscenic nature?

Paul Bunyon example? Here or later?
  • Suppose you are sitting in a hot tub in a city
    in the Arizona desert listening to the sounds
    around you. Do you just listen to the Western
    Warblers and the wind in the fruit and palm trees
    or do you (should you) also notice the sounds of
    hot tub jets and popping bubbles making a
    pleasant hissing on the water? Do you add or
    ignore the sounds of ventilator fans spinning hot
    air from the attics and occasional jet planes
    overhead? At Niagara Falls do I strain to hear
    birds in the forest over the constant roar of the
    water. . . . In the Tuscan countryside do I
    ignore the high pitched whining of mosquitoes?
    Shall I just focus on the loons from across the
    lake in Minnesota or shall I strain to hear
    others from more distant parts, and do they go
    together with the chattering of squirrels and the
    buzzing of flies?

Drop slide Permissible to frame out human
  • For above Brady's multi-sensuous engagement
  • Add
  • Sound of snowmobile (sound too?)
  • Teton valley with building superimposed on it?
  • Scale up to see clear-cuts from a 200 year time
  • Carrolls Teton large scale example not large
    scale when compared with the universe

  • The idea that certain framing decision in
    environmental aesthetic appreciation are more
    natural and fitting given the human constitution
    and our legitimate purposes also allows for a
    response to Stan Godlovitchs idea that
    traditional human aesthetic response to nature is
    sensually parochial and that the temporal and
    spacial scale dependence of our aesthetic
    response to nature are arbitrary

Godlovitchs relativity
  • Smashing ice blocks heaved up by a river should
    be seen as no less aesthetically offensive than
    bulldozing the Navaho Sandstone Castles of
    Monument Valley, Arizona
  • If we were giants, crushing a rock monument . .
    . would be no more aesthetically offensive than
    is flattening the odd sand castle is to us now.
    If our lives were measured in seconds, then
    shattering ice blocks would count as momentously
    coarse as using Bryce Canyon as a landfill (p.

  • Delete next two bullets?
  • Much as it is inappropriate to find it humorous
    when a dog is hit by a car, so to it is
    inappropriate to positively respond to human
    intrusions into wild nature.
  • Such a response is likely to manifest ignorance
    about the human impact on the planet, a skewed
    emotional constitution, or such strong
    self-interest as to blind ones aesthetic
    responses (or to disqualify them)

(No Transcript)
Resistance to Carlsons scientific monism
  • Not plausible that there is only one appropriate,
    correct, or true way to appreciate nature or
    natural objects
  • Nor is it plausible that if knowledge of natural
    history fails to inform an env. aesthetic
    response, it becomes inappropriate, incorrect or

Avoid the false dilemma
  • One true or correct or appropriate way to
    appreciate nature
  • Any appreciation of nature is as good as any other
  • There are a plurality of better and worse ways to
    appreciate nature
  • Is such a pluralistic objectivity sufficient for
    aesthetic protectionism?
  • Seems repetitive?
  • Yes so I removed to end.

Intentional design adds complexity that may
increase pluralism
  • Removed slide
  • Design can constrain appreciative responses but
  • Open avenues for interpretation
  • And enable additional types of appreciative
  • Consider a sand sculpture produced by an artist
    and the same pattern produced by nature
  • May be a greater diversity in appropriate
    responses to the former than to the latter
  • The sand sculpture has multiple meanings that the
    natural pattern of sand would not have
  • Debates about what the artist was communicating
    and the relations of this sand sculpture to other
    sculptures are examples of complicating factors
  • Art appreciation can be more complex and thus
    allow for a greater plurality and flexibility in
    the appropriate types of aesthetic response

Glenn Parsons thinks not
  • Freedom and Objectivity in the Aesthetic
    Appreciation of Nature (2006) f
  • Smell, touch and taste require close proximity
    and mountains are generally not the sort of
    things we ca feel or taste

So far I have argued
  • It is not clear that aesthetic of nature is less
    objective than aesthetic of art
  • There are a plurality of better and worse
    aesthetic response to nature, even though there
    is not one best or appropriate type of response
  • Some relativity in aesthetic value judgments must
    be acknowledged
  • That framing freedom in nature appreciation has
    limits and that there are more or less
    appropriate ways to frame environmental

Types of objectivity
  • What objectivity is and is not
  • Brady Not true, but reasonable, justifiable,
  • Parson Correct, true
  • Add Parson paper quotes?
  • Carlson true also?
  • Objectivity Letting object be the guide rather
    than the subject
  • Berleant Subject's emotions, beliefs, and
    memories determine aes response/judgment as much
    as does the env. appreciated.
  • Subject could be guide if we all agreed and this
    allow for aes protectionism
  • Saitos appreciating nature on its own terms
  • Letting nature speak for itself tell its own
  • Carlson guided by the object
  • Kind of objectivity I want is kind where we get
    judgments that these aes responses are more
    rational and appropriate than others.
  • Epistemic determinism or at least constraint

  • is constrained by While there are a plurality of
    acceptable aesthetic responses
  • Develop a position in between monistic
    objectivism and anything-goes subjectivism that
    allows for a plurality of better and worse
    aesthetic responses
  • Arguments for subjectivity (and responses)
  • Lack of artistic design constraints
  • Or audience conventions?
  • Framing freedom
  • Constraints on the plurality of aesthetic
    appreciations of nature
  • Cognitive
  • Limitations for env. protectionism
  • Objectivity of affective response
  • Disinterestedness

  • Given the centrality of the duties of
    beneficence and nonmaleficence to our shared
    conceptions of morality, it is difficult to see
    how these prima facie duties to protect natural
    beauty could override duties generated by the
    existence of interests.
  • For example, an attempt to justify a ban on
    logging in the Pacific Northwests remaining
    old-growth forests solely in terms of these
    forests special beauty would be on very shaky
    ground if the ban would cause economic
    dislocation of thousands of loggers and mill
    workers.Only in this context (i.e., other things
    being equal) that aesthetic considerations seem
  • Gary Varner, In Natures Interests

Lots of agreement
  • Like in ethics, in aes disagreement is often
  • Would we take seriously the assertion that grand
    canyon or Sistine chapel was ugly
  • Eukletna lake slide
  • But for the disa that exists, see below (why
    argue if like taste?)
  • Also, Bradys reasons to explain this
    disagreement and how it could be resolved

Brady Why argue about aes judgments if mere
taste, personal preference
  • Contrast with mere personal pref examples, like
    taste of coffee or favorite color

Donne mountain pock marks correct-incorrect
  • Use with cubists works in 1913 judged to be crude
    and aes worthless grounded on standards for
    representational paintings.
  • Incoherent, incomplete, crude, messy

Relativism undermine worth/value of nature
appreciation (compared to art)
  • Superficiality problem
  • And this matters for aes protectionism, because
    if this is not serious nor worthy, it cant
    provide much value for protecting the env.
  • Dif from point that it cant guide env. Decisions
    because all is relative and no better/worse
  • But Im now wondering what lack of
    worth/seriousness has to do with relativism?
    Need to make this case
  • Is nature app possess a seriousness and worth
    approaching art app? Parsons 28
  • Donne Second rate Turner quote Natures aes
    value is weak/trivial
  • Going to a art gallery or the concert is a more
    serious, deeper, more valuable aes experience
    than is going for a walk in the woods.
  • Nature app is just not as worthwhile as art
  • What to make critical discourse possible
  • Need to have responsible criticism and
    discourse fisher
  • But Fisher and Budd turn lack of objectivity in
    nature app into a virtue gives us more freedom
    and responsibility, creativity, richer
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