The aesthetic appreciation of nature, scientific objectivity, and the standpoint of the subjugated: Anthropocentrism reimagined

Ethics, Place and Environment 8 (2):235 – 250 (2005)
In the following essay, I argue for an alternative anthropocentrism that, eschewing failed appeals to traditional moral principle, takes (a) as its point of departure the cognitive, perceptual, emotive, somatic, and epistemic conditions of our existence as members of Homo sapiens, and (b) one feature of our experience of/under these conditions particularly seriously as an avenue toward articulating this alternative, the capacity for aesthetic appreciation. To this end, I will explore, but ultimately reject philosopher Allen Carlson's ecological aesthetics, and I will adopt with modification aspects of the work of Ronnie Hawkins, Val Plumwood, and Donna Haraway. My central claim is that, equipped with a better understanding of our interdependent relationship to/within human and nonhuman nature, an understanding made especially available to those who occupy situations imbued by subjugation, we can come to understand our human-centeredness not as a justification of entitlement, but as an opportunity for critical self-reflection upon those actions which endanger the ecological conditions of human and nonhuman being. I suggest, then, that developing criteria for an aesthetic appreciation ground in such a centeredness can make a vital contribution to a more ecologically defensible moral and political activism.
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DOI 10.1080/13668790500237427
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