The framing paradox

Ethics, Place and Environment 9 (3):249 – 267 (2006)
Abstract
The idea that nature is importantly frame-less is an entrenched dogma in much of environmental aesthetics. Although there are powerful arguments that support this position, there are also powerful arguments supporting the view that observers often - or even inevitably - frame, bound, or otherwise confine natural objects in the course of aesthetic regard. Facing these opposing arguments off against each other produces the 'framing paradox': On the one hand, frames seem to be an indispensable condition for the aesthetic experience of anything whatsoever, and on the other hand the aesthetic appreciation of natural environments seems to require the dissolving or penetrating of boundaries of all sorts. To resolve this paradox, we must abandon an overly narrow conception of 'frame' that has generally been assumed throughout the debate and pay closer attention to what various framing devices (in both natural and artifactual settings) do to focus, rather than confine, aesthetic attention. Doing this enables us to make better sense of the way intelligence and imagination cooperate in carrying attention beyond perceptual phenomena. From the perspective that results, rival claims about the framability of nature can be seen as variable markers on an endless scale of aesthetic selectivity.
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