Delighting in natural beauty: Joint attention and the phenomenology of nature aesthetics

Abstract
Empirical research in the psychology of nature appreciation suggests that humans across cultures tend to evaluate nature in positive aesthetic terms, including a sense of beauty and awe. They also frequently engage in joint attention with other persons, whereby they are jointly aware of sharing attention to the same event or object. This paper examines how, from a natural theological perspective, delight in natural beauty can be conceptualized as a way of joining attention to creation. Drawing on an analogy between art and creation, we propose that aesthetic appreciation of nature may provide theists with a unique phenomenological insight into God's creative intentions, which are embodied in the physical beauty of creation. We suggest two directions in which this way of looking at the natural world can be fleshed out: in a spontaneous way, that does not take into account background information, and with the help of science.
Keywords landscape aesthetics  joint attention  religious experience
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