Is Natural Beauty the Given?

Environmental Ethics 37 (1):3-19 (2015)

Authors
Robert Earle
State University of New York College at Cortland
Abstract
The contemporary interpretation of the history of the aesthetics of nature has been analyzed by Allen Carlson, Ronald Hepburn, Theodor Adorno, and others. According to their interpretation, it has been maintained that pre-Kantian accounts of beauty (taken generally) prioritized natural beauty over art and that Kant was either the last to follow this model or the first to “humanize” aesthetics for reasons pertaining to his ethical system. This interpretation can be called into question via an analysis of the moral and cultural aspects of pre-Kantian and Kantian aesthetics of nature, appealing, in particular, to the works of Lord Shaftesbury, John Dennis, and Joseph Addison. The main focus is on an explication of what this common contemporary interpretation of aesthetic history has to say about contemporary aesthetic theory. The pre-Kantian aesthetics of nature is so radically different from the work of these recent theorists that it is inaccurate to link members from those periods together as allies. Rather, this commonly depicted history of the aesthetic of nature, in which mid-twentieth century figures discuss a “turning away from nature,” is both historically problematic and in keeping with a general twentieth-century nostalgia for an idyllic past.
Keywords environmental ethics  aesthetics  aesthetics of nature  envrionmental aesthetics  natural beauty  history of ethics  history of aesthetics  Allen Carlson  Adorno
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ISBN(s) 0163-4275
DOI 10.5840/enviroethics20153712
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