Philosophical Histories of the Aesthetics of Nature

Environmental Ethics 35 (1):57-77 (2013)
Beginning with Ronald Hepburn’s path-breaking essay, “Contemporary Aesthetics and the Neglect of Natural Beauty,” which helped establish the modern discipline of environmental aesthetics, philosophers have provided sketches of what, after Hegel, might be called “philosophical histories of the aesthetics of nature.” These histories are remarkably similar and can easily be blended together to create a “received history” of the discipline. This history has subtly influenced work in the field. Unfortunately, it is not completely accurate and, as a result, has had a misleading effect. A more accurate and expanded alternative history calls into question the received history’s view both on the origins of the field in arts-based aesthetic theories and on the nature and value of the aesthetic categories, “the picturesque” and “the sublime.” These categories were not borrowed from philosophy of art and inappropriately applied to nature, but instead were developed to appraise landscapes, which unlike natural objects could only rarely be judged beautiful since they are almost never symmetrical or ordered
Keywords Applied Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0163-4275
DOI 10.5840/enviroethics20133516
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