Nature appreciation, science, and positive aesthetics

British Journal of Aesthetics 42 (3):279-295 (2002)
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Abstract

Scientific cognitivism is the idea that nature must be aesthetically appreciated in light of scientific information about it. I defend Carlson's traditional formulation of scientific cognitivism from some recent criticisms. However, I also argue that if we employ this formulation it is difficult to uphold two claims that Carlson makes about scientific cognitivism: (i) it is the correct analysis of the notion of appropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature, and (ii) it justifies the idea that nature, seen aright, is always beautiful (that is, positive aesthetics about nature). I attempt to find a revised formulation of scientific cognitivism that can support both of these claims. I argue that to do this we must rethink the notion of positive aesthetics and its place in our theorizing about the appropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature. Specifically, I propose that positive aesthetics be made ‘internal’ to the theory of appropriate aesthetic appreciation, in the sense that this theory determines the correct scientific categories for appreciating a natural object, in part, in virtue of a ‘beauty-making’ criterion. I argue that this sort of formulation of scientific cognitivism can support both of Carlson's claims and does not compromise the objectivist scruples that motivate the view.

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Glenn Parsons
Ryerson University

Citations of this work

Aesthetic appreciation of landscapes.Jiri Benovsky - 2016 - Journal of Value Inquiry 50 (2):325-340.
Environmental aesthetics.Allen Carlson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
New formalism and the aesthetic appreciation of nature.Glenn Parsons & Allen Carlson - 2004 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (4):363–376.
Desolation Sound: Social Practices of Natural Beauty.Dominic McIver Lopes - 2020 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 9 (4):266–273.

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References found in this work

Categories of art.Kendall L. Walton - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (3):334-367.
Nature and positive aesthetics.Allen Carlson - 1984 - Environmental Ethics 6 (1):5-34.
Appreciating nature on its own terms.Yuriko Saito - 1998 - Environmental Ethics 20 (2):135-149.
Nature, aesthetic judgment, and objectivity.Allen Carlson - 1981 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 40 (1):15-27.
Imagination and the aesthetic appreciation of nature.Emily Brady - 1998 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56 (2):139-147.

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