Icebreakers: Environmentalism and Natural Aesthetics

Journal of Applied Philosophy 11 (1):15-30 (1994)
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ABSTRACT What have natural aesthetics and environmentalism in common? Not much if the former deals with nature as if it were an artwork or a gallery of art objects, or if the latter grounds the protection of nature in consequentialist terms. Suppose, however, one adopts a non-consequentialist environmentalism which, further, stakes out a primary view of nature as terrain rather than as habitat; i.e., a view which is not biocentric (life-centred), let alone anthropocentric. This environmentalism is rooted in the belief that we are prima facie bound not to interfere in any of the world undefined by culture whether or not it supports life. There is a reason forbidding us from strip-mining the far side of the moon, say, even though no habitat is thereby destroyed, nor is there any blight creating visual offence to those immediately affected. To furnish the reason for such an ‘acentric’environmentalism, one needs a natural aesthetic. Why? By elimination, because the stock appeals grounding any moral stance—to rights or interests or happiness or autonomy—are unavailable. The ‘subject’of an acentric environmentalism is insensate. But an ‘acentric’aesthetic seems even more curious than its environmentalist dependent. It would entail an aesthetic viewpoint indifferent to human scale and perspective, the very factors which underwrite any cultural aesthetic. So, is such an aesthetic possible? The barest glimpse of how it might look concludes this paper.



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Citations of this work

Environmental Aesthetics, Ethics, and Ecoaesthetics.Allen Carlson - 2018 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 76 (4):399-410.
Nature, aesthetic appreciation, and knowledge.Allen Carlson - 1995 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 53 (4):393-400.
Environmental aesthetics.Allen Carlson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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