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12. Aesthetics and the Natural Environment

DescriptionFrom a philosophical perspective on aesthetics of the natural environment, Foster argues that contemporary theories are based on art/history criticisms or scientific approach and suggests a philosophical basis for environmental aesthetics.
MethodologyThis work reinterprets Kant and Schopenhauer to place their work in a contemporary context. Foster examines the contribution of art and science to the field of environmental aesthetics before suggesting an aesthetic framework for natural environment based on philosophical argument.
ResultsSuggests a way of looking at aesthetic appreciation and judgement which is "neither bound to art or science" but to "perceptual features, aesthetic properties and descriptive qualities" (p222)
PublishedAesthetics and the Natural Environment
AuthorsFoster, C. A.
Publisherunpublished PhD. Thesis University of Edinburgh
Keywordsaesthetics, natural environment.
CommentsAccessible introduction to environmental aesthetics which covers a wide range of literature on philosophy, with a more limited review on discourses on aesthetics in art and science. Clear and simple arguments are used to support the central thesis of the work which emphasises aesthetic appreciation as the subjective engagement of the individual in a multi-sensory environment. Foster draws a distinction between aesthetic appreciation and judgement. Foster rejects the need to formulate laws to govern aesthetic response through theories of art, psychology and physiology. She suggests that it is not fruitful to examine the causes of aesthetic pleasure but considers that we should explore the way we experience and articulate our pleasure in certain environments, (p221-223). This thesis does not establish a framework for research into why certain environments are more pleasing than others, or in predicting aesthetic responses.
DiscussionFoster rejects the emphasis placed on cognitive influences on landscape preference put forward by Penning-Rowsell and Lowenthall (1986), and concludes that the importance of the sensuous experience of nature must be recognised (p94). She also takes issue with Carlson et al (1982) who suggest that appreciation is influenced by ethical values and states that aesthetic matters must not be confused with ecology or environmental politics (Ch.6). However she does support Brennan's (1988) view that there is an ecological dimension to ethics and adopts his ecological humanism as a potential model for a theory of environmental aesthetics, (p173-175). She attacks the bias to the visual and aural in aesthetics and draws from Brennan (1988) and Sparshott (1972) to advance the case for a multi-sensuous aesthetic appreciation of nature. She quotes Saito (1984) who considers that various sensory qualities of the natural environment combine to give us a unique sense of place, (p182). Foster reasons that the changeability of a given natural environment makes judgements temporal and argues that nature should be appreciated in its natural context and not through representations viewed at a remove from that setting.

 Brennan, A. (1988), Thinking about Nature. Routledge

Carlson, A. and Sadler, B., eds. (1982), Environmental Aesthetics: Essays in Interpretation. Department of Geography, University of Victoria.

Motherskill, M.(1986) Beauty Restored Oxford: Oxford University Press

Penning-Rowsell, E. and Lowenthall, D., eds. (1986), Landscape, Meanings and Values. George Allen and Unwin.

Saito, Yuriko, (1983), The aesthetic Appreciation of Nature: Western and Japanese Perspectives and Their Ethical Implications. a dissertation submitted for the degree of PhD at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (unpublished) (available by order on short term inter-library loan - micro fiche only. )

Saito, Yuriko (1984), Is there a correct appreciation of Nature? Journal of Aesthetic Education 18 (4): 35-46.

Sparshott, F.E. (1972), Figuring the Ground: Notes on Some Theoretical Problems of the Aesthetic Environment Journal of Aesthetic Education 66: 11-23.

Warnock, M. (1976), Imagination Faber and Faber

Whitehead, A. N. (1955), The Concept of Nature. Cambridge University Press.