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35. Is There a Correct Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature?

DescriptionSaito challenges the philosophical arguments used to support the view that scientific knowledge of the nature is an essential part of an appropriate aesthetic appreciation.
MethodologyThis paper uses philosophical argument to take issue with the concept of an appropriate appreciation of nature adopted by Carlson (1981). Carlson claims that there is a similarity between the aesthetic appreciation of art and nature. "According to him, just as some appreciations of art are aesthetically more appropriate than others, so there are more or less aesthetically proper interpretations of natural objects" (p. 37).

Saito draws distinction between aesthetic and ethical judgements:

"If we take a purely aesthetic standpoint without regard to the ethical significance of the object or activity, then the aesthetic value of nature is not always spoiled by man's abusive treatment of it. On the other hand, if we allow our aesthetic judgement to be affected by ethical considerations (so that the abusive treatment of nature is always regarded as destroying the aesthetic value of the natural environment), then the appropriate attitude toward and appreciation of nature must be explained by reference to ethical considerations and not to aesthetic considerations."

However she does accept that aesthetic judgement is influenced by prior nonaesthetic judgement concerning the value of nature. She suggests that aesthetic arguments can be used to support the ecological cause.

PublishedJournal of Aesthetic Education 18 (4): 35-46
AuthorsSaito, Yuriko
PublisherBoard of Trustees of the University of Illinois
PriceSubscription $25
Keywordsenvironmental aesthetics; aesthetic appreciation of nature; environmental ethics.

This article contributes to the philosophical debate that surrounds the idea that certain aesthetic responses to nature are inappropriate because they are not based on scientific knowledge of the natural environment. This point is also discussed in Foster (1991). Saito accepts that ethical considerations may influence aesthetic judgements. She also supports the use of scientific knowledge to increase our understanding and perception of the natural world. She does not consider that ethical considerations should be used to define an appropriate aesthetic response.

The issues raised in this discourse on the difference between aesthetic judgement and appreciation supplement Zube's (1982, p.20-25) discussion on the need to find a theoretical, structural framework to determine what me mean by aesthetic appreciation.

ReferencesCarlson, A. (1981). Nature, Aesthetic Judgement, and Objectivity. Journal of Aesthetics and Criticism. 40: 15-27.
Other References 

Foster, C. A. (1991) Aesthetics and the Natural Environment unpublished PhD. Thesis University of Edinburgh

Zube, E.H., Sell, J.L. and Taylor, J.G. (1982), Landscape Perception: Research, Application and Theory. Landscape Planning, 9: 1-33