Environmental aesthetics

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M047-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

3. The scope of environmental aesthetics

Environmental aesthetics, considering as it does the world at large and motivated in part by public concern for the aesthetic condition of everyday environments, has broadened beyond traditional philosophical aesthetics in two respects. First, environmental aesthetics, unlike typical traditional aesthetics, incorporates various kinds of empirical work concerning the human aesthetic experience of environments. There are a number of different orientations in this kind of research (Nasar 1988). For example, one movement is rooted in the environmental design and planning disciplines, such as landscape architecture, and attempts to analyse and assess aesthetic experience in terms of the design features recognized and valued by these disciplines. Another kind of empirical work is more closely aligned with resource and recreational management and focuses on measuring aesthetic preferences of different individuals for different environments. In addition, there are also attempts to provide what are essentially sociobiological underpinnings for the appreciation of environments (see Sociobiology) as well as attempts to apply to such appreciation a wide range of models of aesthetic experience grounded in, for instance, developmental and environmental psychology (Bourassa 1991). Moreover, there are different kinds of attempts to link this empirical work with the philosophical side of environmental aesthetics (Carlson 1977).

The second broadening of the scope of environmental aesthetics beyond traditional philosophical aesthetics concerns its subject matter and may be charted on three scales. On the first, the objects of appreciation of environmental aesthetics extend from pristine natural environments to the very limits of traditional works of art, and by some accounts include even some of the latter. This scale runs from wilderness, through rural landscapes, to urban developments, cityscapes, and neighbourhoods. A second scale ranges over size. Many typical objects treated by environmental aesthetics are rather large environments: mountain ranges, countrysides and marketplaces. But the field also considers smaller and more intimate environments, such as backyards, offices and living rooms, as well as the objects, events and activities, both large and small, that populate various environments. The third scale ranges from the extraordinary to the ordinary, from the exotic to the mundane. Just as environmental aesthetics is not limited to the large, it is not limited to the spectacular. Ordinary scenery, commonplace sights, and our day-to-day environments are proper objects of aesthetic appreciation. Given the scope indicated by these three scales, environmental aesthetics is essentially the aesthetics of everyday life.

Citing this article:
Carlson, Allen. The scope of environmental aesthetics. Environmental aesthetics, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M047-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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