Nature, aesthetic appreciation of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M032-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

Article Summary

In the Western world, aesthetic appreciation of nature and its philosophical investigation came to fruition in the eighteenth century. During that time, aestheticians made nature the ideal object of aesthetic experience and analysed that experience in terms of disinterestedness, thereby laying the groundwork for understanding the appreciation of nature in terms of the sublime and the picturesque. This philosophical tradition reached its zenith with Kant, while popular aesthetic appreciation of nature continued primarily in terms of the picturesque.

In the late twentieth century, renewed interest in the aesthetics of nature has produced various positions designed to avoid assimilating appreciation of nature with traditional models for aesthetic appreciation of art. Three are especially noteworthy. The first holds that the appreciation of nature is not in fact aesthetic; the second rejects the traditional analysis of aesthetic experience as disinterested, arguing instead that the aesthetic appreciation of nature involves engagement with nature; the third attempts to maintain the traditional analysis, while distinguishing aesthetic appreciation of nature by dependence on scientific knowledge.

These positions have a number of ramifications. In freeing aesthetic appreciation of nature from artistic models, they pave the way for a general environmental aesthetics comparable to other areas of philosophy, such as environmental ethics. Moreover, the significance given to scientific knowledge in the third position both explains the aesthetic appreciation associated with environmentalism and provides aesthetic appreciation of nature with a degree of objectivity that may make aesthetic considerations more effectual in environmental assessment.

    Citing this article:
    Carlson, Allen. Nature, aesthetic appreciation of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M032-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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