Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art Chapter Two - Environmental Aesthetics: Natural Beauty Robert Stecker. This chapter is concerned with the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature.
This chapter is concerned with the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature.
We must first define Aesthetic Appreciation, as “broad and complex topic, rather than just concerning natural environments”
-When we think about nature, beauty is the first thing to come to mind
-When compared to an art piece, one may think it is easier to understand nature’s beauty
-Impressionist, Object, Landscape, and Artwork Models.
-A Severe & Modest Objection
When appreciating art works or objects, the works themselves and/or the performance is what is appreciated
Why is this method problematic with nature?
- In nature, we can be confused as to which parts we should appreciate.
Ex. A view of the sunset at the beach
- As well as misjudging some aspects
as inappropriate or incorrect
Ex. A cheetah killing an impala
This model is based on impression paintings
According to the object model, these rocks should be appreciated equally despite one having a natural environment.
*The environment does not have anything to do with this particular object’s appreciation.
The Landscape Model: This model suggests we should focus (from a fixed point) on a view, rather than a particular object.
-One must take themselves out of what is viewed
-Sometimes (not required) creates “scenic turnouts”. This landscape model does not ask us to appreciate landscapes as if they were landscape paintings (the view Carlson rejects).
For example, We should not aesthetically judge a real view of the Grand Canyon, as if a painted picture of the Grand Canyon.
Is Nature an Artwork? : When asking this question, we are assuming that nature is God’s (or an intelligent designer) artwork. This artwork was created the way artists produce artwork, but it is also perfect.
-This view only appeals to those who believe in the idea of an intelligent being.
The Severe Distortion Objection: All of the previously stated models distort or misrepresent the proper appreciation of nature ∴ they should be rejected.
Stecker believes those who look at the pink trillium through the object model may view and appreciate the flower differently than those who view the flower in its environment.
Ex. A single flower, rather than a whole field of flowers
-In relation to the Object Model: According to Stecker, this model does not distort, but allows the viewer to select certain elements of nature. Ex. Pink trillium
In general, Stecker does not believe that these models distort aesthetic appreciation of nature, but he believes them to be partial (the individual models do not cover everything we should take into consideration when appreciating nature).
Stecker’s Modest Objection: These models should not be viewed as individually and exclusively correct.
Stecker’s concern: if the viewer were to focus on each of the model’s criteria, one may leave out crucial criteria when attempting to aesthetically appreciate nature.
Ex. A snow field at sunset. At the moment one is viewing a snow field at sunset, they are seeing an array of beautiful colors. In relation to the impressionist model, the viewer is only focusing on the colors shown rather than the sunset causing these colors.
Stecker also does not believe that the impressionist model and the landscape distort due to having a selective view of nature.
Three versions of the Environmental Model:
Immersion Approach: One must immerse themselves in nature, in order to take in everything that is needed to aesthetically appreciate nature.
Ecological Approach: finding aesthetic appreciation in the “balance and/or harmony” that the natural environment is displaying.
Order Approach: “One must focus on the order imposed on selected natural objects by the causes that produce/sustain them”.
Carlson is credited with this model
This model claims to be a “complete guide” to appreciating nature, aesthetically; while deeming the other models as incomplete.
Two main claims of this model: 1. the environment being viewed is a collection of objects and/or views, rather than individualizing certain objects and/or views. 2. Properties of the collection of objects and/or views should be accompanied by scientific and/or commonsense knowledge.(if the 2nd criteria is not met, the appreciation created is inappropriate)
Stecker does not disagree with Carlson’s Environmental Model, but:
once again says that it is incomplete (as are the previously stated models).
Adds some new important issues to consider when attempting to aesthetically appreciating nature.
Does not believe it to be better than the other models (which Carlson believes it to be).
How Knowledge Affects Nature Appreciation:
1. Knowledge can enhance/alter our aesthetic experience with nature
Knowledge can cause us to view nature in more “complex ways” (Ex. Tidal Pool).
2. Knowledge can “thicken one’s enjoyment” (Ex. Pink trillium turning white).
3. Knowledge can “irrevocably alter a perception” of a certain object and/or view (Ex. Deformed/Diseased Animal)
-Matthews believes #4 is “the unique requirement on knowledge that is relevant to appreciating nature”.
-Stecker does not agree with this, due to his opinions on knowledge enhancing and not altering perceptions of nature
4. Some knowledge may not enhance aesthetic appreciation
-We have no way of guaranteeing that it will or will not enhance our
6. Value of knowledge is relative.
-there is not one standard for everyone
-Stecker believes this point ignores two questions: How people will respond? How they should respond?
7. Generally, Stecker disagrees that there is a minimum amount of knowledge needed for nature appreciation, but believes more knowledge may lead to a more appropriate appreciation
-(Ex. Noticing basic colors on snow field is not wrong, but may be considered “partial or impoverished”).
8. According to Stecker, some knowledge also may be required if we find out appreciation to be based on false belief.
-Stecker wonders, what if we come about a “genuine” appreciation of nature, even though it later turns out to be “flawed”, then it is okay?.
(Ex. Human body & Dolphins as fish)
But, What if the false belief is easily avoidable?
-Stecker is not sure if this claim is true, but finds them plausible. The aesthetic appreciation can change if the properties of what we are appreciating change.
**If it does then change, it does not mean that it was a bogus appreciation
**These norms attempt tell us what we should do. Although, Stecker believes that these are insufficient.
Some knowledge is needed for nature appreciation (observational knowledge).
-Using this knowledge is optional
-Can enhance it, but does not make it necessarily correct/incorrect appreciation
-This knowledge can cause us to cease to find the beauty, or still find them beautiful, but ethically wrong
-Ex. Purple Loosetrife and Pollution Sunsets
*Overall Stecker believes that “there is enormous leeway in the knowledge we must bring to nature in order to properly appreciate nature”. He believes they are still beautiful, but ethically bad.
*Those who defend this objection would have to argue for a tighter connection between ethics and aesthetics”.
*Stecker does not think these properties are always necessary in aesthetically appreciating nature.
Ex. A lakes stillness. We are not necessarily referring to the aesthetic property of stillness. We just notice that there is no movement.
When we are appreciating the aesthetic properties of nature:
General value properties (Beauty..Ugliness)
Formal Features (Balance…Diversity)
Expressive properties (Happiness…Sadness)
Evocative features (Power…Awe Inspiring)
Behavioral Features (Stillness…Fragility)
Second-Order Perceptual Features (Vivid…Gaudy)
***Recognition of the most general value properties is based on perceiving the other properties (formal, expressive, etc.) The “other properties” are taken in by perceiving nonaesthetic properties such as shape and color (Goldman).
Nature Appreciation is only considered Aesthetic, when relating to an Aesthetic Experience:
1. Aesthetic Experience is an experience resulting from attention to formal, sensuous, and meaning properties of an object valued for its own sake.
-Some objects have natural meanings (ex. Blossoms indicating fruit).
-Some objects may have cultural meanings (ex. Japanese cherry blossoms).
2. Structural and/or Etiological (study of origins) Properties are emphasized by order appreciation.
3. Close observation an d Knowledge of the previously stated, observable properties, could possibly enhance appreciation
We should not appreciate Nature as if it were an artwork, but there is a useful analogy between the two kinds of appreciation.
When appreciating aesthetic features art we consider:
-Intention, Convention, Style, Genre, and Context
When valuing art we consider:
-Art-Historical Value, Ethical Value, and Cognitive Value
When comparing this to nature, “this will require a more complex set of criteria of proper appreciation of nature”.