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This, however, is the extent of the position's commitment to cognitivism and marks the limits of the similarity that it finds between art appreciation and the appreciation of nature. It rejects the idea that scientific knowledge about nature can reveal the actual aesthetic qualities of natural objects and environments in the way in which knowledge about art history and art criticism can for works of art. Moreover, it holds that, unlike the case with art, many of the most significant aesthetic dimensions of natural objects and environments are extremely relative to conditions of observation.

The upshot is that aesthetic appreciation of nature is taken to allow a degree of freedom that is denied to the aesthetic appreciation of art Fisher , Budd , Chapters 3—4. Standing in contrast to the cognitive positions in environmental aesthetics are several so-called non-cognitive non-conceptual or ambient approaches. Rather it indicates simply that these views hold that something other than a cognitive component, such as scientific knowledge or cultural tradition, is the central feature of the aesthetic appreciation of environments.

The leading non-cognitive approach, often called the aesthetics of engagement, rejects many of the traditional ideas about aesthetic appreciation not only for nature but also for art. It argues that the theory of disinterestedness involves a mistaken analysis of concept of the aesthetic and that this is most evident in the aesthetic experience of natural environments.

According to the engagement approach, disinterested appreciation, with its isolating, distancing, and objectifying gaze, is out of place in the aesthetic experience of nature, for it wrongly abstracts both natural objects and appreciators from the environments in which they properly belong and in which appropriate appreciation is achieved. Thus, the aesthetics of engagement stresses the contextual dimensions of nature and our multi-sensory experience of it.

Viewing the environment as a seamless unity of places, organisms, and perceptions, it challenges the importance of traditional dichotomies, such as that between subject and object.

Malcolm Budd

It beckons appreciators to immerse themselves in the natural environment and to reduce to as small a degree as possible the distance between themselves and the natural world. In short, appropriate aesthetic experience is held to involve the total immersion of the appreciator in the object of appreciation Berleant , Part I. Other non-cognitive positions in environmental aesthetics contend that dimensions other than engagement are central to aesthetic experience. What is known as the arousal model holds that we may appreciate nature simply by opening ourselves to it and being emotionally aroused by it.

On this view, this less intellectual, more visceral experience of nature constitutes a legitimate way of aesthetically appreciating it that does not require any knowledge gained from science or elsewhere Carroll Another alternative similarly argues that neither scientific nor any other kind of knowledge facilitates real, appropriate appreciation of nature, but not because such appreciation need involve only emotional arousal, but rather because nature itself is essentially alien, aloof, distant, and unknowable.

This position, which may be called the mystery model, contends that appropriate experience of nature incorporates a sense of being separate from nature and of not belonging to it—a sense of mystery involving a state of appreciative incomprehension Godlovitch A fourth non-cognitive approach brings together several features thought to be relevant to nature appreciation.

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It attempts to balance engagement and the traditional idea of disinterestedness, while giving center stage to imagination. This position distinguishes a number of different kinds of imagination—associative, metaphorical, exploratory, projective, ampliative, and revelatory. A related point of view, which stresses the metaphysical dimensions of imagination, might also be placed in the non-cognitive camp, although doing so requires making certain assumptions about the cognitive content of metaphysical speculation.

According to this account, the imagination interprets nature as revealing metaphysical insights: insights about things such as the meaning of life, the human condition, or our place in the cosmos. Thus, this position includes within appropriate aesthetic experience of nature those abstract meditations and ruminations about ultimate reality that our encounters with nature sometimes engender Hepburn Recently, the various cognitive and non-cognitive approaches in environmental aesthetics have expanded from their initial focus on natural environments to consider human and human-influenced environments and developed such as to include an aesthetic investigation of everyday life in general.

At the same time, the relationship between environmental aesthetics and environmentalism has been increasingly scrutinized, resulting in extensive criticism of earlier work in the aesthetics of nature as well as detailed assessments of the current positions Carlson and Lintott , Parsons a, Carlson Concerning both the aesthetics of human environments and environmentalism, approaches that combine the resources of both cognitive and non-cognitive points of views seem especially fruitful.

Both the cognitive and the non-cognitive camps in environmental aesthetics have resources that may be brought to bear on the aesthetic investigation of human and human-influenced environments as well as everyday life in general. Cognitive accounts hold that appropriate aesthetic appreciation of human environments, like that of natural environments, depends on knowledge of what something is, what it is like, and why it is as it is. Thus, for human-influenced environments such as, for example, the landscapes of agriculture or industry, what is relevant to appropriate appreciation is information about their histories, their functions, and their roles in our lives Carlson , Parsons and Carlson The same holds for other human and human-influenced environments, both rural and urban Carlson b , Parsons b , although in all such cases knowledge provided by the social sciences is as relevant to appropriate aesthetic appreciation as that given by the natural sciences Carlson a.

Some cognitively-oriented accounts also stress, as they do in the case of natural environments, the aesthetic potential of cultural traditions in the aesthetic experience of human environments. Such traditions seem especially relevant to the appreciation of what might be termed cultural landscapes—environments that constitute important places in the cultures and histories of particular groups of people.

The non-cognitive approaches to environmental aesthetics also provide several channels for exploring the aesthetics of human and human-influenced environments and especially for pursuing the aesthetics of everyday life. The engagement view is presented as a model for the aesthetic appreciation of not simply both nature and art, but also just about everything else; it studies the aesthetic dimensions of small towns, large cities, theme parks, museums Berleant , Part I, , and even human relationships Berleant , Part II.

Likewise, accounts that emphasize imagination help us to understand our aesthetic responses to everything from our exploitation of environments to our smelling and tasting of them Brady Fruitful approaches to the aesthetic appreciation of human environments as well as to other aspects of everyday life also can be found in views that draw on features of both the cognitive and the non-cognitive camps. There have been several attempts to forge connections between the two orientations Foster , Moore , Berleant and Carlson Beyond the consideration of these large, public environments, the aesthetics of everyday life becomes especially relevant.

It investigates not only the aesthetic qualities of smaller, more personal environments, such as individual living spaces, for example, yards and houses Melchionne , Lee , but also the aesthetic dimensions of normal day-to-day experiences Leddy , Saito a, Haapala , Irvin as well as everyday activities such as playing sports Welsch and dining Korsmeyer , Brady , Kuehn Recent collections focusing on this kind of research include Haapala , von Bonsdorff and Haapala , Light and Smith With the aesthetic investigation of things such as sports and food, the aesthetics of everyday life begins to come full circle, connecting environmental aesthetics back to the edges of more traditional aesthetics.

The relationships between environmentalism and the positions and ideas of environmental aesthetics have sources in the aesthetics of nature developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Thus, in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, appreciation of and concern for the environment in both Europe and North American were fostered by picturesque-influenced tourism that was grounded in eighteenth century aesthetics of nature Rees Moreover, the early environmental movements, especially in North America, were largely fueled by a mode of aesthetic appreciation shaped not only by the notion of the picturesque but also by the ideas which have become central in contemporary positive aesthetics developed by thinkers such as Muir Hargrove , Callicott However, more recently the relationships between environmental aesthetics and environmentalism have been less congenial Carlson Some individuals interested in the conservation and protection of both natural and human heritage environments have not found in traditional aesthetics of nature the resources that they believe needed in order to carry out an environmentalist agenda Loftis The problem is especially acute concerning environments, such as wetlands, that do not fit conventional conceptions of scenic beauty Rolston , Callicott In line with earlier criticisms that much of the empirical work in landscape assessment and planning was focused only on scenic, picturesque environments Carlson b , much of the historical tradition concerning the aesthetic appreciation of nature has come under attack.

Similarly, in agreement with the aesthetics of engagement's critique of the theory of disinterestedness Berleant , some find that concept to be equally questionable from an environmental standpoint Callicott There are a variety of responses to these kinds of criticisms of traditional aesthetics of nature and of the notions of disinterestedness and the picturesque.

Some reassess and defend the picturesque tradition Brook , while others argue that, although the idea of the picturesque may indeed be questionable, the theory of disinterestedness is yet essential, since without it the notion of the aesthetic itself lacks conceptual grounding Carlson , Budd , — Moreover, other philosophers claim that an analysis of aesthetic experience in terms of the concept of disinterestedness helps to meet the charges that traditional aesthetics is anthropocentric and subjective, since such an analysis supports the objectivity of aesthetic judgments Brady Similarly, the resources of other non-cognitive positions, especially the aesthetics of engagement, are taken to counter the criticism that, due to the influence of ideas such as that of the picturesque, aesthetic experience of nature must be both anthropocentric and scenery-obsessed Rolston The cognitive accounts also furnish replies to some of these charges.

Scientific cognitivism in particular, with its focus on scientific knowledge, is claimed to help meet the worry that aesthetic appreciation of environments is of little significance in environmental conservation and protection since it is trivial and subjective Parsons a , Hettinger Thus, it is endorsed by environmental philosophers who are concerned to bring our aesthetic appreciation of environments, both natural and human, in line with our environmental and moral responsibilities to maintain ecological health Rolston , Eaton a b , Saito b, Lintott In this sense it also speaks to the charge that traditional aesthetic appreciation is morally vacuous.

Unlike that of the picturesque, the historical tradition that connects the aesthetic appreciation of nature with positive aesthetics has been embraced by several environmental philosophers Rolston , Chapter 6, Hargrove , Chapter 6, Carlson b. Then, in the sense of concrete reality, how can we realize the doctrine of objectivity in our aesthetic appreciation of nature?

Second, in order to implement the doctrine of objectivity in the aesthetic appreciation of nature, there can be a right way to ask for help from scientific knowledge, such as geology, biology and ecology actively. He affirms:. If aesthetic appreciation of natural things should be aesthetic appreciation of such things as that which they actually are and if scientific knowledge is that which tells us what natural things actually are, then aesthetic appreciation of natural things should be aesthetic appreciation as informed by the conceptualizations, categorizations, and descriptions that sciences such as geology, biology, and ecology give of the natural world.

Given the facts of aesthetic appreciation of nature in the West and the East, we have to acknowledge that we even fail to actualize objectivity, such a common sense, which is why aestheticians need to reaffirm it today. As Carlson notes, due to the impact of well-developed artistic taste, most appreciators are inclined to perceive, understand, and estimate natural objects in their perspective of art or to treat nature as art in their aesthetic appreciation of nature.

Thereby, such activity, called the aesthetic appreciation of nature, meets the artistic taste of appreciators. You live in the southern land in settled for the order from the Gods…although you are young, but you can be my teacher and old brother.

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Your behavior is as good as Boyi, so I like to take you as a token of moral model. In fact, it is a kind of aesthetic taste involving aesthetic appreciation of nature that is quite moralized. Elements for Ci-making are emotion and landscape.

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The Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature: Essays on the Aesthetics of Nature

What we do in Ci-making is no more than describe scenes in front of our eyes or express the emotion in our hearts. As soon as we can express our feelings in our heart or describe the scenes clearly, we make a piece of good Ci. Accordingly, a poem that can combine emotion-expression and landscape description together very well in one piece was always ranked as masterpiece:.

You stand in the countryside with cloud and water, you forget your brothers and sisters and yourself. You keep yourself from cold weather only by your feather. You do not find white seagulls in the sea, but only observes fish that are busy in water. You should jeer at me for my dreariness, how long my journey is! I only can find setting-sun as my partner.

Nature Writing, My Environmental Aesthetic Experience

You swim at the bottom of flowers that I can not find you, so I only can be in front of pool in the autumn lonely. All of them are humanized or subjectification of natural objects or phenomena. In essence, the three deviate from the objective position of the aesthetic appreciation of nature that treats nature in its own right. The ramifications of such deviation are clear. The aesthetic appreciation of nature steps out of the center of aesthetic appreciation.

With these approaches, people express themselves in the name of aesthetic appreciation of nature. As a result, the aesthetic appreciation of nature is transformed into human feelings or moral affairs; aesthetic appreciation of nature exists in name only.


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Thus we find a profound contradiction in the history of the aesthetic appreciation of nature in ancient China. On the one hand, we witness a tradition of the aesthetic appreciation of nature that comes forth quite early, lasts long, and is well-developed.


  1. Edited by Jerrold Levinson.
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  4. On the other hand, we are shocked by the very opposite facts in such a tradition where the properties of nature are neglected and are replaced and overtopped by human emotion and moral taste. In brief, the above three traditions are typical models of inappropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature in China. The doctrine of objectivity should be the first principle for aesthetic appreciation of nature. Without such a doctrine, it would be quite difficult for us to keep the feature of aesthetic appreciation of nature, to distinguish aesthetic appreciation of nature from other aesthetic activities, such as the aesthetic appreciation of art.

    It is also impossible to be mature and independent for both the aesthetic appreciation of nature and the aesthetics of nature. Philosophically speaking, it is quite difficult for us to protest a position that is the very opposite of the doctrine of objectivity, namely, that the aesthetic appreciation of nature can be irrelevant to the basic facts of given natural objects, and even can be the very opposite of the facts.

    For the aesthetic appreciation of nature, more subjective means better. Or in the aesthetic appreciation of nature, we can do what we like to do, anything is always right, and so on. It should be an important foundation for real self-consciousness and the healthy development of aesthetic appreciation of nature in contemporary life.

    As soon as the aesthetic appreciation of nature deals with internal facts of nature, it is necessary for appreciators to possess correct and in-depth knowledge about a given natural object in their aesthetic appreciation of nature. Carlson points out that most of us appreciate nature aesthetically by relying on everyday experiences or common sense from our everyday life.

    It is still understandable for those who lived before science was well developed; people appreciated nature aesthetically mainly by virtue of common sense. However, in modern society, scientific study has made great advancements. We know the natural world in a richer, deeper, and more correct way.

    By contrast, common sense concerning the natural world that people accumulated in traditional society seems subjective, unclear, and shallow today. I think that such a case should be inconceivable, even insufferable today. Objectivity is the only principle that we ought to persist in for our aesthetic appreciation of nature. Such special knowledge ensures the correctness and validity of our aesthetic appreciation of nature and leads us to catch the internal properties and values of natural objects properly and deeply. He characterizes it thus:. Just as serious, appropriate aesthetic appreciation of art requires knowledge of art history and art criticism, such aesthetic appreciation of nature requires knowledge of natural history—the knowledge provided by the natural sciences and especially sciences such as geology, biology, and ecology.

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    The idea is that scientific knowledge about nature can reveal the actual aesthetic qualities of natural objects and environments in the way in which knowledge about art history and art criticism can for works of art. In most cases, the green leaves of the flowers are neglected by us just as if they are not there! By means of the doctrine of objectivity, aesthetic appreciation in which we can only find the red flowers but fail to pay attention to the green leaves is not comprehensive.

    When appreciating the plant itself, such appreciation is not objective and appropriate because both the red flowers and the green leaves belong to the same integrated organism. The red flowers cannot exist for long without the green leaves. However, there is a kind of painting of birds and flowers in the tradition of the aesthetic appreciation of nature in ancient China, the painting of branches of flowers that prevailed between the Dynasties of Song and Yuan.

    By such an extreme personifying, natural properties are replaced by human taste; finally, we get a kind of specious aesthetic experience in such an appreciation of nature. Such inappropriate aesthetic experiences are quite common in ancient China. The third mistake in our aesthetic appreciation of nature that Carlson points out is to confuse what nature appears to be and what nature is.

    Aesthetics of Nature - Oxford Handbooks

    Carlson provides us a typical example of such a situation. People are always inclined to appreciate whales as fish. However, science tells us that, in fact, a whale is not a fish but a mammal. What happens in this case? When we appreciate whales as fish by means of our experiences of everyday life, such a mistake indicates that we regard the appearance of whale as its essence. In other words, we contradict the features of the whale itself significantly, which would be a big mistake in science. Then, will such a mistake cause a notable impact on our aesthetic experience or not?

    When we treat whales as fish, a whale appears to be not as light as most fish because of its huge body. But when we look at whales as mammals, we see that whales can be quite free in the water while most mammals live on land and cannot freely swim in water. Compared with other mammals, whales appear to be quite nimble and lightsome; as a result, our sense of beauty involving whales is enhanced.

    In light of the doctrine of objectivity, the aesthetic appreciation of nature is the appreciation of nature itself, concrete, an appreciation of the properties, values, and functions of natural objects in their own right. Only aesthetic experiences within this range can be genuine experiences of nature. By contrast, those that aim at human self-expression under the label of aesthetic appreciation of nature, in other words, when people use natural objects as a medium to express themselves, should be ranked as inappropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature.

    The introduction gives an historical and conceptual overview of the rapidly developing field of study known as environmental aesthetics. The essays consist of classic pieces as well as new contributions by some of the most prominent individuals now working in the field and range from theoretical to applied approaches. The topics covered include the nature and value of natural beauty, the relationship between art appreciation and nature appreciation, the role of knowledge in the aesthetic appreciation of nature, the importance of environmental participation to the appreciation of environments, and the connections between the aesthetic appreciation of nature and our ethical obligations concerning its maintenance and preservation.

    This volume is for scholars and students focussed on nature, landscapes, and environments, individuals in areas such as aesthetics, environmental ethics, geography, environmental studies, landscape architecture, landscape ecology, and the planning and design disciplines. It is also for any reader interested in and concerned about the aesthetic quality of the world in which we live.

    This is not just a collection of papers by the most prominent contemporary environmental aestheticians, it is a field-defining work that will represent the gold standard in this new subdiscipline for years to come. The editors have adroitly selected papers both for their inherent quality and for the way they represent emergent, conflicting, and dialectical points of view.