Yuriko Saito, Aesthetics of Unscenic Nature



2.      There is a bias in nature appreciation, toward pictorial, scenic landscapes

         a.      Show pieces, spectacular, grand nature

         b.      Entertainment by easy beauty

3.      The scenically-challenged rest of nature ignored

         a.      Plains, bogs, wetlands, jungles, reptiles, insects, “ dead elk carcass with maggots”

         b.      Boring/tedious/repulsive

4.      Unscenic nature has aesthetic value

         a.      Subtle (modest, less aggressive) beauty

         b.      Perhaps more difficult beauty

5.      One argument for positive aesthetics is that its denial may often be based on scenery cult and prejudice for easy beauty



7.      Entertainment seeker’s challenge: “Why can’t we just enjoy what appeals to us (nature as spectacular scenery) and forget boring landscapes and dead animals with putrid smells and maggots crawling all over them?”


8.      Cognitivist reply (Carlson)

         a.      If aesthetic judgments are going to be true

         b.      Must not interpret nature as a scenic, two dimensional design for this fails to appreciate it for what it is

         c.      Must interpret/appreciate nature in correct scientific categories if one’s appreciation is to be appropriate

                   i.       Awkward deer? When really a graceful moose

         d.      Scientific understanding will allow for the appreciation of unscenic nature


9.      Saito thinks cognitivist reply fails

         a.      Someone may not care about making true aesthetic judgments

         b.      Deceptive/incorrect aesthetic appreciation may be more enjoyable

                   i.       Examples

                            (1)    Aesthetically appreciating a painting as a non-representational design may be more pleasant and avoid arduous task of determining its symbolic content

                            (2)    Oak tree may look more exciting and interesting when viewed as a maple tree


10.    Saito provides a response to:

         a.      “Entertainment seekers who pursue any path to get aesthetic kicks, no matter how misguided”

         b.      Cognitive concerns don’t bother them

         c.      They don’t care how wrong they get it



         a.      Who have no interest in trying to appreciate scenically-challenged nature

12.    They act (morally) inappropriately

         a.      They refuse to experience art/nature on own terms

         b.      Refuse to put aside their own agendas

         c.      Sounds like selfishness, self-absorption, and disrespect

13.    Let nature speak in own terms (via science/natural history?)

14.    Appreciators ought to approach aesthetic object with due respect

15.    Give aesthetic object a chance to tell its story

         a.      Art invites us to visit an often unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable world and “enter into other forms of relationship and participation than our own”

         b.      So to with nature

         c.      Our willingness to understand its origin, structure, function, shows we are willing to recognize its own reality


16.    Why should we drop the demand for easy beauty, for aesthetic pleasure, and try to appreciate unscenic nature?

17.    Because it is morally important not to treat nature solely as a visual resource for our enjoyment

         a.      “Ought not to tour national parks for a view, as if nature that can’t serve us ought to at least please us” (Rolston)

18.    Respect for nature’s intrinsic value requires listening to its own story

         a.      And not treating it as a mere instrument to human pleasure

19.    Ned is inclined to think this is not only a moral argument but also an aesthetic argument

20.    Summary: Why appreciate unscenic nature?

         a.      It is morally important to overcome perception of nature as a visual resource to be used for our enjoyment

         b.      Appreciation of nature should be intrinsic and should be open to nature’s own way of presenting itself


21.    Leopold’s instrumental moral argument

         a.      Should aesthetic appreciate unscenic parts of nature for they are crucial to ecological sustainability

         b.      Ignoring the aesthetic value of unscenic nature will lead to their not being protected

                   i.       E.g. Wetlands

         c.      Unscenic nature is necessary for the sustianability of the natural environment



23.    Example: How aesthetically appreciate a elk carcass with maggots?


24.    Rolston’s response is to contextualize

         a.      View natural object in larger context and see role it plays in the drama and struggle for life and the sustenance of ecosystems

         b.      Look at is as part of a whole

25.    Saito’s reply to Rolston’s response

         a.      One: Unclear what the aesthetic object is suppose to be for Rolston

                   i.       Entire ecosystem, rather than the individual carcass?

                            (1)    “The whole motion picture’

                   ii.      Since ecosystems are tied into global ecosystem, is Rolston saying that the global ecosystem is the only legitimate object of nature appreciation and not the individual pieces of nature?

                   iii.     Also we can perceive whole ecosystems

         b.      Two: Even if we agree that the whole of which it is a part is beautiful, that doesn’t mean the part is

                   i.       Fallacy of division: (False idea that parts must have properties of whole)

                   ii.      That a person is beautiful doesn’t mean every piece of him/her is

                   iii.     That a dog is fast doesn’t mean a dog’s tail is fast


26.    Cognitive information is relevant to aesthetic appreciation only when it is triggered by the sensuous surface and is brought back to that surface to illuminate it

         a.      If beauty is cognitive beauty of the entire system (that devolves–seeps down--into the parts), then perception of the individual item seems irrelevant

         b.      Knowledge of whole has to be brought back and fused with perception of sensuous surface

                   i.       E.g., Viewing the wiggling maggots as work crew doing the labor of recycling

         c.      Saito sees aesthetic appreciation of nature as way nature tells its own story via sensory qualities


27.    Considerations in favor of positive aesthetics of nature

         a.      Art can be aesthetically negative because

                   i.       Story might be told well, but morally repulsive story (Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will)

                            (1)    (Saito believes in integration?)

                   ii.      Story poorly told

         b.      Nature can’t be aesthetic negative in these ways

                   i.       Its amoral, can’t morally object to content of the story it tells

                            (1)    Ned: But we could object for other reasons–the evil involved in pain and suffering of predation/disease etc.

                   ii.      All of nature’s stories are interesting

                            (1)    Science reveals the marvelous workings of all nature (105) (A defense of positive aesthetics)

                            (2)    All equally fascinating (wilderness and back yard), though there are different degrees of nature’s skill in telling these stories

                            (3)    Is this equal aesthetic value claim?

                            (4)    If science underpins nature’s aesthetic value, all of nature is equally valuable as scientific story equally fascinating for any piece of nature?



         a.      Saito’s answer is “No”


29.    One: Some aesthetic appreciation of nature is psychologically impossible


30.    Some things in nature are so annoying, repulsive, unattractive that we can’t bring ourselves to appreciate the positive aesthetic value of their story

         a.      Cockroaches, mosquitos, snakes, slugs, sharks, lions, weeds

         b.      These are pesky, gross, give one the creeps, eyesores

         c.      Our negative reaction to them outweighs the positive aesthetic value of their life story


31.    Some things in nature are so threatening that we can’t aesthetically appreciate them

         a.      An avalanche as it sweeps you down the slope

         b.      A bear’s hot breath as it bites into your leg


32.    Negative reaction can perhaps be overcome by distancing ourselves, taking a contemplative attitude

         a.      But distancing has aesthetic costs

                   i.       Miss sensory qualities

                   ii.      Aesthetic experience of nature involves engagement and this is lost


33.    Two: Some aesthetic appreciation of nature is morally impermissible

34.    We ought not to appreciate natural disasters that cause harm to people

         a.      Such aesthetic appreciation is morally inappropriate

35.    What about natural processes that cause harm to animals?

         a.      E.g., predation?