Brady on Emotion and Nature’s Expressive Qualities

(from Aesthetics of the Natural Environment, pp. 172-183)


1.      Difference emotions and expressive qualities

         a.      Although one can experience emotions and expressive qualities at same time there are differences between

         b.      Feeling emotion in response to nature:

                   i.       E.g., Feel exhilarated when taking a morning walk through forest

         c.      Finding expressive qualities in our experience of nature (need not feeling any particular emotion)

                   i.       Finding a landscape as bleak and forbidding

                   ii.      Seems more outward focused



3.      Emotional responses to nature need not be subjective/arbitrary

         a.      Emotion is valuable in aes appreciation,

         b.      Often caricatured as too subjective and arbitrary to be legitimate

         c.      Need to show how emotion will not lead to wayward or distorting responses

         d.      So there are wayward and distorting responses

         e.      Note: Someone who thought no responses to nature were “wayward and distorting” (that there are no norms for nature appreciation) would not be worried about whether emotional responses are too subjective/arbitrary–for anything goes in nature appreciation (all responses are equally subjective/arbitrary!?)

4.      She thinks Carroll’s theory of objective emotion (based on beliefs and imaginings) has explained and justified emotional responses to nature

         a.      So here she does this only discusses expressive qualities

         b.      Note: Does Carroll lose some of his objectivity in emotional responses by adding adds imaginings (instead of just beliefs?) As part of grounds for emotions?



         a.      Using emotion terms to describe nature



7.      Literal: Nature is feeling the emotional quality it expresses

         a.      Nature does not literally have these emotional qualities

         b.      The somber loch: The loch (a lake; a bay or arm of the sea) and dark images of surrounding hills can’t literally be somber (dark, gloomy, sad) as it can’t have an emotional state

8.      Communication expression theory: Nature is communicating this emotion to us by how it presents itself

         a.      Just like an art object might be thought to communicate to us the artist’s emotions (her feeling of sadness expressed via the music)

         b.      But there is no artist behind (relatively pristine) nature communicating these emotions to us

                   i.       Human constructed environments are possibly different

9.      Causal theory of expressive properties: Attribution of expressive qualities are ways of saying the thing (art/nature) causes one to feel an emotion

         a.      The loch is somber (means the lock makes me feel somber)

         b.      Problems:

                   i.       It may make someone feel content, calm, relaxed and satisfied, not somber

                   ii.      Also we could judge it somber without actually feeling anything at all





12.    Resemblance/similarity view of expressive qualities: The object resembles humans (and their behavior) with that emotion

13.    Examples

         a.      The cheerful brook moves much as a cheerful person might; it babbles, plays, pauses awhile, rushes on, darts has a quick light movement

         b.      The moaning wind sounds like a person moaning or sighing

         c.      Gnarled branches of barren trees are anguished as call to mind the twisted appearance of human suffering

                   i.       Van Gogh’s Sorrow

         d.      Weeping willow is sad looking because recognize in it the posture of someone feeling down

         e.      Furious storm reminds us of the behavior of a furious person

14.    Resemblance goes both ways

         a.      Friend is furious because she “storms” around the house

15.    Resemblance account is not dependent on subjective experience of appreciator, but on perception of non-aes qualities and characteristic human behavior

         a.      An objective account of expressive qualities


16.    Resemblance/similarity theories by themselves can’t account for all expressive qualities of nature

         a.      Not all expressive qualities in nature simply mirror human emotions

         b.      Some expressive quality attribution are not traceable to similar emotional expression in behaviors

17.    For nature might have expressive qualities and cause emotions in us that the human sphere alone can’t produce

         a.      Nature has an otherness, so we should not just look for the expression of human emotions in nature.

         b.      E.g., wonder and sublimity of nature (expressive qualities) unique and not a function of being similar to human behavior

18.    Sometimes nature will influence our moods and determine them, so that we reflect nature’s qualities rather than the other way around

         a.      Isn’t this the causal view? That nature has moods/expressive qualities because it causes us to feel a certain way?



20.    Embodiment account of expressive qualities in nature (an alternative to resemblance account)

         a.      A view that allows for individual or cultural experience to play a role

21.    Some expressive qualities are due to associations (e.g., sense of place associations) that might have nothing to do with resemblances between the place and human behavior

         a.      E.g., An old disused quarry

                   i.       May appear ugly to some

                   ii.      But to those that worked there and lived off of the quarry, it may express hard work and the hard lives of the community–it has a cultural significance

                   iii.     Here it is not the non-aes qualities of land that bring to mind the feelings of pride associated with the quarry

22.    How this association works: Call it the “embodiment account”

         a.      Fusion between objects sensuous surface and associated facts (scientific, historical, or whatever)

                   i.       E.g., Fierce battle: Fierceness of a battle is reflected in disfigured landscape with poor vegetation

         b.      Environments embody history, emotions, memories

23.    Carlson on embodiment

         a.      For an object to express a quality is more than that the object suggests the quality, but the quality must be associated with object itself; object must embody that which it expresses

                   i.       Expression is not typically due to the unique associations resulting from an individual’s personal history

         b.      The Welsh quarry is expressive of pride: for a community of individuals the landscape is fused with memories and associations of their working lives on that landscape.

24.    Conventional associations can create embodiment:

         a.      Cherry blossoms: For Japanese, cherry blossoms when falling associated with sorrow because they epitomize the transience of beauty