Malcolm Budd, from The Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature

selections on freedom and relativity in nature appreciation


1.      Kn can transform aes exp of nature

         a.      People can recruit to their perceptions of nature different levels of understanding

                   i.       Superficial/deep; thin/thick; child’s understanding typically thin

         b.      The thicker the conception (or deeper the understanding), the greater the material available for transforming aes experience

         c.      The thicker the understanding, more able to bring relevant thoughts, emotions and images to bear on one’s perception of nature

         d.      Note: More knowledge allows for greater use of emotion and imagination in the aesthetic response!

2.      Budd’s examples (p. 21)

         a.      See a 'shooting star' as the glow of a meteor burning in the earth's atmosphere,

         b.      See a canyon as having been cut by a swift-flowing river

         c.      **See a mountain as a massive block of rock thrust up by enormous pressures beneath the earth's surfac

         d.      See Himalayas as the product of a collision between the Indian subcontinent and the main bulk of Asia

         e.      See broomrape as a parasite that feeds on other plants

3.      Knowledge makes some aes experiences possible

         a.      Transformation of your experience when relevant knowledge enlisted makes possible varieties of aesthetic and emotional responses otherwise not possible

4.      Transformation that knowledge brings about need not intensify but can diminish or erase aesthetic delight

         a.      “Plant is poisonous or those things sticking out from turquoise sea anemone are tentacles that can poison fish and the greenish center is its mouth”

         b.      I think (and Budd thinks?) that such knowledge still “enhances” (improves) aesthetic appreciation

                   i.       Aes appreciation is not necessarily positive pleasure

                   ii.      Why think it would improve it? (More truthful, accurate, informed?)

         c.      Would Heyd have to reject this and suggest it is not relevant? Or harmful to aesthetic response? For w/o the pleasure it might decrease our aesthetic stamina?

                   i.       Perhaps not as it might increase our aesthetic absorption even though it gives us a less positive experience


5.      Knowledge of type/category of natural object might not allow for a transformation of perception of world and not facilitate an enhanced appreciation

         a.      Examples:

                   i.       Knowledge of how rainbow formed

                            (1)    Does not make possible an aes experience that is otherwise unavailable

                   ii.      Knowledge that water is H20 not help in appreciation dew, mist, rain

6.      For knowledge to transform and (possibly) enhance aes appreciation (must affect our conception/perception/experience of aes object?)

         a.      It must permeate/inform perception so that what the object is perceived as is different from how perceived by someone who lacks the knowledge

         b.      In above cases, knowledge that water is H2O does not allow us to see rainbows or mist differently than someone who lacks the knowledge

         c.      Fails to integrate with perception and generate new perceptual/imaginative content of experience

         d.      Cloud Example: “If when looking at a cloud you identify its type as cumulonimbus, your aesthetic experience is not thereby transformed. But if, in virtue of additional knowledge, you see the anvil top and ragged base of a cumulonimbus as a thunder cloud, your impression of the cloud might change, for you might now have a sense of power in the cloud and see it as shaped by powerful forces at work in it; and this sense of power will inform your experience and change the nature of your aesthetic response

         e.      Very similar to Matthews idea that we must not just have the knowledge but must perceive the natural object under that category

         f.       Seeing as: Duck-rabbit


7.      Sometimes mistaken knowledge matters to aesthetic appreciation and sometimes not

         a.      Mis-experience X as belonging to certain kind through misperception, then of course your aes appreciation is malfounded

                   i.       “What a beautiful bird” (but it’s a stick)

                            (1)    Compare: “What a beautiful thing”

         b.      Mis-experience X as belonging to certain kind no problem if

                   i.       No error in perception

                   ii.      Just get the name wrong and have no other knowledge/belief

                            (1)    See flower perfectly mistake it for orchid when it’s a fritillary (and have no other knowledge/ belief )

         c.      Even if get the specific kind wrong, can still properly aes appreciate it in more general terms

                   i.       Carroll: Think a whale is a fish (rather than a mammal) can still appreciate its size and grandeur

         d.      But getting the kind wrong can lead to aesthetic responses that one would reject if one had the correct information

                   i.       Example: Excitement at seeing what you thought was a ivory-billed woodpecker (thought to be extinct) disappears when learn it was a pileated woodpecker


8.      Budd agrees should not appreciate nature as if it were art (but as nature)

9.      Problems with (Carlson’s idea) appreciating natural items as the kind of things they are

10.    Natural objects are many different kinds of things

         a.      Appreciating natural objects as the kinds of things they are is problematic (unclear/indeterminate) because they fall under many different categories

         b.      More or less specific, concepts that involve greater or lesser understanding of it

         c.      Examples:

                   i.       More general (flower) and more specific (orchid)

                   ii.      With more or less deep understanding of their nature and function

                            (1)    Flower or sexual organ of a plant

11.    Which concept (or concepts, which understanding) disclose its true aesthetic qualities that reveal its true aesthetic value?

12.    Problem of conflicting aes quality/value

         a.      Worry (or Budd’s assumption) is that these different categories will lead to it having different (non-combinable, conflicting, incompatible) aesthetic qualities and thus potentially different aesthetic value

13.    Possible examples of conflicting aesthetic qualities (and different aes value) depending on which category one perceives a natural object under?

         a.      Parsons example: If see Venus fly trap as a plant its jaw like body will appear grotesque (disturbing/ugly), but not so if see it as a carnivorous plant

         b.      Budd’s 123 Shetland pony or Clydesdale (more specific) versus horse (more general)

                   i.       As a horse, a Shetland pony is cute, charming, as a Shetland pony perhaps not

                   ii.      As a horse, a Clydesdale is majestic or lumbering but as a Clydesdale it is not

         c.      Windfarm as part of humanized landscape or as part of wild nature?

                   i.       How you perceive it might greatly affect its aesthetic value

14.    Category relative interpretation as solution to conflicts

         a.      Can avoid conflicting aesthetic qualities/value by adopting a category relative interpretation of nature’s aesthetic qualities and value

         b.      Because the judgments are relativized to a certain category

         c.      When seen in one category it has this aesthetic quality (and value), when seen in another category it has a different quality and value


15.    Is a category relative interpretation of nature’s aesthetic qualities and value a problem?

         a.      Carlson’s project is doomed

                   i.       No one correct way to appreciate a natural object

         b.      Assessing the aesthetic value of a natural object or nature in general (as does positive aesthetics claim all nature is beautiful) is problematic

                   i.       Is it dainty or majestic?

                   ii.      No answer, it depends

         c.      Zangwill’s response: if they are all positive (beautiful) then this is not all that important

                   i.       Not important to positive aesthetics

                   ii.      But still no answer to what its aes qualities are (or answer is very complicated)

         d.      For conservation purposes, don’t we need definitive answers to questions about what aesthetic qualities nature has and how much aesthetic value it has


16.    Two senses of category relativity

17.    Category relativity distinguished from anything goes categorization

         a.      (1) Aesthetic qualities/value object has depends upon which category you perceive it under

                   i.       And there are a variety of such categories that lead to different judgments of value and qualities

                   ii.      Budd/others made a case for this

         b.      (2) One can aesthetically appreciate natural objects under any category one wants to (or are able to) and none are better or worse or more or less correct.

                   i.       Not been shown by Budd or anyone else.....

                   ii.      Categorize and appreciate an elephant as a bumble bee just as legitimate aesthetically as appreciating it as a mammal....


18.    Is the problem of multiple categories (and resulting potential for conflicting aesthetic properties) present in art? (Yes)

         a.      Example

                   i.       A painting can be experienced as a Cezanne, a cubist work, a painting, an art object

                   ii.      This painting might be immature/mediocre when seen as a Cezanne, but brilliant or original as a painting

         b.      Walton’s acknowledgment (fn 24): “A work is touching or serene seen in one correct category, while it does not seem so when perceived in another way that we do not want to rule as incorrect”

         c.      Is it as serious a problem in art (as with nature)?


19.    We have (almost?) complete freedom as to what and how to appreciate nature (or a natural object) while this is not true of art

20.    Aesthetic qualities and value of art work become evident when it is

         a.      Appreciated by a sensitive, well-informed observer

         b.      Appreciated under the correct artistic category

         c.      Under optimal conditions (according to intentions of creator) and

         d.      In the right manner/way by an (informed) appreciator


21.    For nature and natural objects,

         a.      There are a multitude of correct categories

         b.      There are no optimal conditions (as opposed to dilapidated condition where true aes qualities no longer displayed)

         c.      Nor correct manner of appreciating

         d.      That reveals its true aesthetic qualities

22.    No proper level of observation

         a.      Microscope or telescope

                   i.       Grain of sand/bit of water boring with naked eye, but exciting and much more aesthetic appeal with microscope

23.    No proper or optimum conditions of observation (for a tree/mountain) under which its aes qualities are manifest

         a.      Observer’s distance (how far away)

         b.      Point of view (in front or on the side)

         c.      Nature of the light (dark or light)

24.    Time: Natural objects change and thus display different aesthetic qualities and value at different times

         a.      Don Crawford rejection of on Glenn Parson’s claim that Mt. Rundle is (always, necessarily) majestic

                   i.       “ Walter Phillips (1884-1963) was well known for painting it and other mountains of the Canadian Rockies. He is quoted as saying: ‘Mount Rundle is my bread and butter mountain. I never tire of painting it, for it is never the same. In deep shadow in the morning, it borrows a warm glow from the setting sun at the end of the day. Its colour runs the gamut from orange to cold blue-grey, with overtones of violet and intervals of green.’”

                        ii.        “Parsons seems to be saying that no matter how Mt. Rundle may vary in appearance as the artist Phillips noted, it is nonetheless always majestic. Well, I have looked at many mountains under many conditions, and I have searched the Internet for photographs of Mt. Rundle and found quite a few showing it under different conditions. I think Mt. Rundle appears majestic in some of them, but not in all. Sometimes it appears threatening, and I have a hard time saying that it is “threatening and majestic” or “majestically threatening” or “threateningly majestic.”


25.    No correct aes app of nature (unlike w/art)

         a.      Since appearance of natural objects vary under different levels and conditions and time of observation which is the correct one?

         b.      There is none!

26.    Aesthetic appreciation of nature has a freedom denied to art appreciation (and this is part of its aes appeal)

         a.      P. 108: “In a section of the natural world we are free to frame elements as we please, to adopt any position or move in any way, at any time of the day or night, in any atmospheric conditions, and to use any sense modality, without thereby incurring the charge of misunderstanding. No visible aspect, quality, or structure of a natural item, of its exterior or interior, perceived from any direction or distance, with or without optical instruments, is deemed irrelevant to the aesthetic appreciation of that item by the requirement that it must be appreciated as the kind of natural item it is. The fact that an object is to be appreciated as a painting means that its weight is irrelevant, as are its smell, taste, and felt warmth or coldness; but the fact that an object is to be appreciated aesthetically as a river or as a tree in itself rules out no mode of perception nor any perceptual aspect of the object. In short, whereas categories of art disqualify certain sense modalities- internal structure, appearance under various conditions and from various distances, and so on--categories of nature do not.”

         b.      No way of appreciating nature involves a misunderstanding

                   i.       Budd does insist on appreciating nature as nature and not as art

         c.      No focus is irrelevant

         d.      Answer to question of what and how to appreciated nature is

                   i.       Whatever is available

                   ii.      Whatever manner or manners possible

         e.      Is this the claim no better or worse ways of appreciating natural objects?


27.    Counter-examples to Budd’s (virtually) absolute freedom:

         a.      If fix on a type of object, then many ways of appreciating it are ruled out or less satisfactory

         b.      Examples

                   i.       Mountain: Don’t taste it; Better to aes appreciate it hiking than riding in a car around it

                   ii.      Birds: Appreciating them with binoculars allows for a much clear visual sense than w/o

         c.      No optimal conditions for natural objects?

                   i.       Elk: healthy or sick?

                   ii.      Stars; clear night or cloudy?

         d.      How significant are such counterexamples?

                   i.       Do these counter examples suggest a significant weakening of Budds claims about art vs nature appreciation or only that he must modestly quality his claims?


28.    Chimerical quest 4.10

         a.      So search for a correct model of nature appreciation (answers to the what and how to appreciate nature questions) is a chimerical quest (absurd, impossible, illusory quest);


29.    Is relative truth in nature appreciation

         a.      Truth value of aes judgement about natural item can be understood as relative to temporal slice, sensory mode, level, manner of observation


30.    Budd on the total view (p. 109)

         a.      Perhaps only viable conception of aes value of natural item qua natural item is a function of totality of positive and negative aes qualities it has

         b.      The multifaceted indefiniteness of this notion shows how problematic positive aes for nature is

         c.      Aes value of nature is a function of the totality of positive and negative aesthetic qualities it has