Final Exam Questions Natural Beauty Seminar

(in reverse order)



1.         Main concepts/topics of course am likely to ask you about:

            a.         Objectivity in environmental aesthetics (and objectivity in art aesthetics); anything goes, pluralism, one correct response....

            b.         Aesthetic Preservationism

            c.         Positive Aesthetics

            d.         Role of knowledge (and though)/imagination/emotion/engagement in aes appreciation of nature (versus role in art appreciation).

            e.         Is scientific knowledge of nature important in the aesthetic appreciation of nature?

            f.         Explain the debate over whether or not pollution sunsets are beautiful and discuss your own thinking on this issue.

            g.         Discuss the connection between aesthetic appreciation and pleasure. Must such appreciation always be pleasurable? If not, why not? Give examples.

            h.         What is formalism? What is formalism in nature appreciation? What are some of the common objections to formalism (in art and in nature appreciation). What is your own view of this approach to aesthetic appreciation of nature?

Questions related to specific articles:

2.         What is “positive aesthetics?” (What are Hettinger’s four criteria for an adequate positive aesthetics?) Distinguish between different versions of the doctrine. What are some of the arguments/considerations in favor of the doctrine (e.g., Saito, Rolston, Carlson, Parsons). What are some arguments against the doctrine (e.g., Saito, Loftis). Evaluate positive aesthetics (and the views of these thinkers about it) from your own perspective. Is it true? Are certain formulations more plausible than others?

3.         Concerning Saito’s “The Aesthetics of Unscenic Nature”: How does Saito respond to the challenge of the “entertainment seekers” who simply want to get their aesthetic kicks from nature and have no interest in learning to appreciate unscenic nature? Evaluate her response from your own perspective. Does Saito believe everything in nature is aesthetically appreciable? Explain her dual answer to this question and then evaluate if from your own perspective.

4.         In the Rolston reading of positive aesthetics, does he embrace the view that there is no ugly nature? Does he think all of nature is equally beautiful? Does he think nature is maximally beautiful? What are his main arguments in favor of positive aesthetics? Assess them from our own perspective. Include an explanation and evaluation of the following quote: “(Beauty in unscenic nature) is not so much viewed as experienced after one reaches ecologically tutored understanding. It is not so much a matter of sight as of insight into the drama of life. In many of life’s richest aesthetic experiences there is nothing to put on canvas, nothing to take snapshots of ...”

5.         What is “aesthetic preservationism” (you might distinguish several versions in terms of their strength)? What are some arguments for it (Robinson/Elliott) and some arguments against it (e.g., Loftis)? Evaluate these arguments from your own perspective. Is aesthetic preservationism a useful approach? Why or why not?

6.         Related to Robinson and Elliott’s "Environmental Aesthetics and Public Environmental Philosophy”: Do they think objectivity in env aesthetics is important if aes is to play a role in env protection? What do they mean by the idea that env aes acts as an “umbrella” (for what?). Explain how they tie aesthetic integrity, sense of place, human well being, and env rights together. How strong a justificatory role do they give aes in environmental protection? What other sort of role does aes play?

7.         What are Loftis’ "Three Problems for the Aesthetic Foundations of Environmental Ethics”? Explain these problems and then assess his arguments from your own perceptive.

8.         Related to Hettinger’s “Objectivity in Environmental Aesthetics & Protection of the Environment”: Explain why Hettinger thinks objectivity in aes is important for env protection and explain and illustrate the sorts of cognitive, emotional, and imaginative and other constraints on aes appreciation of nature he claims to identify. Describe the “constrained pluralism” he embraces and evaluate it from your own perspective.    

9.         Describe (and provide examples of) some of the ways Hepburn distinguishes the serious from the trivial in the aesthetic appreciation of nature. Evaluate his attempt from your own perspective.

10.       Malcolm Budd (in our readings from him Relativity in Nature Appreciation) argues for significant relativity in aes appreciation of nature; Identify the types of conceptual and perceptual relativity he describes and then assess his position from your own perspective. What sorts of appreciation of nature does he rule out? Does Budd believe the same sort of relativity applies to the appreciation of art? Why or why not?

11.       *Several (most?) environmental aestheticians we have read (especially Budd, Matthews, Hepburn, Saito) give us a criterion for when knowledge/thought is relevant to the aes appreciation of nature and when it is not. Explain and illustrate with examples this criterion.

12.       In your own view what role should knowledge play in the aesthetic appreciation of nature? Is knowledge necessary for aesthetic appreciation of nature? Is it sufficient? Is it important? Is it helpful? Must one do anything with knowledge of nature for it to aid in the aesthetic appreciation of nature? Does false belief about the object of appreciation compromise the aesthetic response? Please specify what sort of knowledge is at issue. Make sure you consider distinctions between appreciation of nature that is “appropriate/inappropriate,” “better/worse,” and “deeper/more superficial.” Use examples in your discussion.

13.       Related to Fisher “What the Hills are Alive With—In Defense of the Sounds of Nature”: Identity two different senses of objectivity related to appreciation of nature that Fisher discusses and explain which (if either) he thinks is applicable and why. In what ways (if at all) does Fisher embrace relativity in the appreciation of nature’s sounds? (Consider framing choices and ways of listening.) Evaluate Fisher’s claims from you own perspective.

14.       Explain why J. A. Walter in "You'll Love the Rockies” does or does not love the Rockies.

15.       Related to Patricia Matthews “Scientific Knowledge and the Aes Appreciation of Nature”: Matthews attempts to explain why knowledge that should affect aes appreciation of nature in fact does not. What is her explanation. Mathews also gives an argument for why simple, uniformed aesthetic responses are problematic. What is this argument? Respond from your own perspective to Matthews positions.

16.       Related to Nick Zangwill, “Formal Natural Beauty”: Distinguish between extreme and moderate formalism and explain the qua thesis. What is Zangwill’s view about these three ideas? Using his polar bear example, explain Zangwill’s formalistic account of this aesthetic experience and evaluate it from your own perspective.

17.       Related to Glenn Parsons’ “Hidden Gems” paper: What is the problem this paper addresses and how does Parsons solve that problem? Evaluate his solution from your own perspective.

18.       Concerning Robert Stecker’s “Epistemic Norms, Moral Norms, and Nature Appreciation”: Explain the difference between strong and weak scientific cognitivism and identify which if either Stecker embraces and why. Does Stecker think knowledge is required for correct aes appreciation of nature? Why or why not?

19.       Concerning Arnold Berleant, “The Aesthetics of Art and Nature” (“Aesthetics of engagement”): What is Berleant’s view about the “traditional, contemplative, disinterested aesthetics” and its application to nature? Do you agree with him about the importance of engagement in aesthetic appreciation? Why or why not?

20.       Concerning Holmes Rolston’s “Does Aesthetic Appreciation of Landscapes Need to be Science-Based?”: Does Rolston think science is necessary for the aes appreciation of nature? Does he think anything else is necessary? Explain. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

21.       Concerning Emily Brady on Imagination in Aes Appreciation of Nature: Does Brady put any limits on the role of imagination in aes appreciation of nature? Is so what are they? Use an example to explain and illustrate her ideas. Do you think Brady succeeds in her account of the role of imagination in the aesthetic appreciation of nature?

22.       Concerning Marcia Eaton’s, “Fact and Fiction in Aes Appreciation of Nature”: What purpose does Eaton what the aesthetic appreciation of nature to serve (and what do you think of this role)? Using one of her examples, explain Eaton’s critique of the use of imagination in the aesthetic appreciation of nature. Do you think she is right in her critique? Explain.

23.       Concerning Emily Brady’s, “Emotion, Expressive Qualities, and Nature”: Using examples, explain how Brady thinks it possible for nature to have “expressive qualities.” Do you think nature’s expressive qualities are an important part of the aesthetic value of nature?

24.       Concerning Noel Carroll’s, "On Being Moved by Nature: Between Religion and Natural History": Explain Carroll’s account of how emotional responses to nature can be objective. Do you accept his account? Why or why not?

25.       Concerning Robert Stecker’s, “Environmental Aesthetics; Natural Beauty": Stecker defends the “landscape model” and the “object model” as legitimate type of nature appreciation (in response to Carlson’s rejection of those models). What sort of argument does he give to defend them? Is this defense successful, in your opinion?

26.       Concerning Thomas Heyd’s, “Aesthetic Appreciation and the Many Stories about Nature”: What sorts of information does Heyd think is relevant to the aesthetic appreciation of nature and what are his criteria for making that determination? Assess his position from your own perspective.

27.       Concerning Allen Carlson’s, “Nature, Aesthetic Judgment, and Objectivity”: Using examples, explain Carlson’s use Walton’s psychological and philosophical claims about the importance of appreciating an aes object under a category. Do you accept these arguments for the importance of categories in aesthetic appreciation?

28.       Concerning Yuriko Saito’s,“Neglect of Everyday Aesthetics,”: Explain what sorts of assumptions about aesthetics must be rejected (and are rejected by Saito) in order to take seriously the idea of “everyday aesthetics?”

29.       Skip Iseminger paper.....

30.       Related to Alan Goldman’s, “The Aesthetic”: Give examples of “aesthetic properties” and explain how they “supervene” on non-aesthetic properties. Define disinterestedness and give a clear cut example of a supposed aesthetic response that is not disinterested and explain why it is not.

31.       Concerning Ronald Hepburn’s “Contemporary Aesthetics and the Neglect of Natural Beauty”: Describe some of the differences between art and nature appreciation that Hepburn identifies.