Exam on Aesthetics and Nature (Parsons and Robinson/Elliott)
Study questions for Parsons, Aesthetics & Nature Introduction & Ch 1
1. Is the aes appreciation of nature important for respect for nature? Is it important for flourishing as a human being?
2. What is the difference between thinking nature is that which is uninfluenced by humans and thinking nature is that which is not the product of human agency? Give an example of the former that is not an example of the latter. Are there any example of nature that is uninfluenced by humans? Why might one think there are not?
3. Parsons gives three reasons for why it was harder to think of nature as beautiful prior to the 18th century. Identify two of those reasons.
4. How is a sublime landscape different from a beautiful one?
5. What does it mean to say pleasure needs to be disinterested if it is to be aesthetic pleasure? Given an example of pleasure at looking at a farm field that is not disinterested pleasure and thus not aesthetic.
6. Does Parsons allow that aesthetic pleasure can be obtained from each of the five senses? Explain how this relates to his idea that aesthetic pleasure must be ‘disembodied’.
Questions on Parsons, Chapter 2: Imagination, Belief and the Aes of Nature
1. Does Parsons believe that thought plays a role in aesthetic experience or is such experience simply sensory and affective? Give an example of an aes experience that involves each of these three dimensions.
2. Identify and give examples of 4 different types of thought components that might be part of aes experience of nature.
3. What does it mean to ask if nature appreciation has “normative standards?” Do you think it does? Why or why not?
4. Explain the “post modern” (PM) approach to the question of what sorts of thoughts can be part of “appropriate” aesthetic appreciation of nature. In so doing, explain what post modernism is in literary theory. Now discuss a possible counter-example to post-modernism in literary interpretation.
5. What are some examples of incorrect or inappropriate ways of interpreting or appreciating artworks?
6. If one rejects PM approach to aes appreciation, does that mean there is only one correct or appropriate way to appreciate art or nature?
7. Why might someone argue PM is not true of art, but it is true of nature?
8. What is the assumption behind the “analogy with art” argument form that Parsons uses? (Hint: that unless there is a relevant difference we should assume that nature and art appreciation will be analogous).
9. Explain the relation between PM and “aesthetic preservationism” (i.e., the view that we should preserve nature for its beauty
Questions on Parson’s Ch 3: Formalism
1. What is a “normative standard” for aesthetic appreciation? What are three different possibilities here? If one rejects PM’s anything goes, does that mean one must accept the idea that there is one correct way to aesthetically appreciate?
2. Explain the formalist approach to nature appreciation. What role does thought play in this type of appreciation? What role do emotions and representations play?
3. Why does Parsons think formalism and PM are “diametrically opposed?”
4. What is the relation between formalism and the contemporary practice of appreciating nature via scenic look off, picture postcard, and camera snap shot?
5. Why might it be thought that formalism in the aes appreciation of nature might be particularly useful for aesthetic preservationism? (Hint: quantifying beauty)
6. Provide some examples where the formal appreciation of art misses what is central to those art objects.
7. Does the formal appreciation of nature miss what is central to nature appreciation? Does formalist appreciation of nature appreciate nature for what it is? Why might the formalist appreciation of nature be accused of failing to respect nature?
8. Is it important to aesthetically appreciate something for what it is rather than for what it is not?
Study Questions for Ch 4 Parsons: Science approach
1. Explain in what sense the science approach takes a middle position between the post modern approach and formalism.
2. Explain what the science approach claims about appropriate aes appreciation of nature.
3. Why does the science approach object to a mythological and formal approach to appreciating the night sky?
4. **Explain how the science approach is supported by the “analogy with art argument”. Exactly what is that argument?
5. Does the science approach claim that scientific knowledge is sufficient for appropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature? Does it claim such knowledge is necessary?
6. Explain why the post modern approach undermines the role of aesthetics in environmental policy. Now explain why the science approach does not. Use the wetland example to illustrate this.
7. Explain several reasons why proponents of the science approach believe it will lead to better environmental protection.
8. Explain the doctrine of “positive aesthetics.” Does this idea make sense for art? Explain one argument in support of positive aesthetics. Identify some alleged counterexamples to positive aesthetics and assess their merit.
9. Explain some of the objections to the science based approach that Parsons considers (as well as the responses). Do you think these objections are successful?
Questions on Parsons, Ch 5: Pluralism
1. What is “pluralism” and what does the pluralist think about the science, formalist and post-modern approaches?
2. Explain pluralism’s “multiple perspective approach.”
3. Explain the difference between moderate and robust pluralism.
4. Explain the “engagement failure” of formalism.
5. Explain the “emotional arousal” view of nature appreciation
6. What are some examples of disrespectful aesthetic responses to nature according to moderate pluralism (and why are they disrespectful)?
7. What is robust pluralism? How does it live up to the idea that we should appreciate nature on its own terms? How is it different from post-modernism? What sorts of appreciations does robust pluralism rule out and why?
8. In what way is pluralism “egalitarian?” Need it be?
9. Does the science approach show greater respect for nature than the other approaches to the aesthetic appreciation of nature? Why does Parsons suggest it does?
10. Is a science based aes response “deeper/richer” aesthetic response than an emotional arousal or formalist response to nature?
Questions on Parsons, Ch 6: Nature and the Disembodied Aesthetic
1. What is the traditional definition of an aesthetic quality? In what way is it “disembodied?” Which senses does it use? Is physical distance relevant?
2. Why does nature become a “sub-optimal” object of aesthetic appreciation if one accepts the disembodied aesthetic.
3. What is he aesthetics of engagement? What does the “aesthetics of engagement” say about nature as sub-optimal for aesthetic appreciation and more generally about the “traditional definition of aesthetics”?
4. What are some examples of art appreciation that allegedly require “engagement?”
5. What are some examples of engaged nature appreciation?
6. What is the role of thought in the aes of engagement?
7. Which explains aes appreciation of art better, aes of engagement or the traditional disembodied aesthetic?
8. What are some of the criticism of the aes of engagement? Do you agree with them? Is such a view of nature appreciation useful for aesthetic preservationism (=preserving nature for aesthetic reasons)? Is it respectful of nature?
9. Is sex an aesthetic experience? What would these two conceptions of aesthetics say about this?
10. Does Parsons think nature is an optimal object of aes appreciation? If nature is sub-optimal, does he think that lessens its worth and value as an aesthetic object?
Questions on Parsons, Ch 7: Aesthetic Preservationism
1. What is the difference between preservation and conservation?
2. Define aesthetic preservationism (=AP). Distinguish between various ways of viewing the importance of aesthetics in environmental preservation.
3. Explain the difference between aesthetics as a motive to preserve nature and as a reason to preserve it.
4. Give an example were there is a conflict between preserving beauty in nature and preserving nature’s wildness (degree of lack of human influence on it).
5. Are AP and post modern approach compatible?
6. Is aesthetic valuing of nature intrinsic or instrumental? What is the difference? Describe both sides of this dispute.
7. ? Is aesthetic value response dependent? Is it a human value? Is aesthetic value of nature anthropocentric? In what sense yes/no
8. What advantage does a preservationism based on aesthetics have over preservationism based on ethics (according to Parsons?). What might aesthetics include that ethical consideration might leave out? Do glaciers have interests (a good of their own) that we ethically must consider?
9. Explain the difference between strong and weak AP. What are arguments for and against each version?
10. Is aesthetic value a trivial value? Is aesthetics a weak defense of nature protection? Is it weak compared to reasons for nature destruction such as jobs, profits, etc?
11. Is nature (always, often, sometimes only) more aesthetically valuable than the human developments that replace it? Why does this matter for AP?
Questions on Robinson and Elliott’s “Environmental Aesthetics and Public Environmental Philosophy”
1. What role do they believe aesthetics of environment can play in environmental policy decisions?
2. What is aesthetic integrity? How does it relate to formalists idea of aes character of nature? How does it relate to env integrity? Do historical and cultural dimensions of an environment play a role?
3. Give examples of activities that compromise aesthetic integrity and explain how they do this
4. What is a sense of place? How is it related to aesthetic integrity? How might they conflict? How does sense of place relate to human well being?
5. What are the two moral rights that Robinson/Elliott argue are associated with sense of place? Do people have a right to live in a beautiful environment (on their view)?
6. What is their “umbrella lesson” about AI? In what way does AI function as an “umbrella device?” What role do they think AI can play in policy debates and how important do they consider AI in comparison to other reasons for env protection?
7. What do the authors say about the importance of objectivity in judgements of aesthetic integrity (env aesthetics)? Do you agree?
Questions on Parsons, Ch 9, Art in Nature
1. What is Parsons’ definition of env art? Is Ansel Adams photography env art on this definition?
2. What is Parsons’ main criticism of env art? Does he object to it because it causes serious env harm?
3. Explain with examples the notion of an “aesthetic affront.” Explain why and how Parsons thinks env art is an aes affront to nature.
4. How does Parsons use the example of Duchamp’s LHOOQ to make his criticism of env art?
5. How does Parson respond to the argument that env art that is temporary is ethically unproblematic.
6. What are the three reasons (“mitigating factors”) that Parson’s considers which weaken the charge that env art is an aesthetic affront to nature?
7. How does Parsons use his living room example to respond to this defense of env art?
8. How does Parsons respond to the defense of env art that such art is necessary as a way to help protect the planet?
9. What is Parsons’ response to the argument that one can only insult/affront persons, not mindless entities like nature?
10. How does Parsons respond to the claim that if env art is an aes affront to nature, so too are agriculture and home building?
11. Explain why Parsons approves or disapproves of environmental art. Do you agree with him?