Emily Brady, "Imagination and the Aes App of Nature," JAAC 1998

November 22, 2004


  1. What guides aes app of nature given that-unlike art-it lacks an "artistic context?"
    1. Nat objects lack maker/artist, artistic intention, and artistic context: type of artwork (painting or sculpture), style (cubist or surrealist), body of artwork
  2. Two responses: Science-based approach and non-science based approach
  3. Paper shows science approach (Carlson's) is flawed
  4. Defends a non-sci approach to guiding aes app of nature that makes perception/imagination central

SCI BASE APPROACH (Carlson, Eaton, Rolston?)

  1. Sci kn guides our aes app of nature
  2. Kn of nat sci (and commonsense predecessors/analogues) replaces artistic context in our app of nature
  3. Walton: To perceive art correctly, need to app in correct cat, and to do this need kn of art history/criticism
    1. E.g., If app Van Gogh as post impressionist (correctly) it appears lively; app it (falsely) as German expressionism (appear dull, sedate)
  4. Carlson thinks there are correct cats for appro app of nature also
    1. Whale a mammal not fish and need to see it as a mammal to appreciate its gracefulness (an aes property); otherwise might think it clumsy


  1. One: Sci knowledge (=kn) is not necessary for appro app of nature
  2. Brady's wave counter example to Carlson's claim that sci is nec
    1. Can app perfect curve of the wave, rushing white foam of wave crashing on sand, w/o knowing how waves are caused
    2. Judgement that it is spectacular/exhilarating can depend solely on app of perceptual qual and associations or feelings that give meaning to these qualities
  3. Brady on role of kn in aes app
    1. Not embracing formalism that makes kn irrelevant to aes
    2. All sorts of kn may be appro, depending on object:
      1. Cultural narratives of history, rel, or folklore
        1. Similar to Heyd
    3. Such kn can expand app as the backdrop of an aes response or can be more actively fed into
  4. But kn is not always essential to app and can even be harmful
  5. Also sci knowledge can impede attention to these qual and divert aes attention

  1. Two: Unclear that Carlson's mode of nature app is aes
    1. She thinks he turns aes concerns into ecological/sci ones
  1. Seems odd to say sci kn is essential for app nature aesthetically
    1. Sci good for app involving curiosity, wonder, awe, but is it nec for perceiving aes qualities?
      1. Why think aes app is limited to perceiving aes qualities as opposed to appreciating them? Science helps us do that (appreciate them)
      2. Why are awe and wonder not aesthetic, or even curiosity for that matter?
  2. Brady has restrictive view of aesthetic?
    1. Wants to make sure aes stays distinct
      1. This is something Eaton explicitly denies

  3. Three: Brady's critique of Carlson's appeal to sci for objectivity so as to help aes play a role in policy disputes
    1. True, appeal to sci gives him objectivity
      1. E.g., can dismiss negative aes responses to swamps that are based on ignorance of the ecological values they serve
    2. But does so by making aes no different from other env. values (ecological ones) (by reducing aes to ecology)
    3. So aes gets no distinctive role/voice in env. policy


  1. Brady's desiderata for aes app of nature
    1. Guide app in absence of artistic context given nature's indeterminacy
    2. Provide aes judge not merely subjective
      1. Interesting that Brady who stresses imagination and Carroll who stresses emotion both agree with Carlson that we must avoid an "anything goes" subjective type of aes app of nature
    3. Dist aes value from other values
    4. Not excessively restrict aes response
    5. Carlson handles b only, not a nor c nor d
      1. If take Carlson's weak kn requirement, can't handle a.
      2. If take Carlson's strong kn then can't handle c or d

  1. Features/Strengths of Brady's view
  2. One: Uses familiar aes resources that makes aes distinctive
    1. Stresses perception, imagination, and disinterestedness
      1. (I guess sci kno is not familiar idea for aes?)
    2. Perception and imagination provide a framework that is clearly aesthetic and makes it distinguishable from other env. values (ecological, historical, cultural) (unlike Carlson's reliance on ecology)
    3. Im and perception facilitate aesthetic rather than intellectual attention
    4. She is suggesting that intellectual stuff is not part of aesthetics? That if one is thinking conceptually about an aes object, one is not engaged in aes app?
    5. Disinterestedness: aes app must not be utilitarian, that is, involve an instrumental appraisal (e.g., that tree would make good firewood, or a good tree fort)
      1. Does Eaton's requirement that aes app of nature serve env. protection violate this disinterestedness criterion of Brady's?
  3. Two: Brady's view (unlike Carlson's) is not elitist; expert judgment not required
    1. Brady's view (unlike Carlson's) doesn't require specific kn of percipient
    2. Non-experts may participate in env. decision making:
    3. Local inhabitants, visitors, developers, local gov. can participate w/o sci kn
    4. Avoids idea that only experts have appro aes app (as on Carlson's view)

  4. Brady thinks imagination (=im) works in four ways in aes app nature
    1. Exploratory, projective, ampliative, and revelatory modes

  6. Tree example: See deep clefts in thick ridges of bark of a tree (exploratory im)
    1. Images of mountains and valleys come to mind
    2. Think of age of the tree given thickness of the ridges
      1. Is she aware of thought's role here?
    3. Images of seasoned old man with deep wrinkles comes to mind
    4. Response is aes judgment of tree as stalwart
    5. Respect it as wise old sage

  7. Projective Im: Adding on to what is perceived
    1. What is actually there is added to, replaced with, or overlaid by a projected image
    2. Deliberate seeing as: intentionally, not mistakenly, see something as another thing
    3. Examples
    4. Projecting geometric patterns onto stars
    5. Projecting ourselves into natural object:
  8. Alpine flower example: In app alpine flower, might imagine what it is like to live under such harsh conditions and this allows her to app the remarkable strength hidden so beautifully in the delicate flower
    1. Lots of kn here
  1. Sea pebble: In contemplating smoothness of a sea peddle, I visualize the relentless surging of ocean as it shaped pebble and imagine how looked before became smooth
    1. This involves thought and sci knowledge
  2. White mussel shell on gravel bar in Maine is thrilling; think of the gull that brought it here, the rain, sun that bleached it there
    1. Again sci kn involved
  3. Imagining the cold icy feeling of glaciers that carved out the valley's form
    1. This involves sci kn; she does tie it to feeling.
  4. Innocence in lamb example (revelatory im --how imagination can reveal aes truths)
    1. Quick glance at lamb reveals little except its sweetness
    2. Fuller perception and im lead to truth about innocence
    3. Fresh whiteness of lamb and its small fragile stature evokes images of purity and naivete
    4. Dwelling on such natural things brings insight


  1. For Brady, not any imaginative response is appropriate
    1. She hopes to retain sufficient objectivity in aes appreciation of nature for aesthetics to be useful in policy disputes
    2. She is worried about the following objection
  2. Objection: Imagination likely to cause incorrect/inappropriate responses by trivializing
    1. Im leads to an exp that is too unpredictable, arbitrary, and prone to fantasy to guide appro aes app of nature
  3. Brady says need to know when to clip the wings of imag
    1. Prevent shallow, naive, sentimental imagining responses that impoverish rather than enrich app
      1. Eaton claims need (sci) knowledge of object to know how to do this
  4. E.g., Imaging lamb dressed up in baby clothes might underline aes truth of innocence, but it is sentimental and shallow and fails to direct app appro
  5. Imaginings are inappropriate when:
  6. One: They are irrelevant imaginings
    1. Cliff example; Awe struck by dramatic sheer drop to sea of English high cliff
      1. Feeling heightened by kn that this is a favorite suicide spot
      2. Notice this is kn, but cultural kn, related to natural object
      3. Imagining feeling of jumping off cliff and fear of someone standing there accentuates the sublimity of the place (appro imag)
      4. Irrelevant to aes app of cliff if one imagined possibilities--like financial difficulties--that might serve as motive to jump
      5. For it takes attention away from the perceptual object?
  7. Two: Im that indulge percipient in personal fantasy and self indulgence
  8. Three: Imag used to manipulate aes object for own pleasure-seeking ends
    1. ?Imagine a picture frame around a landscape
  1. Four: Avoid imagination that leads to aes app that instrumentalizes nature
    1. Fantasizing about # of see shells I might collect if waves not so big
    2. Violates disinterestedness requirement, because it is instrumental
  2. In general, arbitrary and self-interested imaginings are precluded and this makes it easier to settle disputes in deliberative process
    1. Eaton suggests that can't rule out imag as arbitrary unless bring in cognitive component such as the one Carlson uses


  1. Seeing imag as a virtue, imagine well, skillfully and appro according to context
    1. Like keen and slack perception, so too imag can be used effectively or ineffectively
    2. Effective imag is exercised according to demands of aes object
      1. Eaton says that need cog component to do this.
    3. This one checks irrelevant imaginings


  1. Disinterestedness insures that aes app is nonpractical and noninstrumental
    1. Eliminates danger of self indulgence in imagining
  2. No tension between active engagement of imag and disinterestedness
    1. Disinterestedness not entail cool distanced detachment, but requires detachment from self-interest and so allows for active aes response
    2. By freeing mind from self interested and instrumental concerns disinterestedness checks thoughts or imaginings that stray from an aes focus
    3. E.g., Fantasizing about # of sea shells I might collect if waves not so big
      1. Inappro im as involves self-indulgence