Noel Carroll

"On Being Moved by Nature: Between Religion and Natural History" (1993)


 1.      Being moved by nature (=BMBN) involves

          a.      Being emotionally aroused by nature

          b.      Letting nature put you in an emotional state

 2.      Examples of BMBN

          a.      Standing under a waterfall and being excited by its grandeur

          b.      Walking barefoot through the woods and feeling homeyness

          c.      Being taken by the grace of deer as they vault over a stream

 3.      BMBN is

          a.      A common appreciative response to nature

          b.      More visceral, less intellectual than Carlson's natural history model (what Carlson calls his “Natural Environmental Model”)

                    i.       Carlson seems committed to idea professional knowledge required for (best?) appreciation of nature

          c.      A non-scientific arousal

                    i.       Even though its emotional component has a cognitive dimension that permits objectivity, this dimension does not involve systematic common sense or scientific knowledge

 4.      Allen Carlson unfairly excludes BMBN as a legitimate way to aesthetically appreciate nature

          a.      Although BMBN is a less informed, (even) naive emotional response, it is acceptable one

          b.      Would Carlson say it wasn't acceptable (or appropriate) or would he agree that it is naive and simply claim it is shallow appreciation?

 5.      Uninformed emotional arousal possible and acceptable in both art and nature appreciation

          a.      One can appreciate art appropriately and be emotionally aroused w/o knowledge of genre/style/relevant art history (p. 253 original)

          b.      A legitimate alternative to appreciate response of informed connoisseur

 6.      Examples

          a.      Children can be amused w/o knowing tradition or place among artistic genres of Commedia dell'arte

                             i.       Might Carlson argue that such arousal is appropriate for children, but childish or at least naïve, unsophisticated, shallow for adults?

                             ii.      Those of us who know nothing about this genre and are bewildered by it, might think it looks funny but this would be a shallow uniformed response

                    b.      Can appreciate insult in Duchamp's fountain w/o knowing details of art history

                             i.       But doesn't one have to know something about art history?

                    c.      Man Ray's "Gift" (iron with nails on bottom): Can appreciate the dark humor and realize the object is at odds with itself w/o knowing its place in Dada and art history context


 7.      Carroll is a pluralist: More than one appropriate way to appreciate nature (Carlson a monist, or a pluralist with a definite ranking)

          a.      Carlson's naturalist's appreciation of nature is one proper way to appreciate nature, but so is arousal model (even object model can be appropriate sometimes p. 253, original)

 8.      BMBN and naturalist's appreciation can come together

          a.      BMBN can be due to naturalist's knowledge

          b.      Examples

                    i.       Glaciers seen as rivers of ice

                    ii.      Pitcher plants being carnivorous

                    iii.    Crane: “Our appreciation for the crane grows with the slow unraveling of earthly history. His tribe, we now know, stems out of the remote Eocene. The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills. When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our unatamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men. Aldo Leopold, Mashland Elergy

 9.      But BMBN need not be due to naturalist's knowledge

          a.      Can stand on its own



 11.    How Carroll's BMBN solves problem of aesthetic focus (the what and how to appreciate questions) w/o relying on natural history

 12.    Rejects Carlson's science by elimination argument for natural history as what must determine focus for aesthetic appreciation of nature

          a.      Carlson’s science by elimination argument: Problem of aes focus: what relevant? What focus on? In art, artistic categories provide focus. Using art categories for nature would be inappropriate. So must be natural science categories that allow us to focus nature appreciation. For what else could do this?

 13.    Carroll says in BMBN aes focus fixed naturally (by our human nature and natural saliences) in the process of emotional arousal

          a.      There are natural frames (caves, canyons) and natural saliences (sounds)

          b.      Given the kinds of beings we are with the senses we have

          c.      Our attention will be directed to certain things and not others (e.g., sounds of the water)

          d.      This requires no particular cultural information (and specifically not scientific information)

          e.      Some emotional arousals bred in the bone and not culturally based



 15.    Carroll's BMBN allows for objectivity in aes appreciate of nature (as does Carlson's)

          a.       Carroll thinks all acceptable views about nature appreciate must explain possibility of objectivity

 16.    Carroll thinks aesthetic judgments such as the "Tetons are majestic" are objective (and true?)

 17.    Agrees that bringing in science as Carlson does gets you objectivity

          a.      E.g., Whale not a clumsy fish but an impressive mammal

 18.    But can get objectivity w/o science (w/o seeing nature appreciation as a type of natural history) and even with an emotion-based account of appreciation like Carroll’s

 19.    BMBN can account for appropriateness and objectivity of emotions (257-258 in original)

          a.      As an emotional state, BMBN is appropriate or not

 20.    Appropriateness is the truth of emotions

          a.      Thinking it funny when a dog is hit by a car is an inappropriate emotional response

          b.      Laughing at Munch's The Scream is an inappropriate emotional response

 21.    Emotions are cognitive (they are underpinned by beliefs, thoughts and patterns of attention)

 22.     Emotions are directed at objects

 23.    Some emotions appropriately directed at some objects and others not

          a.      Fear of oncoming tank (appropriate)

                    i.       Assuming you believe it is dangerous

          b.      Fear of chicken soup (inappropriate)

                    i.       Unless you believe it is poisoned

 24.    Emotions are appropriate/inappropriate for individuals depending on the individual's beliefs about their objects

 25.    Emotions are objective when

          a.      They are appropriate given the person’s beliefs

          b.      The beliefs underlying the emotion are ones reasonable for others to share


 26.    Emotions directed at nature can be objective (or not) (p. 258 original)

          a.      Being excited by the grandeur of something (e.g., Tetons) one believes is of large scale is appropriate

          b.      If the belief in its large scale is reasonable for others to hold, it is an objective emotional arousal (not subjective, distorted, or wayward)

          c.      Person who says Tetons are not of a large scale is either

                    i.        Irrational

                    ii.      Has wrong comparison class (Tetons are not large scale because they are tiny compared to the Galaxy)

          d.      Person who says they are large scale but not exciting has inappropriate emotional response

          e.      But consider person who grew up in the Himalayas and says the Teton's are "paltry" and is not moved by their grandeur


          f.       Other inappropriate aes responses to nature

                    i.       The person who thinks the Tetons are funny, because they look like large breasts (immature or juvenile response?)

                    ii.      Unmoved when see ocean for the first time

                    iii.     Bored by thundering waterfall crashing down on one’s head

                    iv.     Unmoved by the 10 foot wingspan of a condor           


 27.    Thus, Carroll's emotional arousal model (BMBN) can allow for objectivity in aes appreciate of nature as does Carlson's naturalists knowledge model (NEM)


 28.    False beliefs: Carroll thinks one can be appropriately moved by nature even with false beliefs about it

          a.      Contra Carlson's idea that appro appreciate of nature requires naturalist knowledge of nature

          b.      Carroll argues that knowledge needn't be relevant for even false belief is okay in aes appreciation

 29.    Examples

          a.      Excited by grandeur of size, force, water displaced of a blue whale and believe it is a fish. Not inappropriate

          b.      Moved by skeleton of T-rex and not know if it is a reptile, bird, or mammal


30.     Some worries about Carroll’s claim false beliefs okay

 31.    Notice that Carroll's examples are ones where the false belief does not influence the aesthetic response

 32.    When the false belief affects the aes response, it is not clear that the response is appropriate when based on false belief

 33.    Examples:

          a.      An awe inspiring rat or a cute woodchuck?

          b.      An awkward deer or a graceful moose?

          c.      An splendid moon or an obnoxious satellite dish

 34.    When a false belief influences an aesthetic judgment (as above) (so that we would change our aesthetic judgment once made aware of the false belief), then the aesthetic response that involves the false belief is problematic


 35.    Carroll's response to Carlson's implicit criticism that BMBN is not a deep aesthetic response

          a.      Carlson might say BMBN is not inappropriate, but rather simply a shallow, trivial, mere enjoyment of nature and not the serious, deep appreciation of naturalists (whose appreciation is informed by knowledge)

          b.      Carroll's reply: Depends on what one means by deep

          c.      If "deep" means objective (that is, not simply enjoying nature whatever way one pleases), then he has shown that BMBN has objectivity and is deep in this sense

          d.       If "deep" means time/length of appreciation, then perhaps BMBN is less deep in this sense, as naturalist appreciation can go on and on as one learns more--whereas emotional arousal ends relatively quickly

          e.      If "deep" means intensity of involvement, the BMBN is just as deep, perhaps deeper, than scientific-based app


 36.    BMBN is not some displaced religious feeling but can be explained naturalistically as built in by natural selection

          a.       Those who had positive emotional responses to environments that humans did well in (savannahs) prospered those who didn't and liked dangerous environments (jungles) didn't survive

          b.      Some aesthetic responses to nature (including BMBN) are biologically, not culturally based


 37.    BMBN is a type of aes response to nature that is "between religion and natural history"


Questions on Carroll, On Being Moved By Nature

1.      Describe Carroll’s model of nature appreciation, giving examples.

2.      What is Noel Carroll's major objection to Carlson's theory of the aesthetic appreciation of nature? Does Carroll reject the type of aesthetic appreciation of nature that Carlson is advocating? Why or why not?

3.      What is the problem of "aesthetic focus" (“the what and how question”)? How does Carlson address this problem? How does Carroll address it?

4.      Does Carroll think an uninformed emotional arousal is acceptable in both art and nature appreciation? Do you think he is right?

5.      Does Carroll think one can be appropriately emotionally aroused by a natural object about which one has false beliefs? Do you agree with him? Why or why not? Use examples.

6.      Given Carroll's account of aesthetic appreciation of nature as emotional arousal, explain how he accounts for the presence (or lack) of objectivity in nature appreciation.

7.      How does Carroll respond to the objection that being moved by nature is not a deep kind of nature appreciation, whereas Carlson’s scientific knowledge based appreciation of nature is deep.