Thomas Heyd,

“Aesthetic Appreciation and the Many Stories about Nature

British Journal of Aesthetics 2001


1.      Heyd’s interpretation of Carlson

         a.      Proper aes appreciation of nature requires science

         b.      Science is the primary story that informs or should inform out aes of nature



2.      One: Knowing the history (origin, aetiology) of art/nature is neither necessary nor sufficient for (proper, best, better, any kind of?) aes appreciation

3.      Art history not necessary for art appreciation

4.      Potted art history

         a.      By which he seems to mean (mindlessly?) slamming artworks into art categories

         b.      Can’t tell us if a work is

                   i.       Innovative

                   ii.      Has strengths other works lack

         c.      Can’t help us appreciate contemporary (avant garde and anti-art) art (for they do not belong to any of these categories?)

         d.      Are these claims true?

                   i.       To know if something is new, need to know the old; need knowledge for comparison

                   ii.      Isn’t knowledge of the contemporary art scene crucial for appreciation avant garde art?

5.      Is Heyd’s a critique of straw man view of role art history/categories in the appreciation of art?

         a.      As if all we are supposed to do is place the work in a category

         b.      Claims it is like reading label on wine bottle or reading bio-note on wall next to a painting

         c.      Consider Matthews claim that we must perceive the aesthetic object under the relevant category, as belonging to that category


6.      Heyd thinks art appreciation requires

         a.      Long searching exposure to many works

         b.      Conversation with others about criteria of evaluation

         c.      Personal reflection on significance of work’s style and execution

         d.      Doesn’t study of art history, art criticism, trends in the art world help greatly with these?

7.      While origin of aes object is not fundamental to its appreciation for Heyd, attentive perception & experience of aes object, sensitive sensory attention is

         a.      Yes perception is crucial, but perhaps so is understanding and cognition and knowing origin


8.      Information about origin of nature not necessary nor sufficient (or important?) for aes appreciation of it

         a.      For example: One can thoroughly enjoy a strand of trees in meadow w/o knowing

                   i.       Its evolutionary history (ancient lineage began with dinosaurs)

                   ii.      Taxonomy (that it is in the same family as an extinct species)

                   iii.     Its individual development (that lightening hit that tree)

9.      Here Heyd seems to accept idea that aes appreciation = enjoyment/pleasure


10.    Two: Scientific knowledge can be neutral or harmful to aes appreciation of nature (so science is not sufficient for aes appreciation)

         a.      Preoccupation with natural history can hamper sensuous appreciation of trees (e.g., skin like, red green trunks)

11.    General reason science tends to hurt is that it focuses on universal rather than concrete

         a.      Draws us away from particular concrete character of individual aes object

         b.      This is what aes appreciation should be focused on

         c.      Science has us focus on the theoretical, general, abstract, what is common to all things of this sort

         d.      Why isn’t seeing the universal in the particular aes object good for aes appreciation?

                   i.       E.g., seeing it as member of endangered species or of an ancient lineage (Leopold’s crane)


12.    Three: Aes appreciation of nature is a unique mode of discovering what nature is (p. 129)

         a.      Thus we don’t need science

         b.      Science forces us back into set categories



13.    Aes appreciation of nature requires

         a.      Engagement

         b.      Attentive sensitive sensory attention

         c.      Keen capacity for this

         d.      Is this instead of, or in addition to, theoretical knowledge?

14.    Aes appreciation (=attentive sensory attention) is prone to fatigue

         a.      Need endurance (aesthetic endurance)

         b.      Need to enrich our aes horizons

         c.      Need contrasting aes/perceptual experience

         d.      Need to develop an agile imagination

15.    Diverse stories (“the many stories of nature”) help with all of these

         a.      For example: Bored by endless prairie, read stories about settlers in the west

16.    Artistic stories do better job of engaging ordinary people than does science

         a.      Artistic stories widen our aes community by putting us in touch with how others aes appreciate nature and this can enhance our appreciation

         b.      Examples

                   i.       Aboriginal myth of supernatural being in the land can direct our attention and get us to notice perceptual features of land missed before

                   ii.      Landscape painting can get us to pay attention to nature longer and aid in aes appreciation

                   iii.     Ancient rock art on canyon walls can lead us to wonder what plants natives used, where they got their water, where they slept

                            (1)    Note this is a search not for scientific knowledge but cultural knowledge and it’s aes appreciation of art, not nature

17.    Heyd’s goal (or at least one major one) is to increase our capacity to attend perceptually to nature

18.    Different goals Heyd/Carlson

         a.      Carlson: What information is aesthetically relevant?

         b.      Heyd: What causally helps us aes appreciate?

                   i.       Worries:

                            (1)    Whips, reward, hypnosis

                            (2)    If Ritalin helps us concentrate on art object and prevent fatigue, it is as relevant as knowledge of the art object?

                   ii.      Paul Bunyan story: The belief Paul Bunyon and his big blue ox Babe created all the lakes in Minnesota may “stimulate intense aesthetic appreciation of those lakes”; make us pay more attention to how many there are, but such information is not relevant to their proper aes appreciation

         c.      Heyd’s response: “Whether the entities referred to are credible is irrelevant if it turns out that such stories do in fact guide and mediate the aesthetic appreciation of nature”


19.    Heyd considers three objections to his position

         a.      One: Stories are subjective/false so problematic

                   i.       What matters is if they help aes appreciation

         b.      Two: Stories are cultural, so irrelevant to appreciation of pristine nature

                   i.       But science is a cultural story too

         c.      Three: Stories are value laden so distort aes app

                   i.       But science is value laden


20.    Objection One: False, subjective, non-credible stories (e.g., Paul Bunyan) are irrelevant and misleading to aes appreciation

21.    Heyd’s reply

         a.      Takes a case by case functional view of appropriate stories

         b.      If stories lead to aes appreciation of nature, besides the point if true or false, okay even if false

22.    What matters about stories/information is do they

         a.      Enrich capacities for aes appreciation?

         b.      Lead to “full flourishing of aes appreciation

         c.      Enhance aes app?

         d.      Highlight (not obscure) aes appreciable features of nature

         e.      Illuminate aes object in new and fruitful ways

23.    The wider the reach of aes appreciation of nature the better

         a.      Both for own sake as pleasurable activity

         b.      Generate interest in protecting natural world

24.    Stories/accounts that are not relevant or appropriate are ones that

         a.      Subvert full flourishing of aes appreciation

         b.      Obscure, detract/diminish aes appreciation

                   i.       E.g., “Earth a ruined refuge of fallen angels and sinful people”

                   ii.      E.g., Western European’s 17th century view that mountains/valley were “warts and pock marks” of an earth warped by God in punishment for human sin


25.    Note that Heyd does not seem to accept a pure anything-goes subjective relativist about relevant information

         a.      Not any account is legitimate


26.    Is enhancement of aes appreciation right criterion?

         a.      What if the story (corporate advertising) enhances our aes appreciation of toxic waste dumps, strip highways, industrial agriculture?

         b.      If “enhance” means “increase our positive aesthetic response,” sometimes the right aesthetic response might be a negative one

         c.      Also sometimes a false story might increase our aesthetic appreciation

                   i.       Paul Bunyan and his blue ox babe

                   ii.      Popular (but probably misleading) ecological stories about how “everything is hitched to everything else” or “delicate balance of nature” might enhance aes appreciation of nature

                            (1)    So even if it is false, if it gives us aes pleasure and helps protect the env. it is appropriate aes app?

                            (2)    But is this not inappropriate?


         d.      If the Paul Bunyon story about how his Blue Ox Babe’s hoof prints are responsible for the great number of Minnesota lakes “enhances our aesthetic appreciation of nature” by “highlighting aesthetically appreciable features of nature” (the great number and variety of lakes) then this story is relevant to and helpful in the aesthetic appreciation of nature. It seems to me Heyd has little room to distinguish appropriate from inappropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature (beyond how great or intense the appreciation is) and that he is unable to meet the requirement that appropriate appreciation of nature ought to be about how nature in fact is, rather than an appreciation of a make-believe nature