Questions for Senior Seminar on Natural Beauty
1. What is “aesthetic preservationsim” (you might distinguish several versions)? What are some arguments for it (e.g., Janna Thompson, Fisher/Hettinger) and some arguments against it (e.g., Rob Loftis)? Evaluate these arguments from your own perspective. Is aesthetic preservationism a useful approach? Why or why not?
2. What is “positive aesthetics?” Distinguish between different versions of the doctrine (e.g., Hettinger, Parsons). 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, Budd). 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. Discuss the debate over objectivity in environmental aesthetics. Distinguish between various conceptions of “objectivity” (e.g., Carlson, Hepburn, Hettinger, Fisher, Thompson, Moore). Explain what a position that rejects objectivity in nature appreciation would claim instead. Describe and evaluate some arguments in favor of objectivity (e.g., Carlson, Hepburn, Hettinger, Thompson). Now describe and evaluate some arguments against objectivity (e.g., Walter, Fisher, Budd). What is your own view on the possibility (actuality?) of objectivity in environmental aesthetics and what reasons can you offer in support of it.
4. 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. (Thinkers relevant here include Carlson, Heyd, Stecker, Matthews, Brady, and Fudge.)
5. What role should/can emotion play in the aesthetic appreciation of nature? Does nature have expressive qualities (what are expressive qualities, can nature express emotion)? How is this possible? Are emotions cognitive? Can they be objective? Give examples in your response. What role do you think emotion should play in the aesthetic appreciation of nature? (Thinkers relevant here include Carroll and Brady.)
6. What role should/can imagination play in the aesthetic appreciation of nature? Describe (using examples) ways imagination might play a role in the aesthetic appreciation of nature. How (and why) might one put limits on the free reign of imagination in the appreciation of nature (e.g., Brady, Moore)? What are some criticism of the role of imagination in the appreciation of nature (e.g., Eaton, Fudge)? What is your own view of the role of imagination in the aesthetic appreciation of nature?
7. Is it appropriate to appreciate nature in ways we appreciate art? What are some considerations on each side of this issue (e.g., Hepburn’s discussion of differences between nature and art appreciation, Carlson’s discussion of the landscape model of nature appreciation, Stecker’s views on the impressionistic and landscape model of nature appreciation, Thompson’s justification of the aesthetic value of great works of art and great works of nature, Moore’s rejection of the “dogma of their independence”).
8. Discuss the relationships between aesthetic appreciation, intrinsic valuing, and pleasure. Does aesthetic appreciation reduce to (or require) pleasure? Does aesthetic value reduce to (or require)pleasure? Is aesthetic appreciation of nature (or art?) intrinsic or instrumental? Is it anthropocentric? Is it anthropogenic? Do answers to some of these questions affect answers to others? (In thinking about this question, you might review Beardsley’s definition of aesthetic value, Goldman’s “The Aesthetic” and “The experiential account of aesthetic value” and O’Neill’s “The Varieties of Intrinsic Value.”)
9. Are pollution sunsets beautiful? Why or why not? What issues are at stake in answering this question?
10. What is the scenery cult? What are the criticism of it? Are they legitimate?
11. Describe and evaluate formalism in the aesthetic appreciation of nature (e.g., Zangwill).
12. What is disinterestedness in nature appreciation and how is it related (or not) to engagement (Brady)