Yuriko Saito, Aes of Unscenic Nature



2.      There is a bias in nature appreciation, toward pictorial, scenic landscapes

         a.      Show pieces, spectacular, grand nature

         b.      Entertainment by easy beauty

3.      The scenically-challenged rest of nature gets ignored

         a.      Plains, bogs, wetlands, jungles, reptiles, insects, “dead elk carcass with maggots”

         b.      Boring/tedious/repulsive

4.      But unscenic nature has aesthetic value

         a.      Subtle (modest, less aggressive) beauty

         b.      Perhaps more difficult beauty

5.      One argument for positive aesthetics is that its denial may often be based on scenery cult and prejudice for easy beauty



7.      Entertainment seeker’s challenge:

         a.      “Why can’t we just enjoy what appeals to us (nature as spectacular scenery) and forget boring landscapes and dead animals with putrid smells and maggots crawling all over them?”

8.      Cognitivist reply (Carlson)

         a.      If aesthetic judgments are going to be true, must appreciate it for what it is

         b.      Must not interpret nature as a scenic, two dimensional design (because it is not that)

         c.      Must interpret/appreciate nature with scientific categories/understanding for they describe what it is

         d.      Scientific understanding will allow for the appreciation of unscenic nature

9.      Saito thinks this cognitivist reply fails

         a.      Someone may not care about making true aesthetic judgments

         b.      Deceptive/incorrect aesthetic appreciation may be more enjoyable

         c.      Examples

                   i.       Aesthetically appreciating a painting as a non-representational design may be more pleasant and avoid arduous task of determining its symbolic content

                   ii.      Oak tree may look more exciting and interesting when viewed as a maple tree

10.    Entertainment seekers challenge to a scientific cognitivist positive aesthetics

         a.      “Entertainment seekers who pursue any path to get aesthetic kicks, no matter how misguided”

         b.      Cognitive concerns don’t bother them

         c.      They don’t care how wrong they get it

         d.      Just want aesthetic enjoyment

         e.      Have no interest in trying to appreciate scenically-challenged nature

11.    Saito’s moral response to (critique of) entertainment seekers

         a.      They act morally inappropriately

         b.      We should (morally) let nature speak in own terms (via science/natural history?)

         c.      They refuse to experience art/nature on own terms

         d.      Refuse to put aside their own agendas

12.    Entertainment seekers engaged in selfishness, self-absorption, and disrespect

13.    Appreciators ought to approach aesthetic object with due respect

         a.      Give aesthetic object a chance to tell its story

                   i.       Art invites us to visit an often unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable world and “enter into other forms of relationship and participation than our own”

                   ii.      So to with nature

         b.      Our willingness to understand its origin, structure, function, shows we are willing to recognize its own reality

14.    Why should we drop the demand for easy beauty, for aesthetic pleasure, and try to appreciate unscenic nature?

         a.      Because it is morally important not to treat nature solely as a visual resource for our enjoyment

         b.      “Ought not to tour national parks for a view, as if nature that can’t serve us ought to at least please us” (Rolston)

         c.      Respect for nature’s intrinsic value requires listening to its own story

                   i.       And not treating it as a mere instrument to human pleasure

15.    Issues

         a.      Is the demand to let the aesthetic object present itself a moral demand or an aesthetic one? (Or both?)

         b.      Fisher’s “guidance by the object requirement” similar to Saito’s let nature tell its own story idea?

         c.      The immorality here could be

                   i.       Disrespect for nature’s intrinsic value and autonomous reality (deontological)

                   ii.      Failure in virtue; a vice to be so self-absorbed can’t let the aesthetic object direct your attention.



17.    Example: How aesthetically appreciate a elk carcass with maggots?

18.    Rolston’s response is to contextualize

         a.      View natural object in larger context and see role it plays in the drama and struggle for life and the sustenance of ecosystems

         b.      Look at is as part of a whole

19.    Saito’s reply to Rolston’s response

         a.      One: Unclear what the aesthetic object is suppose to be for Rolston

                   i.       Entire ecosystem, rather than the individual carcass?

                            (1)    “The whole motion picture”

                   ii.      Since ecosystems are tied into global ecosystem, is Rolston saying that the global ecosystem is the only legitimate object of nature appreciation and not the individual pieces of nature?

                   iii.     Also we can’t perceive whole ecosystems

         b.      Two: Even if we agree that the whole of which it is a part is beautiful, that doesn’t mean the part is

                   i.       Fallacy of division: (False idea that parts must have properties of whole)

                            (1)    That a person is beautiful doesn’t mean every piece of him/her is

                            (2)    That a dog is fast doesn’t mean a dog’s tail is fast

20.    Cognitive information is relevant to aesthetic appreciation only when it is triggered by the sensuous surface and is brought back to that surface to illuminate it

         a.      If beauty is cognitive beauty of the entire system, then unless that beauty affects the perception of the parts, then perception of the individual item seems irrelevant

         b.      Knowledge of whole has to be brought back and fused with perception of sensuous surface

                   i.       E.g., Viewing the wiggling maggots as work crew doing the labor of recycling

21.    Considerations in favor of positive aesthetics of nature based on disanalogy art and nature appreciation

         a.      Art can be aesthetically negative because

                   i.       Story might be told well, but morally repulsive story (Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, story about child abuse)

                   ii.      Story poorly told

         b.      Nature can’t be aesthetic negative in these ways

                   i.       Nature is amoral, so can’t morally object to content of the story nature tells

                            (1)    But we could object to the content for non-moral reasons

                                      (a)    E.g., We might intensely disvalue (and be repulsed by) the pain/suffering involved predation

                   ii.      All of nature’s stories are interesting

                            (1)    “I can’t think of any stories of nature which are uninteresting or trivial”

                            (2)    “No matter how seemingly insignificant, uninteresting or repulsive at first sight, natural history and ecological sciences reveals the marvelous works of every part of nature” (105)

                                      (a)     A defense of positive aesthetics: “Making it plausible that every part of nature is aes positive”

                   iii.     Are the all equally interesting?

                            (1)    “Weeds in the city lot convey same lesson as the redwoods” (Leopold)

                            (2)    “All of nature necessarily reveals the natural order....all nature is equally appreciable” (Carlson)

                            (3)    Saito: May be different degrees of nature’s skill in telling these stories

                                      (a)     But the stories are equally interesting?

                                      (b)    Plausible?



         a.      Saito’s answer is “No”

         b.      For two reasons

23.    One: Some aesthetic appreciation of nature is psychologically impossible (disgusting and threatening nature)

24.    Disgusting nature: Some things in nature are so annoying, repulsive, unattractive that we can’t bring ourselves to appreciate the positive aesthetic value of their story

         a.      Cockroaches, mosquitos, snakes, slugs, sharks, lions, weeds

         b.      These are pesky, gross, give one the creeps, eyesores

25.    Our negative reaction to them outweighs the positive aesthetic value of their life story

         a.      Saito considers some possible responses to this objection (experiencing these things out of place, based on cultural conditioning), but it is not clear whether she thinks they succeed

26.    Threatening nature: Some things in nature are so threatening that we can’t aesthetically appreciate them

         a.      An avalanche as it sweeps you down the slope

         b.      A bear’s hot breath as it bites into your leg

27.    Negative reaction can perhaps be overcome by distancing ourselves, taking a contemplative attitude

         a.      But distancing has aesthetic costs

                   i.       Miss sensory qualities

                   ii.      Aesthetic experience of nature involves engagement and this is lost


28.    Two: Some aesthetic appreciation of nature is morally impermissible

29.    We ought not to appreciate natural disasters that cause harm to people

         a.      Such aesthetic appreciation is morally inappropriate

         b.      “Our human oriented moral sentiments do dictate that we do not derive pleasure (including aes pleasure) from other humans’ misery, even if results from nature taking its course”

30.    What about natural processes that cause harm to animals?

         a.      E.g., predation?