Bob Stecker (Spring 2012, Draft)

Epistemic Norms, Moral Norms and Nature Appreciation


1.      Norms that constrain appropriate aes app of nature

2.      Other norms (besides appropriateness) constrain aes app of nature

         a.      Appropriate, less appropriate, inappropriate are only one standard of better or worse

         b.      Better/worse

         c.      Correct/incorrect

         d.      Defective, deficient

         e.      Enhanced, not enhanced

         f.       Deep/significant, shallow/trivial



4.      Cognitive/epistemic

         a.      Nature ought to be cognized in certain ways

         b.      Ought to form certain beliefs rather than others

         c.      Some claim doing so will significantly constrain our aes app of nature

5.      moral

         a.      Rule out or promote certain forms of aes app of nature

         b.      A weaker claim: Are moral norms relevant too aes app of nature

         c.      If are moral norms, different types of value interact in env aes

6.      Other norms of nature app concern the appropriate objects of such appreciation

         a.      (e.g., an isolate natural object or only the object in its env context)

7.      Questions

         a.      Do these norms exist?

         b.      Do they have bearing in aes evaluative judgments?

8.      Stecker’s answer

         a.      Are weak epistemic norms of nature app

                   i.       They lack important implications sometimes associated with them

                            (1)    Namely: (1) Positive Aesthetics (2) Objectivity (3) Significance

         b.      No one has identified a moral norm that constrains aes app of nature

                   i.       Trivial counter example: One ought not to aes appreciate the funnel cloud of a tornado instead of helping the victims dying at your feet

                   ii.      Example does not show moral norms affect content or mode of aes app, but rather whether one should take the time to aes app at all


9.      Are obviously epistemic norms for understanding nature

10.    If goal to under nature’s regularities, mechanisms underlying natural processes, and explanation of natural events

11.    Science is gold standard

         a.      Common sense (currently widely-held beliefs) is somewhat reliable

         b.      Myth and religion are extremely unreliable

12.    Qualifications

         a.      Stecker moves from understanding to aes app nature.....

13.    Some knowledge that sciences don’t address that are relevant for aes app of nature

14.    Cultural facts can be relevant to appro aes app some parts of nature

         a.      E.g., fact that there is a myth about that piece of nature might enhance aes appreciation w/o one’s having to believe myth

         b.      Is this appreciating nature or the human relation to nature?

15.    Non-sci observational knowledge aes important

         a.      How mtn appears in certain season, hour, light

         b.      So here common sense knowledge is of crucial importance



17.    How do epistemic norms for knowledge of nature bear on aes judgment about nature?

         a.      Controversial

18.    Sci cog: Appro or correct way to app nature is to employ sci categories

         a.      Uses epistemic norms to formulate further norms for aes judge

                   i.       And the rational is that one needs to understand what one is appreciating to appropriately appreciate it

19.    Strong sci cog: every appreciative judgment/exp of nature is correct/appro only if it employs sci cats

         a.      Employing sci cats nec for correct/appro exp/judge nature

         b.      Counter examples to strong sci cog

                   i.       I appreciate tree for graceful limbs, delicate pastel-green leaves, elegant appearance (observation, perceptual, common sense kn)

                            (1)    An appro aes app of tree w/o employing sci categories

                            (2)    Not plausible to claim tree, limbs, leaves are sci cats

                            (3)    Note they are common sense categories

                   ii.      See Mt Fuji from passing train and aes app enhanced by knowing how rep in Japanese paining, described in literary works, or functions in psyche of Japanese

                            (1)    Cultural knowledge being used and appro, correct, enhanced

20.    Weak sci cog: For any natural object some aes judge or some app exp appro only if employ sci

         a.      Sci nec for some appro aes exp not all

         b.      Hard to give c/e to this as can’t prove that no app exp of nature would be “opened up” by some sci cat

         c.      Assume it correct


21.    3 implications of weak sci cog?

         a.      Positive aes: when employ sci cats, aes judge of pristine/inanimate nature always positive

         b.      Objective aes: when employ sci in app nature, aes judge will always be objective

         c.      Deeper, more significant: when employ sci concepts aes app of nature deeper more sig

         d.      Stecker rejects all three implications!



23.    Nature possesses only positive aes value, neg value judge incorrect (pristine, inanimate)

24.    Justification: when nature seen via lense of sci cats, will be seen as having positive aes value

25.    Weak sci cog can’t justify positive aes (for all aes judgments of nature), as it allows for a host of correct aes judge of nature that don’t use sci and these might be negative

26.    Considers restricting PA to only aes judge use sci cat

27.    Carlson’s arg that if use sci, will perceive unity, balance, harmony (and these aes positive)

         a.      Problems

         b.      (1) Only shows some aes value in nature, does not show that on balance positive

                   i.       He’s assuming that even using sci cats one may find some neg qualities

         c.      (2) Equivocates on balance, unity, harmony

                   i.       These can be (+?) aes properties but can also be non-aes (neutral aes)

                   ii.      Sci discovers such regularity only in non-aes sense

                   iii.     That balance, unity, harmony are aes neutral, can be seen when realize those properties exist in a polluted river

                   iv.     Claims that these properties (or “the aes properties that result”) are negative

                            (1)    **Why can’t balance, unity be positive and yet the other dimensions be negative?

28.    Pristine nature: In response to reply that this is not pristine nature, Stecker argues that Rolston’s rotting elk carcass is aes negative even understood sci

         a.      Rol says when contemplated within role in ecosystem, even this sight will have positive aes value

         b.      Reply

                   i.       Even if one can find aes harmony in this relationship, it still has to compete with unpleasant sights, sounds and smells of carcass

                   ii.      Rol does not show aes harmony when viewing carcass with its ecological role in mind

                            (1)    Fact carcass provides nutrients for other creatures does not itself imply aes value

                   iii.     Stecker is being unfair to the power of the passage and the experience Rolston is describing–Rolston sees the rotting carcass as part of how the world works, turning death into life and that can be aes pleasing

29.    Inanimate nature:

         a.      By limiting to inanimate nature rules out obvious counter examples, injured diseased deformed animals/plants

         b.      If beauty of organic nature depends on functional fitness and injured/diseased organisms deprives them of this fitness, then lose positive aes value

         c.      Stecker gives an example (below) of a tidal mud flat that some find unaesthetic and if this works, then even pristine inorganic natural objects are not invariably positive aesthetically



31.    When we employ sci concepts our aes judgments will always be objective

32.    Stecker: Sci cog is neutral between objectivist, subjectivist or expressivist conceptions of aes judge

33.    Tidal basin example

         a.      High tide aes positive

         b.      Low tide, mud covered and harder to appreciate

         c.      Can app it if understand what looking at

         d.      If one falsely believes it’s a permanently muddy beach, and so simply ugly

         e.      Plausible to say something wrong, criticizable about judge of ugliness, as based on a misconception of object of judgement

                   i.       Assigning properties to object does not have

                   ii.      Ignoring others it does have

                   iii.     Base judge on misconception

34.    Compatible with any meta-aes theory except anything goes

         a.      Anything goes means one can never be mistaken or never criticized for one’s aes response/judgment

35.    Sophisticated subjectivism

         a.      Are constraints on appro aes judge

                   i.       Rule out a class of inappropriate judgments

         b.      Deny that this leads to convergence in judgments

                   i.       So his def of objectivity is convergence in judgments?

         c.      Aes judge report positive/neg experiences of appreciators

         d.      So appropriate non-converging judgements

36.    Expressivist accounts

         a.      Aes judge express rather then report aes attitudes toward objects

         b.      Some attitudes expressed can be impugned

                   i.       Not clear how this is suppose to work

                   ii.      How impugn them as they are not false (they have no truth value)

                   iii.     I guess idea is that if one has a pile of false bel about what one is emoting about, those emotions can not be merited

         c.      Non-converging other expressions can be appropriate

37.    Couple with full sci kn (one finds dull, other stirring)

         a.      Both know what a tidal basin is, that seeing it a low tide, what life forms live in the mud, and their roles in ecology of basin

         b.      One might fully understand tidal basin sci, and find experience of mud flats that emerge at low tide uninspiring–and expressed negative aes attitude toward the mud flats

                   i.       This is a statement about the person’s reaction

                   ii.      Might find flats visually dull in color and topography

         c.      Another also with same sci knowledge

                   i.       May discover patterns of color

                   ii.      Be stirred by minor variations of non-aes properties (color and topography) perceived as signs of life that lies below

                   iii.     Enjoy sight of claim diggers ankle deep in mud

                   iv.     Enjoy constantly change but life-sustaining appearance of the basin over the period of a day (sci cognitive dimension)

38.    Worries/issues

39.     Not clear to me he needs subj, expressive stuff for he’s got divergence in an example

         a.      He’s ruled out anything goes, so gets a degree of objectivity or constraint

         b.      And then with example he thinks he shows that sci cog does not give us a unique answer

         c.      And if that is what objectivity is, then he’s shown it does not always exist with sci

         d.      He does not need the subj/expressivist/obj distinction

         e.      Conflating different senses of objectivity?

                   i.       Convergence in judge, with

                   ii.      Judgment about the object, rather than about the subject (subjectivism) or no judge, but expression of feeling (expressivism)

         f.       It is a good point that to rule out anything goes does not

                   i.       Force you into convergence, universality

                   ii.      Force you into aes judgments about fact about objects

         g.      And lots of times Carlson says “a measure of objectivity” not “objectivity” and that sci rules out anything goes, gives you that measure (though other bases of aes judgement might also rule out anything goes–namely Brady’s constraints on imagination)

40.    That one finds it dull (or other stirring) does not mean that it is appropriate to aes respond that way

         a.      But I guess one might have to make that case

         b.      And question is whether it is the sci knowledge that can be used as the basis for claiming that one is inappropriate

41.    Does the one who finds it dull, focus only on forms (needs great color variation or great topographic variation?)

         a.      Is this person insisting on easy beauty while the other is able to appreciate more subtle beauty?

42.    Moral of example

         a.      He claims to neither be affirming or denying

                   i.       nature possesses objective aesthetic properties (is this one version of objectivist claim?)

                   ii.      One has a better take on aes of tidal basin

         b.      Point is that sci cog may show some aes judge incorrect/faulty, this leave open which meta-aes account of such judgements should be preferred



44.    Arg for why sci app more deep/sig

         a.      Sig properties explained nature of the object

                   i.       But sig relative to purpose/context

                   ii.      Not one sig property

         b.      Most aes sig properties explain fundamental aes character of object

                   i.       But no fund aes character for many natural objects

                   ii.      Perhaps small stationary objects (like night blooming flower) has fundamental aes character

                   iii.     But not lake Michigan

                            (1)    too large and changing (season, weather, time of day, from what perspective?)

                            (2)    No stable aes character

                   iv.     Not Grand Canyon

                            (1)    May have fairly stable important aes properties

                                      (a)     awesomeness from either bottom or top

                                                (i)     Sci adds to this temporal vastness

                            (2)    Still no sig aes character as it does change

                            (3)    No aes character per se

                            (4)    Does have persisting properties that constitute character of almost any experience of them

                   v.      Debate about aes sig

                            (1)    Fundamental general stable features most sig

                            (2)    Appearance in moment with as much specificity a s possible

                            (3)    Painting example

         c.      Formal properties don’t explain fundamental character

                   i.       Stecker believes they are part of this character

         d.      Sci sig properties (or aes properties supervene on them) do explain fundamental aes character

         e.      Aes app of more sig when app aes sig properties

         f.       Aes app of nature more sig when use Sci concepts


45.    Ned’s restatement of argument

46.    Sci based aes app is more significant as it focuses on the most significant properties of the aes object and gets at its fundamental character

         a.      Stecker objects that sig if purpose/context relative

         b.      Rejects/worries about idea that natural items have fundamental aes character                           


47.    Stecker’s view of role of knowledge (P. 15, A Proposal)

48.    Endorses weak sci cog but not supposed implications (PA, objectivity and significance)

49.    Accepts general view that some kn is required for appro/correct app/judge of nature

         a.      Sci cog is a more specific version of this

50.    Required knowledge is enough to identify a sufficiently determinate object of aes judgment

51.    Examples

         a.      If mistake a stick for a bird and say that is a beautiful bird (and not willing to say it is a beautiful stick)

                   i.       Aes judge is factually incorrect, hence incorrect

                   ii.      But if one is talking about aes appreciation/response, not aes judgment, is it still inappropriate if one appreciates it as a beautiful bird? (It’s not incorrect as no judgment)

         b.      If say that is a beautiful birch (and it is a beech), incorrect judgment

         c.      If say beautiful tree (because one falsely believes it’s a birch), one’s judgment is true, correct/appro even though based on false bel

         d.      If say (of a whale) that is a beautiful animal because one believes it is a beautiful fish, fish animals, hence beautiful animals then one’s response is false and inappropriate/defective

                   i.       It is common knowledge that whales are mammals not fish

52.    Judgments based on false beliefs about what is common knowledge are defective

53.    Most important kn is judgments needs to be based on true observations

54.    Sci/cultural kn may enhance but is not required for approp aes app of some objects

55.    This kn is required for correct/appro of very properties of objected revealed by that knowledge

         a.      This is the point/claim behind weak sci cog



57.    Do ethically bad states of nature detract from aes value of those states

         a.      Possibility of immoralism (where ethically bad states improve aes value)

58.    Stecker thinks that bad states of nature (like extinction of species, destruction of ecosystems) are only (ethically) bad when humans cause them

         a.      I agree, but the still my be bad (disvaluable) even if naturally caused


59.    Sometimes ethically bad states of nature cause aes bad conditions

         a.      Polluted and trashed river (or urban sprawl) makes it look ugly

60.    18: Other times ethically bad states (exotic species introduction) are beautiful

61.    “Whether kn of their bad effects changes our aes app of them is highly variable”

         a.      Simply reporting a descriptive psy response; rather than a normative claim

62.    “I know of no of no sound criteria of aes judgment that adjudicates between these responses”

         a.      Makes a normative claim                 

63.    So as argued elsewhere, no entailment from ethically bad to aes bad

         a.      Could be a lessening of aes value, not turning it negative overall


64.    2nd argument

65.    One should respect nature

         a.      Some ways of app nature show respect and so are appro

         b.      Other ways of appreciating nature show disrespect and so are inappropriate

         c.      Is this argument suppose to move from lack of ethical respect to lack of aes appropriateness?

         d.      Or does it move from lack of ethical respect to claim that a type of aes appreciation is ethically problematic (though not aes problematic, perhaps?)

         e.      Or does it think that the respect it demands is aes from start? NO....


66.    Stecker says can show disrespect for nature by harming it (polluting a river)

         a.      But when aes appreciate it not harming it in this way

         b.      Does Stecker know about the Carlson/ Parson idea that env art can be an aesthetic affront to nature idea? Even if no harm?


67.    Taking nature on own terms

68.    Respect requires taking nature on own terms:

         a.      Saito: “The appro appreciation of nature requires a moral capacity for recognizing and respecting nature as having its own reality apart from our presence–with its own story to tell.”

69.    Stecker allows that recognizing and respecting nature as having its own reality is a moral capacity (surely it’s a cognitive one)

70.    Saito’s way of understanding taking nature on its own terms constrains aes app of nature very little

71.    Saito is a pluralist about what it means to take nature on own terms and let nature tell its own story

         a.      Accepts sci cog, but also cultural accounts, folklore, pictorial, associatist, and Zen inspired accounts

         b.      Her criteria is that “they make sense of nature in a way that permits close scrutiny of specific character of natural objects


72.    Stecker this view is at best innocuous and unhelpful, but

         a.      Becomes thorough problematic when she gives as examples of nature telling its own stories

                   i.       Nature’s poems carved in tablets of stone (Muir)

                   ii.      Songs of the rivers, speech of the hills (Leopold)

73.    Not treating nature on own terms but in terms of products of human creative activity

                   i.       Problem is not simply applying human concepts for that is the only way possible for us to understand or app nature

         b.      If treating nature on own terms means treating nature on model of human creative activity

         c.      Unclear when we fail to so treat it

         d.      Well, Saito did give criteria that it must make sense of nature in way that permits close scrutiny of its specific character



75.    Parsons also limits acceptable aes app of nature by the ethical requirement that we show respect for nature by treating it on its own terms

         a.      Also uses it as an argument to support sci cog

76.    Penny who appreciates stars by Greek Mythology by imagining them as lovers flung into the sky by fickle gods and Greek Gods (setting sun is Apollo driving his chariot across the heavens)

         a.      Fails to take nature on own terms

         b.      Sun is not Apollo driving a chariot and stars not lovers

         c.      Fails to show respect for nature

                   i.       An ethical failure which impugns the validity of her aes appreciation

77.    Sam who appreciates Milky Way as a vast spiral galaxy

         a.      Does take nature on own terms as Milky way is as he conceives it

         b.      So shows respect by app on own terms and not moral failing of Penny

78.    Stecker objects that Parsons has conflated/substituted epistemic responsibility for moral responsibility

79.    For Parsons, taking something on own terms entails recognizing central truths about a things character

80.    Does not imply an specific behavior toward the thing

         a.      Agree to take X on own terms as a trusting not to bright fellow and you might decide to con him precisely because of the person he is

         b.      “Gives game away”

81.    Penny’s responsibility is to know something about the stars

         a.      But if no behavior is required then this is consisent with imagining them to be something quite dif from what one knows them to be

82.    Taking things on own terms has been stripped of moral bite; if it entails no specific behavior it has no moral bite

83.    But doesn’t parson insist that moral requirement to respect nature and take it on own terms does require a certain aes behavior: to appreciate it as for what it is.

84.    But one can do wrong w/o acting, by thinking in certain ways!

85.    Stecker argues that Sam though lets epistemic responsible beliefs guide his aes judgment may treat env much worse than Penny

         a.      But we are not talking about throwing trash but whether the ethical duty of respecting nature is manifest in his aes reponses

         b.      It is almost as if Stecker thinks all the respect nature by treating it on own terms amounts to from start is epistemic and not moral virtue?

86.    Stecker give example of aes failure over-sentimentalizing nature

87.    Thinks above failures may be epistemic.

88.    But remember he believes there are kn constraints on aes app of nature, though weak


89.    Conclusion

90.    Weak epistemic norms for aes app of nature, including truth of weak sci cog

         a.      They do not have any implications claimed for them by sci cog

91.    Says leaves open whether aes judge enriched by certain kinds of knowledge are better than others based on more limited kno of nature

         a.      I think he’s taken a stand on this for some cases

92.    Says controversial what kind of kn gets at most sig aes properties of object of nature app

         a.      Doubts it possible or desireable to settle that issue