Philosophy 450: Senior Seminar on Natural Beauty

Ned Hettinger, Spring 2012, Mon/Wed 2:3:15, Maybank 119

Course webpage:

Office: 16 Glebe, Rm. 201, Office Phone: 953-5786, Email:

Office hours: T,TH 11-1 (Also stop by my office and see if I’m busy or make an appointment)

Course Description

This seminar examines issues at the intersection of aesthetics and environmental philosophy. Topics include: Relationships between the aesthetic appreciation of nature and art; the role of knowledge, imagination, emotion, and engagement in the aesthetic appreciation of nature; whether there can be better and worse environmental appreciation; everyday aesthetics and the aesthetic appreciation of human-altered environments; the claim that nature is always beautiful and never ugly; and natural beauty as a rationale for environmental protection.


           Readings available on class website:


           Seminar presentations (20%): Two presentations to the class on assigned articles and written synopses/outlines of the articles to be displayed on the screen in the seminar room during the presentation (one to two pages recommended length). Bring the presentation to class on a thumb drive (in a word document ), or (if you let me know beforehand) you can email them to me by noon before class and I’ll put them on the web. I will need a written or email copy of these synopses/outlines. You will meet with me the week prior to your presentation to discuss the article you are presenting (be prepared to explain the key points of the article to me and to ask questions about ideas you don’t understand).

           Four “critical” questions (4%): Four days on which you write “critical questions or comments” on the reading for that day on the whiteboards in the seminar room. These should raise a question, objection, or issue about the reading for that day. Be prepared to speak to the class and the presenter about your issue.

           Short Paper (10%): 4-6 pages summarizing and critically analyzing an assigned article (or a dimension of it). Can (but need not) be on an article you present to the class. Due date to be specified but before spring break.

           Long paper (31%): 10-15 page paper including:                          

                        Paragraph describing possible paper topic

                        Paper proposal: One page description of topic/questions addressed by the proposed paper and a list 3 or 4 philosophy articles that you are considering using in the paper (provide complete bibliographic references and include abstracts, if available)

                        Summaries of two articles you will use in your paper and discussion of how you will use them

                        Draft of paper (at least 5 pages) for the instructor and a classmate both of whom will provide you with comments

                        Substantial comments (1-2 pages) on another student’s draft

                        Final version of the paper

           Reading quizzes (10%) There will be unannounced quizzes on the reading for the day (approximately 10 for the semester). I do not give quiz makeups, but I give “free quizzes” that can be used to substitute for a missed quiz. Also, if you will be absent, you may email me a summary of the reading for that day before the class begins and this will count for the quiz should there be one.

           Class participation and attendance (10%): This is a seminar dominated by student presentations, discussions and learning from each other. Missing class seriously undermines this central feature of the course. Please do not miss more than a couple of classes this semester.

           Final Exam (15%): Wednesday, April 25, 12-3pm