Parsons, Ch 5, Pluralism


1.      Pluralism endorses wide range (plurality) of different (and equally good) ways to aes appreciate nature

         a.      Plurality of approaches acceptable

                   i.       Though not anything goes

         b.      Each is equally acceptable

2.       Pluralism rejects the exclusivity of other approaches (and total promiscuity of the post-modern approach)

         a.      Rejects science approach

                   i.       Knowledge of science (or art history) not necessary for appropriate appreciation

         b.      Rejects formalist approach:

                   i.       Formal appreciation not the only legitimate kind

         c.      Rejects post-modern approach:

                   i.       Not all thought components are permissible

                   ii.      Pluralism believes some ways of appreciating art/nature inappropriate


3.      Two types of pluralism

         a.      Moderate Pluralism allows any factually based appreciation of nature (any that app nature for what it is)

                   i.       Science based approach

                   ii.      Formalist approach

                   iii.     Arousal approach (“being emotionally moved by nature”)

         b.      Robust Pluralism allows both factual and “nonfacutal,” fictional thoughts–it is okay to appreciate nature for what is not

                   i.       Myth/cultural stories

                   ii.      Personal associations



5.      Moderate pluralism

         a.      Any way to appreciate nature that appreciates nature for what it is, is acceptable

6.      Moderate pluralism on formalism

         a.      Formalism acceptable as a partial appreciation of nature/art

         b.      True formal approach misses a lot

                   i.       If appreciate work formally, say Guernica or mountain, one misses many of its aes qualities (those that depend on knowing facts about these aes objects)

         c.      But some of aes qualities are apparent even w/o knowledge of these facts (namely its formal qualities)

         d.      Nature/art is more than perceptual array of lines, shapes and colors, but this perceptual array is part of what nature/art is

7.      Formalism’s engagement failure made up for by pluralism’s addition of engagement

         a.      Formalism forces us disengage ourselves physically from nature by withdraw to scenic viewpoint to appreciate its formal qualities

                   i.       Thereby losing the sense of envelopment forest brings

                   ii.      Misses much of what nature has to offer

         b.      Since pluralist takes formal appreciation as only one dimension of nature/art appreciation this is not a problem for one can see formalism as one part of a richer pluralistic approach

8.      Pluralism multiple perspective approach

         a.      View forest/mountain from scenic pull over and get formal aes qualities

         b.      Then walk into it to get aes qualities of engagement

         c.      Then conceptualize it scientifically and get those aesthetic qualities

                   i.       Pluralist allows science appreciation but gives it no special place

                   ii.      Recommend learn and deploy scientific information in aes app

                   iii.     But under no obligation to use it

                   iv.     Nothing that makes science informed appreciation of night sky better than a formalist app–either just as good


9.      Pluralism also accepts emotional arousal approach

10.    Nature appreciation as emotional arousal (Carroll’s “being-moved by nature”)

         a.      Example: Standing under thundering waterfall and being excited by grandeur

                   i.       Delight in way nature’s appearance connected with and reflective of those feelings

         b.      Does involve a thought component, so not formalist

                   i.       If moved by grandeur of waterfall, must conceptualize it as a large object

         c.      Thought involved is not scientific thought component

                   i.       Not specialized knowledge of nature as with science, but concepts that any normal person would instinctively bring to nature (“cultural knowledge” not involved)

         d.      A more naive and less intellectual, more visceral approach

         e.      Just as appropriate as science approach, not in anyway defective or inappropriate

         f.       Meets the requirement to appreciate nature for what it is, rather than something it is not

                   i.       The waterfall really is a large object


11.    Moderate pluralist agrees with ethical argument need to respect nature and take it on own terms

12.    Examples of disrespectful appreciation for moderate pluralist

         a.      Imagining wild animal has human-like intentions

                   i.       Disrespects nature for fails to take natural objects on own terms

         b.      Rejects appreciating nature as being something it is not

         c.      Appreciating nature for formal qualities or for how it emotionally moves us not like this

                   i.       Not construe if for what it is not



14.    Robust pluralism allows appreciating natural things as things they are not

         a.      Unlike moderate pluralism which rejects this

15.    Robust pluralism claims that not all thought components are permissible (rejects PM)

16.    RP rules out nature appreciation with thoughts that disrespects nature and fail to take nature on its own terms

         a.      RP claims can take nature on own terms, even when treat/imagine nature to be something it is not

17.    RP allows using myth/folklore to interpret nature

         a.      Night sky interpreted as a struggle of gods with human like emotions

18.    Allows personal association to interpret nature

         a.      “Storms of nature as having affinity with our own internal storms”

         b.      “Nature stillness as intensifying our potentiality for inner calm”

19.    How RP can show respect for nature and treats it in own terms

         a.      Saito’s view thought content respectful when

                   i.       Provides a story that explains why nature has the features it does; makes nature the focus of an account that explains its observable features

                   ii.      Acknowledges natural object as autonomous thing worthy of our focused attention

         b.      Myth and personal association can do this

         c.      Respectful if use what nature has to offer as stimulus for self-reflection

                   i.       Employ nature’s complexity to explore our inner lives in a self conscious way

         d.      Example:

                   i.        An account of a storm’s rage in terms of our emotional upheaval provides an explanation for particular way it is

                   ii.      “Lightening coming from (or reflecting?) our sudden rage, billowing clouds from our clouded emotions, buffeting winds driven by conflicting desires we feel

20.    Parsons’ interpretation of RP conception of respectful/disrespectful appreciation of nature

         a.      Serious appreciation is respectful

         b.      Not respectful if foolish, goofy, simply amusing and juvenile (2 mountains look like breasts)

         c.      Not respectful if use nature merely as stimulus for easy enjoyment

         d.      Not respectful if appreciate using unimaginative and meaningless cliche

                   i.       Examples: Distant rock in storm is like a haunted castle or that shooting star was sent by my lover


21.    Both moderate and robust pluralism are egalitarian among appropriate app

         a.      All of the appropriate ways to appreciate nature equally good

         b.      None are more appropriate: Science, arousal, formalism, culture/myth, personal association

22.    Other possible variations of pluralism

         a.      Inegalitarian pluralist: there are a plurality of acceptable ways to app nature, but some are better, deeper than others

                   i.       Note one could have a pluralism that allowed for better and worse among appropriate ways to appreciate nature (e.g., serious versus less serious); as well as some totally inappropriate ways to appreciate nature

         b.      Combining pluralist who insists on combining all acceptable ways

                   i.       The best appreciation of nature uses all these means of appreciation-- for this would be a fuller approach and better in that way

         c.      Parson’s concept of pluralism as committed to equality in aes appreciation approaches would seem to reject that combined multiple approach is any better than the allowable unitary approaches


23.    Attractions of pluralism

         a.      Freedom: Aes appreciation of nature has great deal of freedom

                   i.       Possibility of bringing all sorts of ideas/associations to bear in appreciating nature is one of main attractions of nature as aes object

         b.      Personal significance: improved understanding of inner lives

                   i.       Aes appreciation of nature provides way to better understand our inner lives

                   ii.      Clearly art does this and so does nature



25.    Science approach shows greater respect for nature than others

         a.      Robust pluralism claim that all these accounts equally show respect for nature is not plausible, for science approach shows greater respect

         b.      Even if making nature subject of fictional account shows some amount of respect for nature

         c.      We show it more respect when subject it to a true account of its origin

                   i.       Employing a thought component that truly characterizes it is to further acknowledge it as an autonomous thing worthy of our focused attention

                   ii.      Giving the natural object itself greater attention when appreciate it using thoughts about its real nature

         d.      Moderate pluralism also mistaken in its equality claim

         e.      For science account show greater respect nature than does a formalist or arousal account

         f.       Worry: Argument on p. 79 claims that an approach which includes not just formalism and arousal, but also science accords nature greater respect

                   i.       This is not a vindication of science alone but of a full appreciation that includes science

                   ii.      Perhaps taking only a formal or only an arousal approach respects nature less than taking only a science approach

                   iii.     Still, would not appreciation of nature that encompasses all these approaches be even better?

26.    Pluralism ignores that some appreciation is deeper/richer than others

         a.       Moderate pluralism also implausibly holds that formal and emotional arousal is just as good/deep as science/art history appreciation of nature/art

         b.      But childlike wonder at stars or childlike naive appreciation of artwork/music is not just as deep as nature or art critic’s response


27.    Parsons accepts moderate pluralism’s claim that appropriate aes appreciation includes formal and being moved by nature approaches, but rejects what he takes to be heart of pluralism, that these are all equally good.

Questions on Parsons, Ch 5: Pluralism

1.      What is “pluralism” and what does the pluralist think about the science, formalist and post-modern approaches?

2.      Explain pluralism’s “multiple perspective approach.”

3.      Explain the difference between moderate and robust pluralism.

4.      Explain the “engagement failure” of formalism.

5.      Explain the “emotional arousal” view of nature appreciation

6.      What are some examples of disrespectful aesthetic responses to nature according to moderate pluralism (and why are they disrespectful)?

7.      What is robust pluralism? How does it live up to the idea that we should appreciate nature on its own terms? How is it different from post-modernism? What sorts of appreciations does robust pluralism rule out and why?

8.      In what way is pluralism “egalitarian?” Need it be?

9.      Does the science approach show greater respect for nature than the other approaches to the aesthetic appreciation of nature? Why does Parsons suggest it does?

10.    Is a science based aes response “deeper/richer” aesthetic response than an emotional arousal or formalist response to nature?