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 (though not anything goes)

         b.      Each of these approaches are equally acceptable

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

         a.      Rejects science approach’s claim that aes appreciation of nature must be informed by science

                   i.       According to pluralism

                            (1)    Knowledge of facts from science (or art history) not necessary for appropriate appreciation

                            (2)    Can appreciate nature/art appropriately w/o bringing any such knowledge to bear

         b.      Rejects formalist approach: That formal appreciation the only legitimate kind

         c.      Rejects post-modern approach: That all thought components are permissible

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


3.      Two types of pluralism

         a.      Moderate Pluralism allows (any type of appreciation of nature for what it is, factually)

                   i.       Science based approach

                   ii.      Formalist approach

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

         b.      Robust Pluralism allows above plus (“nonfacutal” fictional thoughts, 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

                   i.       Nature/art are things that produce these formal perceptual impressions

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

         d.      Worry: But given pluralism’s commitment to equality in aes appreciation approaches, it would seem that the combined multiple approach is not any better than the allowable unitary approaches?


9.      Pluralism also accepts emotional arousal approach


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

         a.      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.      Not scientific thought component

                   i.       Though component does not require specialized knowledge of nature like science approach requires, but the kind of conceptualization that any normal person with properly functioning senses would instinctively bring to nature (cultural kn 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,

                   ii.      Commedia dell’arte really is silly/funny


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

                   i.       Two nearby mountains as a gigantic set of breasts, or

                   ii.      Pretending wild animal has human-like intentions

         b.      Both disrespect nature for fails to take natural objects on own terms

         c.      Rejects treating nature in a cavalier fashion and as being something it is not

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

                   i.       Not cavalier nor construe if for what it is not


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

         a.      Recommend learn and deploy scientific information in aes app

         b.      But under no obligation to use it

         c.      Science approach has no special or privileged place in aes of nature (and science boosters say it does

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


14.    Seems to me pluralist should insistence on using all these means of appreciation for this would be a fuller approach and better in this regard



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

         a.      Unlike moderate pluralism which rejects this

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

18.    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


19.    RP allows using myth/folklore to interpret nature

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

20.    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”


21.    How RP shows respect for nature and treats it in own terms:

         a.      Saito’s view of respectful aes appreciation of nature on its own terms

                   i.       Provides a story that explains why it has the features it does

                   ii.      Acknowledging natural object as autonomous thing worthy of our focused attention is sufficient to treat it respectfully

                   iii.     We adopt a respectful stance as long as we make nature the focus of an account that explains its observable features

                            (1)    This treats nature on own terms

                   iv.     “Attempt to explain or make sense of observable features of specific natural objects” is appreciating nature on own terms

         b.      Example:

                   i.        If our 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

         c.      Why would not Saito’s criterion of “providing a story that explains why it has the features it has” allow in the breast example (see below)?

         d.      Hepburn: “Not inappropriate to inwardly appropriate forms of nature to our own feelings and inner states, provided that they sharpen our perception and relate to fundamental features of lived human state and provided we are aware we are projecting our feelings onto nature”

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

         a.      Serious appreciation is okay (can’t be foolish, goofy)

                   i.       Can’t lack seriousness and be simply amusing and juvenile (2 mountains look like breasts)

                   ii.      Do not use nature merely as stimulus for easy enjoyment

         b.      Can’t appreciate using unimaginative and meaningless cliche

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

         c.      Okay 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

23.    Robust pluralism is not PM as it rejects anything goes


24.    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

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


25.    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



27.    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

28.    Moderate pluralism also mistaken in its equality claim

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

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

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

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

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


30.    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 critics response


31.    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?