Carlson, Ch 3: Requirements for an Adequate Aesthetics of Nature



1.       Ziff’s Anything Viewed Doctrine

          a.       Anything whatsoever if open to aes app

          b.       Aes app appropriate for any object whatever

          c.       Not the same as positive aesthetics; not claiming that they appreciation will be positive

          d.       Ziff: “anything that can be viewed can fit the bill of an object fit for aes attention and none does it better than any other”

          e.       So an art object (designed to be aes appreciated) is no more fit for aesthetic attention than a pile of sticks in the woods


          f.       Undercuts “human chauvinistic aesthetic” of Mannison (claims nature is non-aesthetic)

                    i.        “Aesthetic judgment includes reference to creator/artist; only artifacts fashioned to be objects of aes judgment; nature can’t be object of aes app”


2.       Budd’s As Nature Constraint

          a.       Nature must not be appreciated as though it were an artifact

          b.       Just as aes app of art must appreciate it as art

                    i.        And not a found object; not ignoring artistic design and intentions

          c.       So aes app of nature must appreciate it as nature, if it is to be true to what nature actually is


          d.       Fundamental Carlson dogma/assumption: Must appreciate things for what they are and not for what they are not


          e.       Budd’s constraint challenges

                    i.        Picturesque tradition of nature app

                    ii.       Formalist tradition of appreciation: Appreciation focuses on forms, lines, colors, shapes (of anything, and it does not matter what it is”

                              (1)     Zangwill: Dainty beauty of polar bear swimming under water an example of purely formal beauty (not beauty qua the kind of thing it is); It is a surprising, dainty beauty; If polar bear were to have aes properties qua polar bear, we would expect it to have aes properties such as strong, vigorous, powerful, not dainty and elegant; Its aesthetic character has nothing to do with its being a polar bear. Might turn out to be an artfully choreographed swimmer (or a machine) dressed in a polar bear suit: No matter still a beautiful spectacle, Beautiful underwater movement would still remain if it was somehow an artifact


3.       Berleant’‘s Unified Aesthetics Requirement

          a.       Give an account of the aesthetic that spans both art and nature (without equivocating on key terms like “beauty” and “appreciation”)

          b.       Need an aesthetic that does not “harbor two dissimilar types of phenomena, once concerning art and another nature” but an aesthetics of art and nature where “both actually involve a single all-embracing kind of experience, which requires a comprehensive theory to accommodate it.”


          c.       Carlson wants the account of aesthetics of nature and art, though not identical, to parallel each other in important ways

                    i.        Just as appropriate app of art requires knowledge of art history, so appropriate appreciation of nature requires knowledge of natural history


          d.       Carlson claims this requirement rules out Budd and Fisher’s “freedom approach” to nature appreciation

                    i.        Aesthetic app of nature freer than aes app of art

                    ii.       Budd: “in natural world we are free to frame elements as we please, to adopt an position or move in any way, at any time fo the day or night, in any atmospheric conditions, and to use an sense modality...without thereby incurring the charge of misunderstanding

                    iii.      Carlson says this “splits aes experience into two separate realms” and thus fails to satisfy Berleant’‘s Unified Aesthetics Requirement


4.       Hepburn’s Serious Beauty Intuition

          a.       Some instances of aes app of nature are better–less superficial and more worth having–than others

          b.       Hepburn’s cloud example

                    i.        Outline of cumulo-nimbus cloud resembles a basket of washing

                    ii.       Amuse ourselves by dwelling on this resemblance

                    iii.      On another occasion, we try to realize the inner turbulence of the could, the winds sweeping up withing and around it, determining its structure and visible form

                    iv.      Latter is less superficial, truer to nature and so more worth having

          c.       Hepburn: “If there can be a passage, in art, from easy beauty to difficult and more serious beauty, there can also be such passage in aes contemplation of nature”


          d.       Serious beauty intuition counts against

                    i.        Freedom approach: in nature can have greater abundance of aes experience w/o incurring charge of misunderstanding

                              (1)     Sanctions easy beauty

                    ii.       Non-cognitive approaches–condone more personal and emotional responses–involve reactions that fit with superficial, easy beauty.

                    iii.      Carroll’s arousal model: being emotionally moved by nature (standing under a waterfall)


5.       Thompson’s objectivity desideratum

          a.       Aes app of nature and aesthetic judgments about it should possess a degree of objectivity

          b.       Thompson:

                    i.        “The link...between aes judgment and ethical obligation fails unless there are objective grounds–grounds that rational, sensitive people can accept–for thinking something has value. If beauty is nature ... is merely in the eyes of the beholder, then no general moral obligation arises out of aesthetic judgments. A judgment of value that is merely personal and subjective gives us no way of arguing that everyone ought to learn to appreciate something, or at least to regard it as worthy of preservation.”

          c.       Aes app of nature needs to be objective (to a degree) if it will help us preserve nature

          d.       “An aes of nature that can’t support grounds for preserving that which we find beautiful is not worthy of consideration”


          e.       Argument for relativity in aes judgments–“familiar fact that people differ greatly in their responses” fails, for fact of disagreement in responses does not establish the relativity of corresponding judgments.

                    i.        Fact people disagree about a subject matter does not mean there are not correct answers or better and worse beliefs about them


          f.       Carlson thinks the objectivity requirement rules out positions including Carroll’s emotional arousal account of nature appreciation

                    i.        Idea is that emotions are subjective, thus objectivity not possible

                    ii.       Carroll’s reply: Objectivity in emotions

                              (1)     Emotions can be more or less appropriate depending on what they are aimed at


6.       Carlson’s Natural Environmental Model satisfies all 5 requirements: This view holds that: “our app of nature is aes and is analogous to that of art in both nature and structure. Significant difference is that while art app involves knowledge of art history, in nature appreciation know is that provided by natural history (science). But this difference not unexpected; nature is not art”

          a.       Anything viewed (allows nature app)

          b.       As nature (since knowledge of nature required)

          c.       Unified aesthetics (since knowledge plays an analogous role for Carlson in art and nature appreciation, and both have a similar degree of objectivity)

          d.       Serious beauty: App based on science is serious (not easy, superficial)

          e.       Objectivity: Science paradigm of objectivity and aes based on science will have significant objectivity




Chapter 4: Aesthetic Appreciation and the Human Environment


1.       Designer landscape approach to appreciating the human environment

          a.       Human environments are interpreted as being deliberately designed, or are worthy of aes considerations only is so far as they are designed

          b.       So human environments are thus regarded as importantly like art objects

          c.       Aesthetics of art becomes model for aes app of nature


2.       Carlson’s objection to designer approach

          a.       But human environments are not typically designed (and especially not artistically designed)

          b.       They are not art objects

          c.       So appreciating them as if they were is to fail to appreciate them for what they are.


3.       Similarly flawed is the appreciation of buildings as if they were solely architectural structures (art objects)

          a.       This has led to focus only an magnificent works of architecture instead of all (including everyday) buildings

          b.       Ignores that they have functions

          c.       Ignores that they are “intrinsically connected to the peoples and cultures that use them”

          d.       Ignores that they are related to other buildings

          e.       Ignores that they are constructed in places and tied to them.


4.       Buildings, like broader human environments, are not like works of art, that is, they are not unique, functionless, typical portable objects of aesthetic appreciation


5.       Carlson’s ecological approach to appreciating human environments stresses functional fit

          a.       Assume that humans and their environments are significant parts of ecosystems

          b.       Human environments are integral human ecosystems comparable to natural ecosystems.

          c.       Culture and nature work together to produce human environments


6.       Functional fit

          a.       Is a kind of ecological necessity that applies to culture and human environments that is particularly relevant to aes appreciation

          b.       In nature, ecosystems are nested in a many layered interlocking fashion so that they fit together

          c.       Individual organisms must fit into ecosystems (they perform certain functions in ecosystems)

          d.       This functional fit is what allows ecosystems and organisms to survive

7.       Implications for appreciation

          a.       Do not isolate: No component of an ecosystem can be fully appreciated in isolation, but must be perceived in terms of its fit in larger wholes

          b.       Functional descriptions become key to aes appreciation

                    i.        What role does this organism play in the drama of life? (Is a question that must be answered for appropriate appreciation)


8.       Ecological approach and functional fit in appreciation of human ecosystems

          a.       Human environments should be appreciated as constituted by components with functional fits that allows us to appreciate their creation, development and continued survival

          b.       They display an “organic unity” not unlike what we experience in art and nature

          c.       Many human environments have naturally and organically developed over time in response to human needs and interests

          d.       We should appreciate these environments and their components in terms of their functional fit

          e.       Examples

                    i.        Buildings in rural farm communities with functional fits to the agricultural landscape

                              (1)     Grain elevator yes, a skyscraper office building no

          f.       When functional fit achieved, everything looks as it should

                    i.        They look necessary to us

                    ii.       Largely a function of our own expectations (they look as we expect them to look)


9.       Problematic to appreciation human environments as designed

          a.       When we experience products as designed, our normal expectations of how things look is marginalized

                    i.        Our expectations shaped by assumptions about the design and the intentions of the designer

          b.       Thus designer approach to appreciating human environments will make them not look as they should

                    i.        Leads us to find human environments aesthetically unsatisfactory

                    ii.       We find little to appreciate and value

                    iii.      But this is because we look in the wrong way.

10.     Possible objection: Many cities are poorly designed from environmental standpoint

          a.       They should look aesthetically impoverished

          b.       They are dysfunctional; don’t fit into ecology of the planet

          c.       So fact that designer approach leads us to see them as aesthetically impoverished is insightful, not a problem?

          d.       We look at them as if they had been environmentally designed (which they should have been but are not) and find them wanting


11.     Carlson considers an objection to ecological approach:

12.     Ecological approach allows for the positive aesthetic appreciation of environments that should not be aesthetically appreciated

13.     Racist suburban neighborhood example

          a.       Exclusive, upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood developed naturally and organically overtime

                    i.        Parts are functionally fit

                    ii.       Looks as it should and offers much to aes appreciate

                    iii.      Value it aesthetically

          b.       But this human environment may have been shaped by racist social forces, exploitative economic forces and corrupt political forces

          c.       Aesthetically appreciating this human environment is to implicitly condone those racist, exploitative and corrupt forces

          d.       Such aesthetic valuing is morally irresponsible and corrupt


14.     Two replies: (1) Aestheticism (Carlson rejects) and (2) we should aesthetically appreciate in a thick sense that includes considering moral values (Carlson accepts)


15.     (1) Aestheticism: Aesthetics and ethics separate and aesthetic appreciation not subject to moral constraints

          a.       Oscar Wilde: “I am incapable of understanding how any work of art can be criticized from a moral standpoint. The sphere of art and sphere of ethics are absolutely distinct and separate”

          b.       According to aestheticism, irrelevant to aesthetic interest and merit of this upper-class neighborhood that it is result of racist and exploitative forces


          c.       Carlson rejects aestheticism even for works of art, but even more for aesthetics of human environments

                    i.        Incompatible with the basic ecological approach to aes of human environments which is holistic (all inclusive)

                    ii.       If human environments can’t be appreciated w/o reference to ecological considerations, they also can’t be fully appreciated w/o reference to all cultural considerations and these include moral

          d.       Peter Humphrey’s imagined Asian Floodwork counter example to aestheticism even about art (p. 65)

                    i.        Christo dams and floods an entire river system in Asian valley; Jacques Cousteau will make underwater photographs of them to be shown in the Tate Gallery;

                    ii.       Christo says in press conference: “I know that some of you object to this because a millions of people who practice agriculture in this valley will be displaced. Such concerns, I remind you, are irrelevant. This is a work of art.”


16.     (2) Need to aesthetically appreciate in the thick sense

          a.       Aesthetic and moral closely intertwined


          b.       Thin sense of aes app: based solely on physical appearance

          c.       Thick sense: aes app based not only on appearance but also what objects express or convey

                    i.        “Expressive beauty”

                    ii.       Objects express “life values”

                    iii.      Example: Old house can be appreciated not just for its window design, or color of wood, but also because if gives the general impression of a less hectic, more genteel way of life or shows signs of careful craftsmanship lacking in newer houses

          d.       An object expressing life values not an idiosyncratic or personal association, but deep-seated association characteristically held in common by many so that it is perceived to be the true nature of the object


          e.       Ecological approach, as holistic, includes both ecological and cultural factors in appreciating human environments, requires appreciating in a thick sense and this includes moral considerations

          f.       Appreciate the upper-class neighborhood, not just for how it looks, but why it looks as it does

          g.       Given racist/exploitative/corrupt causes of this look, that it expresses these immoral features, it will be difficult if not impossible to aesthetically appreciate and value this neighborhood

          h.       If moral and aesthetic appear to conflict, moral trumps.


17.     Consequences of ecological approach to appreciating human environments

          a.       Must appreciate the entire human environment and not simply focus on the magnificent and specially designed buildings or parks

                    i.        Appreciate houses, stores, gas stations, banks shopping centers, factories, refineries

                    ii.       All integral parts of human env. and are viable candidates for aes app equal to great works of architecture

                              (1)     In appreciating the College of Charleston, it is as important to appreciate the fraternity houses, or the kitchens of the dorms, as it is to appreciate Randolph Hall?

                    iii.      Equal emphasis should be placed on nonbuildings, roads, bridges harbors, power/communication lines

          b.       Must appreciate the components of a human environment in terms of how they fit and relate to the other components in their environment; Nothing in human environments (like natural environments) can be appreciated in isolation

                    i.        Thus trying to appreciate the reconstructed London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona is aesthetically absurd

                              (1)     Like going to a freak show

          c.       Must appreciate human environments in terms of how they reflect and express the people who live there, their emotions, attitudes and cultures

          d.       Must appreciate human environments in terms of the functions they perform

                    i.        Appreciate churches (not as magnificent buildings) but as places of worship

                    ii.       Appreciate farms as places that grow food


Chapter 5: Appreciation of Human Environment Under Different Conceptions


No notes.