Emily Brady on Disinterestedness



1.       Many say DI is necessary for aes appreciation and others (e.g., Berleant) disagree

2.       Berleant’s critique of disinterestedness:

          a.       Rejects detachment, distancing and passivity:

          b.       "We perceive environments from within, not looking at it but in it; nature as a realm in which we live as participants, not observers; not disinterested contemplation but total engagement, sensory immersion in nature"

3.       Brady’s Aes Disinterestedness

          a.       Not indifference or lack of interest, but involves the aes interest of contemplating object for its own sake

          b.       “Foregrounds appreciation of aes qualities”

          c.       DI= Interest/attention to aes qualities alone

4.       The aesthetic interest involved in DI is different from the following types of interests or purposes            

          a.       Approaching object to use it as a means to some end

                    i.        Utilitarian and practical concerns are “backgrounded”

                    ii.       Aes app is not valuing an object because of its capacity to fulfil some end/desire, whether that be self-interested ends or other ends (including moral) 130

                    iii.      Aes app is a “free liking” arising from mere contemplation of object for its aes qualities

                    iv.      Stolnitz on aesthetic valuing “DI and sympathetic attention to and contemplation of an object of awareness for its own sake

          b.       Interest in discovering a thing’s functions or use

                    i.        Compare with Zangwill’s formalism that ignores a thing’s function and it is

                    ii.       Brady seems to take this back with humanized landscapes/items

                    iii.      App architecture or humanized landscapes (agricultural lands) may require focusing on their functions

          c.       Moral “purposes” or “desires”

5.       How is aesthetic intrinsic valuing different from moral intrinsic valuing?

          a.       Moral valuing is also intrinsic valuing (and is DI in this sense)

                    i.        Env. ethics often argue that respect for nature is valuing nature for its own sake

                    ii.       How is this different from aesthetically appreciating nature for its own sake?

          b.       Perhaps moral attention involves motivation and commitment to action and protection, whereas aesthetic attention involves simply contemplation and enjoyment

                    i.        But some (Carlson) argue that positive aes valuing entails that one wants the thing to continue to exist


6.       DI applies more to nature appreciation than art appreciation, for art often has social and political meanings imbued by artist and nature does not 128

          a.       Here DI means ignoring social/political/functional meanings?

          b.       Does not make sense to ignore these with art, but does with nature (as there are not such meanings?)

                    i.        Functions of natural objects are more the concern of ecology than aesthetics

7.       Worries

          a.       But doesn’t nature have meanings and messages we need to consider in appreciating it?

          b.       If we see only a few individuals of a species this may convey the information that it is going extinct, or is rare and this seems important to its aesthetic appreciation

          c.       How does DI in this sense fit with appreciation of human impacted landscapes

          d.       If we are approaching env. aes with goal of using it for nature protection social/political questions might be highly relevant


8.       Brady wants a conception of nature’s aes value that is consistent with adopting a moral attitude toward nature (129)

          a.       If we ought to protect env, then we must adopt a moral attitude toward it and aes app of nature must be “consistent” with such an attitude

                    i.        Note: This is different from saying aes app must be a moral attitude

          b.       So need alternative to hedonistic (pursuit of pleasure) aes app of nature, where nature is used for our pleasure (instrumental value)

          c.       Need aes app that values nature in itself in virtue of its aes qualities

          d.       DI aes app provides this by showing how aes valuing of nature “backgrounds personal preferences and utilitarian concerns” and “foregrounds appreciation of its aes qualities”

          e.       While this is not turning aes into ethics, it is rejecting the total independence (autonomy) of the aesthetics from ethics by putting ethical constraints on the type of appreciation that is appropriate


9.       Why isn't aes appreciation mere sensory gratification, that is, an instrumental use of aes object?

10.     Because sensory gratification involved in aes pleasure is the result of contemplating object for own sake, and the aes pleasure is a byproduct of this and not goal sought

          a.       Hence aes response is not aimed at mere sensory gratification

11.     Confusion between two kinds of pleasure:

          a.       One interested, other disinterested

          b.       Interested pleasure:

                    i.        Hike in woods for relaxation and enjoyment it brings and because we get such pleasure out of the exp, we pursue it;

                    ii.       Seeking the pleasure is what motivates the pursuit of recreation

          c.       DI pleasure: Includes aes pleasure that results from intrinsic valuing (Levinson):

                    i.        Pleasure in object is aes when it comes from reflection on object's individual character/content for itself

                    ii.       Pleasure in aes app does not play motivational role but is merely a by-product of the experience

                              (1)     But: p. 129: “The feeling of pleasure which grounds aes judgment is DI”


12.     DI falsely thought to involve contemplation that is

          a.       Distancing and detached

                    i.        We detach or distance ourselves from our concerns to be in a better position to appreciate object for its qualities

          b.       Passive

                    i.        Result is passive contemplation of object

                    ii.       A kind of blank cow-like stare

          c.       Abstract (depersonalized), rather than embedded

                    i.        False view that everything about individual subject is set aside (values, beliefs desires, life exp) and this disconnects one from situation and context

                    ii.       This leads to insensitivity to individual circumstances and detail of aes situational



13.     DI is not a passive blank cow-like stare but involves active engagement

          a.       Aes attention involves active use of capacities of perception, thought and imagination

          b.       “Aes attention is rarely passive”;

          c.       Aes attention more likely involves a responsive, alert, vigorous focusing and discriminating attention, where our capacities of imagination and emotion are keyed up to respond to object

          d.       Many aes exp are active and exciting, not still and restful

14.     DI Does not require setting aside who we are, but only what we want/desire

          a.       Needn’t be impersonal or detached from self

          b.       Can relate the object to ourselves but need to separate it from our wants and desires

15.     Detachment of DI not cutting oneself off from one’s own personal experience, but setting aside util interests in the object


16.     Example of morally DI Juror

          a.       Impartial juror must background personal biases towards defendant and not let them affect her judgment of guilt/innocence

                    i.        He’s arrogant and she’s particularly sensitive to arrogant people

          b.       Juror uses own personal experience to help her:

                    i.        She’s been robbed before and thus relates to the situation of the victims and this might help her better judge if they are telling the truth

17.     Example of a DI counselor

          a.       Own experience as a supportive member of his family enables him to better help and understand his clients

          b.       DI does not mean ignoring this personal experience

          c.       DI means that his own needs and desires should not get in the way

                    i.        A counseling session may make him think about his own relationship with is partner but he must set them aside and work them out on his own time

18.     Butterfly example of DI aesthetic appreciation

          a.       In appreciating the butterfly, need not detached from who you are

          b.       Can take delight in graceful weightlessness of its fight

          c.       Due to personal associations one relates to this experience

                    i.        Identify with the freedom of its flight

                    ii.       Own experience shapes and deepens app of aes object

                    iii.      Shaped by who I am and deepens meanings I attach to it

                    iv.      Still DI because though these personal associations shape her response she is not “preoccupied by them”

                    v.       Still value butterfly for its grace and beauty and not for an end it might serve

19.     Example of being preoccupied by personal associations?

          a.       Identify with the freedom of butterfly’s flight

          b.       Because you are a woman dominated by a man and caught in an unhealthy relationship you can’t escape

          c.       Still DI if it lets you delight in butterfly’s flight

          d.       Not DI

                    i.        If it saddens you because you are comparing its freedom to your own

                    ii.       If you stop thinking about butterfly and about your husband

                    iii.      If you go out to look at the butterflies for the purpose of making you feel better about your enslavement to this man


20.     DI helps in avoiding extreme, anything goes, subjectivism as get some impartiality and potential universality Ch 2

          a.       Aes judge not merely subjective ("everyone has own taste" and beauty in eye of beholder), as it is disinterested (DI), and thus potentially universal

          b.       “Our own emotions/mood will color how we experience nature, but we have to be careful not to assume that this would be how others see it”

          c.       “DI requires we recognize certain meanings as personal and separate them from more generalizable interpretations. “74

21.     DI gets one a degree of impartiality

          a.       Personal preferences are backgrounded

          b.       Free oneself from personal desires or preoccupations in relation to the object, better able to judge object on its own terms

                    i.        But individual personal experience are allowed as relevant

                    ii.       Cow example: "As I hear cows munching I am reminded of first time walked through pasture, when pleasure tinged with fear of cows"

22.     DI keeps aes judge from arbitrariness and subjectivity of personal desires (and other practical aims)

          a.       But not from the subjectivity that results from bringing in personal exp to aes app

23.     DI helps with universality: One way aes judges don't express personal preferences

          a.       Approach flower DI (and assume others do too), can expect agreement from others when judge it beautiful.

24.     This is too strong given that some personal exp are okay and if one’s aes response is based on in individual experience not shared by others, then it may diverge

          a.       Personal desires and preoccupations not okay

          b.       But personal/individual experience are okay


25.     Concepts can be part of background of app, but don’t base our aes judge on those concepts

          a.       Aes app of beauty of a rose not arise from facts about its bio functions, but from perceptual-imaginative reflection on its color and form

          b.       Still concepts like rose and nightingale may be present and form backdrop of aes response

          c.       What it is to be a rose/nightingale in terms of function or purpose–facts about their existence-does not determine app of beauty

26.     Aes judge may permissibly conceptualize something as being an instance of a kind

27.     Such concepts okay if in background


28.     Imagine reading information on board on a nature trail and feeding it into our aes app to supplement perception

          a.       Our app is not grounded in or dt in any direct way by that kn

          b.       Why not?

          c.       Rather the kn may enable an expansion of perception of aes qual

29.     Is Brady saying that we may not take aes delight in a fact or piece of kn about an object, but that the fact has to feed into and change perception to be relevant?

30.     Her app of a butterfly can be shaped also by background kn–knowing that butterfly emerged from a caterpillar in a cocoon my increase app of vibrant colors as it enables me to recognize contrast of colors before and after metamorphosis

          a.       Kn relevant as adds meaning to perceptual qualities

          b.       So it need not change the perception but give it a dif meaning?

31.     Kn as handmaiden to perception (or something related)


32.     Thinking about how one is trapped in a relationship when view the butterfly’s free flight, takes one away from the butterfly and focuses on one’s own needs and desires


33.     While science can supplement aes response, it can also dominate app and divert attention from aes qual

          a.       Valuing butterfly as a good specimen of its species, this is valuing it in virtue of its bio rather than aes qual




34.     DI does not rule out personal relations to aes object: Ch2

35.     Does DI mean that one's own peculiar relation to an aes object is an inappropriate part of one's aes response to it? (First mountain I climbed? Where I learned to kayak?)

          a.       No!

36.     Personal experience can be part of aes exp (67 & 74)

          a.       Personal and individual experience may permissibly be brought to the aes appreciation (67)

                    i.        Cow example: "As I hear cows munching I am reminded of first time walked through pasture, when pleasure tinged with fear of cows"

          b.       Our own emotions/mood will color how we experience nature, but we have to be careful not to assume that this would be how others see it

          c.       DI requires we recognize certain meanings as personal and separate them from more generalizable interpretations. 74