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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 3, Issue 1, January 2002

Environmental Aesthetics

Ken Cussen
Pages 49-56

Aesthetics and Environmental Argument

The human-centred notion of the “instrumental value of nature” and the eco-centred notion of the “intrinsic value of nature” both fail to provide satisfactory grounds for the preservation of wild nature. This paper seeks to identify some reasons for that failure and to suggest that the structure - though not the content - of the “aesthetic value” approach is the most promising alternative, though the notion of “the aesthetic value of nature”, as usually employed, also fails to capture the real motivation for such preservation. I argue that these problems arise because humans are, for good reasons, deeply ambivalent about their relation to nature. This ambivalence is explained in a Nietzschean context and I argue that an understanding of this ambivalence can be used to develop and illustrate a fuller and richer understanding of what we mean by “the value of nature” which does provide grounds for the preservation of wild nature.

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