Environmental Ethics

Volume 27, Issue 3, Fall 2005

Stephanie Ross
Pages 245-263

Landscape Perception
Theory-Laden, Emotionally Resonant, Politically Correct

Our primal ability to see one thing in terms of another shapes our landscape perception. Although modes of appreciation are tied to personal interests and situations, there are many lines of conflict and incompatibility between these modes. A religious point of view is unacceptable to those without religious beliefs. Background knowledge is similarly required for taking an arts or science-based view of landscape, although this knowledge can be acquired. How to cultivate responses grounded in imagination, emotion, and instinct is less clear, but advocates are eager to spell out notions of virtuous exercise and effective schooling. Carlson’s science-based theory often gets the most attention because he has refined and defended it over many years, but there is a place in aesthetic nature appreciation for the formal or design elements he dismisses as well as for religious, imaginative, emotional, and ambient responses. To date, the normative aspects of these theories have been presented sketchily at best. Working out these details will chart a way for landscape appreciation to become politically correct.