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Environmental Ethics

Volume 27, Issue 3, Fall 2005

Thomas Leddy
Pages 299-315
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics200527318

A Defense of Arts-Based Appreciation of Nature

In a pluralist and pragmatist view of aesthetic appreciation of nature, nature is validly appreciated through various cultural media including science, technology, mythology, and, in particular, the arts. Those who attack arts-based appreciation mainly think about the arts of the nineteenth century: traditional landscape painting and sculptures on pedestals. When we turn to art since the 1970s, for example, earth art, this picture changes. Allen Carlson’s attack on postmodernist and pluralist models of aesthetic appreciation does not pose significant problems for an arts-based approach, for he makes a major concession to non-scientific culture-based approaches when he allows mythological descriptions. If mythology can be taken into consideration when appreciating the natural environment, then the arts should be as well. The aesthetic object in environmental aesthetics is emergent from, and upon, the interaction of the experiencing subject(s) and the appreciated environment, the limits of which are set by the experiencing subject(s). These limits need not be narrowly science-based.