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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 12, Issue 1, Spring 2015

Roger Paden
Pages 45-66

Nature, Disorder, and Tragedy
Towards an Evolutionary Aesthetic

This paper outlines a normative/philosophical theory of evolutionary aesthetics, one that differs substantially from existing explanatory/psychological theories, such as Dutton’s. This evolutionary theory is based on Carlson’s scientific cognitivism, but differs in that it is based on evolutionary rather than ecological theory. After offering a short account of Carlson’s theory, I distinguish it from a normative evolutionary aesthetics. I then explore an historically important normative/philosophical theory of the aesthetics of nature that is consistent with Darwin’s theory of natural selection; namely, the theory of the picturesque. Finally, after summarizing Nietzsche’s early theory of tragedy, I discuss how some of his ideas might be incorporated into an evolutionary aesthetics.

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