Volume 8, Issue 1, Spring 2016
Landscapes and Evolutionary Aesthetics
This essay examines the possibility of developing a more complete evolutionary aesthetics that can be used to appraise both natural landscapes and works of landscape architects. For the purpose of this essay, an “evolutionary aesthetics” is an aesthetic theory that is closely connected to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Two types of Darwinian evolutionary aesthetics seem possible; a theory of evolved tastes, such as that developed by Dennis Dutton, and an aesthetics of evolving nature based on Carlson’s positive aesthetics. After, exploring both theories, I argue that, while the two positions approach aesthetics from different directions, they support similar aesthetic judgments concerning landscapes, and this suggests that the two positions might be incorporated into a broader theory of evolutionary aesthetics. That theory is briefly outlined and applied to both natural landscapes and parks.