Environmental artworks are not an aesthetic affront against nature because the aesthetic qualities of artworks are to some extent a function of other sorts of qualities, such as moral, social, or ecological qualities. By appealing to a new ecological paradigm, we can characterize environmental artworks as anthropogenic disturbances and evaluate them accordingly. Andrew Light’s model of ecological citizenship emphasizes public participation in ecological restoration projects, which are very similar to environmental artworks. Participation in the creation, appreciation, and criticism of environmental (...) art can count as a form of ecological citizenship when these practices provoke public deliberation about environmental and other community-regarding values. (shrink)
Here I explore the aesthetic implications of this new paradigm, the central implication being that scientific cognitivism, when combined with the new paradigm in ecology, may require updating the qualities associated with positive aesthetics. After reviewing Allen Carlson's defense of both scientific cognitivism and the positive aesthetics thesis, I show how the significantly different conceptual framework that the new paradigm in ecology provides will require equally significant adjustments to how we aesthetically appreciate nature. I make two suggestions. First, the new (...) paradigm in ecology suggests that aesthetic appreciation should focus on natural processes, which will require a more theoretical approach to aesthetic appreciation. Second, because the new paradigm appeals to aesthetic qualities such as imbalance, disorder, and disharmony to make the natural world intelligible, these qualities are consistent with an updated positive aesthetics thesis and should therefore replace the qualities associated with the old paradigm. Collectively, these two suggestions imply that the beauty of nature is dynamic and chaotic rather than stable and orderly. (shrink)
Ecological science has at one time or another deemed nature a machine, an organism, a community, or a system. These metaphors do not refer to any metaphysical entity, but are useful fictions in terms of how they reflect the beliefs and values held by members of a scientific and cultural community. First I trace the history of ecological metaphors from the metaphysical and cultural perspectives. Then I document a gradual transition from a belief in structural natural order to a belief (...) in conceptual natural order. Finally, I conclude by arguing that the metaphysical allegiances of ecological theories have largely been shaped by aesthetic considerations. (shrink)
I first provide an introduction to a neglected topic in contemporary aesthetics: intellectual beauty. I then review James McAllister’s critique of autonomism and reductionism regarding the relation between empirical and aesthetic criteria in scientific theory evaluation. Finally, I critique McAllister’s “aesthetic induction” and defend an alternative model that emphasizes the holistic coherence of aesthetic and other theoretical virtues in scientific theorizing.