Aesthetic appreciation of landscape is by no means limited to the sensuous enjoyment of sights and sounds. It very often has a reflective, cognitive element as well. This sometimes incorporates scientific knowledge, e.g.,geological or ecological; but it can also manifest what this article will call 'metaphysical imagination', which sees or seems to see in a landscape some indication, some disclosure of how the world ultimately is. The article explores and critically appraises this concept of metaphysical imagination, and some of the (...) roles it can play in our aesthetic encounters. (shrink)
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How can we best understand our aesthetic appreciation of sky and space? This essay begins by outlining the nature of spatial experience through some examples. Then it examines how our responses can be shaped by art and myth. Here we see how themes, such as ascension, that were current in prehistory and developed religions, can be reappropriated as components of a justifiable aesthetic experience. However, the task of finding defensible aesthetic responses to space as both experience and abstract idea does (...) present paradoxes. For example, how are we to respond to scientific updates about the ever greater vastness of space? The way forward presented here is to endorse, but not with any sense of uniqueness of misplaced grandeur, our freedom to contemplate with due seriousness both the near and the far and our own capacities, such as imagination and love, as also part of the wonder and mystery of the universe. (shrink)
The idea of aesthetic disinterestedness has been a central concept in aesthetics since the late eighteenth century. This exchange offers a contemporary reconsideration of disinterestedness from different sides of the question.
No-one can read far into our subject without finding an author linking aesthetic experience and freedom in one sense or another: Kant, notably of course, but also Schopenhauer, Schiller, and many more. In this article I want first [A] to remind you in a sentence or two of those by now classic ways of connecting concepts of freedom and aesthetic experience, and then [B] to outline some thoughts of my own. Section [C] opens up in more detail a less frequented (...) and less well-charted topic: basically, the many- layered nature of much aesthetic experience, and how that can involve freedom in an ‘improvisatory’ contribution by the apprec iator. Each layer can be thought of as containing a ‘given’—the product of earlier syntheses, plus a new component, in its turn, to be synthesized, whether historical, scientific, religious, or other. This probably occurs most of all in the aesthetic appreciation of nature, since art offers some controlling, ‘mastering’ of the appreciator’s response. (shrink)
The aesthetic appreciation of both art and nature is often, in fact, judged to be more – and less – serious. For instance, both natural objects and art objects can be hastily and unthinkingly perceived, and they can be perceived with full and thoughtful attention. In the case of art, we are better equipped to sift the trivial from the serious appreciation; for the existence of a corpus, and a continuing practice, of criticism of the arts – for all their (...) internal disputatiousness – furnishes us with relevant criteria. In the case of nature, we have far less guidance. Yet it must matter, there too, to distinguish trivial from serious encounters. When we seek to defend areas of “outstanding natural beauty” against depredations, it matters greatly what account we can give of the appreciation of that beauty: how its value can be set alongside competing and vociferously promoted values involved in industry, commerce and urban expansion. If we wish to attach very high value to the appreciation of natural beauty, we must be able to show that more is involved in such appreciation than the pleasant, unfocused enjoyment of a picnic place, or a fleeting and distanced impression of countryside through a touring-coach window, or obligatory visits to standard viewpoints or snapshot-points.That there is much work to be done on this subject is of course due to the comparative neglect of natural beauty in recent and fairly recent aesthetics. (shrink)
This title was first published in 2001. This book focuses on the rich web of interrelations between aesthetic and wider human concerns. Among topics explored are concepts of truth and falsity, superficiality and depth in aesthetic appreciation of nature, moral beauty and ugliness, the projects of integrating a life, of fashioning a life as a work of art, experiments in the aesthetic re-working of the 'sacred', the role of imagination within religion and in our attempts to place and identify ourselves (...) within the cosmos. The essays are both interlinked and distinct, allowing them to be read in any order, and providing useful themes for discussion groups and seminars. The author aims to arouse in the reader something of his enjoyment in unravelling the connections of ideas that come into view when one approaches aesthetics in its widest setting. (shrink)
In some recent theological writing, imagination is presented as a power of the mind with crucial importance for religion, but one whose role has often suffered neglect. Its fuller acknowledgment has become a live issue today. ‘Theologians’, wrote Professor J. P. Mackey, ‘have recently taken to symbol and metaphor, poetry and story, with an enthusiasm which contrasts very strikingly with their all-but-recent avoidance of such matters’. As well as relevant writings by Eliade and Ricoeur, there have been treatments of religious (...) imagination by Professor John Mclntyre in his Faith, Theology and Imagination and in J. P. Mackey's composite volume entitled Religious Imagination. (shrink)
I shall mean by ‘cosmic imagination’, first, the mental appropriating of objects, events, processes or patterns perceived in nature-atlarge, so as to apply them in articulating our own scheme of values, and in our quest for self-understanding. I shall apply the phrase also to the synthesising activity of the mind in our appraising of items in wider nature itself or as a whole – whether we believe nature to have no value save what we choose to confer or project on (...) it, or take it to have a value that sets limits on our appropriation, benign or exploitative. (shrink)
First published in 1966, The Discipline of the Cave is the first series of a course of Gifford lectures on philosophical issues.. J N Findlay’s lectures use the image of the Cave to show how familiarity is full of restrictions, and involves puzzles and discrepancies unable to be resolved or removed. Such philosophical perplexities may be a result of the misunderstanding and abuse of ordinary ways of thinking and speaking. They may also be a way of ‘drawing us towards being’, (...) providing proof of the absurdity of ordinary thought, speech and experience unless modified and added to in ways which may point beyond it. What may be called a mystical and otherworldly element may need to be introduced into or rendered explicit in all our experience in order to give a viable sense to the most commonplace human utterances and activities. (shrink)
This paper has a twofold structure: both parts concern philosophy's understanding of its data—in the area of aesthetics. The first part considers aesthetics as philosophy of art: the second part considers aesthetics as concerned also with the appreciation of nature.