The Aesthetics of Environment

The Aesthetics of Environment

Arnold Berleant
Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Aesthetics of Environment
    Book Description:

    "Not since Thoreau has an American author displayed such a profound appreciation for the aesthetics of nature; but, unlike Thoreau, Berleant has designed a program for allowing others to join in on that appreciation." --E. F. Kaelin, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University Environmental aesthetics is an emerging discipline that explores the meaning and influence of environmental perception and experience on human life. Arguing for the idea that environment is not merely a setting for people but fully integrated and continuous with us, Arnold Berleant explores the aesthetic dimensions of the human-environment continuum in both theoretical terms and concrete situations. Insisting on the need to reconceptualize environment and recognize its aesthetic implications, he pursues a variety of topics and approaches to environmental aesthetics. Aesthetic experience, maintains Berleant, is always contextual. Recognizing that humans, along with all other things, inhabit a single intraconnected realm, he names the quality of engagement as the foremost characteristic of environmental perception. Berleant moves from natural to nonnatural environments, suggesting that the aesthetic aspect of any human habitat is an essential part of its desirability. From outer space to the museum, from architecture to landscape, from city to wilderness, this book discovers in the aesthetic perception of environment the reciprocity that constitutes both person and place. "Arnold Berleant's Aesthetics of Environment poses an important path for philosophy to walk down--instead of environmental ethics, where what is right and wrong in nature is discussed, he goes after the difficult destination of deciding how to articulate what is beautiful in the nature we want, not the nature we see." --Human Ecology Review "Berleant's new environmental aesthetics is a challenge not only to the philosophers but also to the practitioners of environment-making. With rich illustrations and freedom from technical jargon, Berleant applies his new aesthetics to analyzing and solving the practical problems concerning various environmental designs of today." --Canadian Philosophical Review "A pioneering contribution to this discipline. It raises a large number of challenging questions and suggests new dirrections in the analysis of the environment as an aesthetic category." --Michael H. Mutias, Professor of Philosophy, Millsaps College

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0538-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Chapter One Environment as a Challenge to Aesthetics
    (pp. 1-13)

    Aesthetics, as the theory of the arts, would seem to have little to contribute to any discussion of environment. To the unreflective eye, in fact, no two interests must appear less related. The one, aesthetics, is an esoteric discipline, the philosophically minded inquiry into the nature and meaning of the arts. And the arts, whatever else they may be, stand in the minds of most people as the epitome of contrivance, a manipulation of materials such as stone, wood, metal, paint, sound, and words that carries them far beyond their ordinary appearances. Nothing seems further removed from environment than this,...

  6. Chapter Two The Aesthetic Sense of Environment
    (pp. 14-24)

    Perceiving environment occurs in many ways and on many different levels. It moves from the fleeting recognition of cues that provide practical information to the specialized study of natural phenomena. It includes the objects of environmental interest in design, architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and ecology. In its simplest form environmental perception is mere sensory awareness, the precondition for everything else. From this it can extend to different purposes, many of which leave the perceptual order to pursue cognition and action for practical ends, scientific investigation, social interests, or economic goals. Simply apprehending environment is the precondition for experiencing it aesthetically,...

  7. Chapter Three Descriptive Aesthetics
    (pp. 25-39)

    The range of aesthetic inquiry has been broadening and diversifying in recent years, not just in the matters we choose to reflect on, but in the very methodology by which we inquire into them. One can, in fact, distinguish several different ways of doing aesthetics.Substantive aestheticshas the longest history. It comprises theories that propose positive (and sometimes negative) views about the character, experience, and meaning of art in general and about individual arts, examining their place in the order of society and the scheme of philosophy. Explanations of art as representation, as the expression of emotion, as the...

  8. Chapter Four Scenes from a Connecticut Landscape: Four Studies in Descriptive Aesthetics
    (pp. 40-56)

    Turning off the active secondary highway onto a narrow side road marks an abrupt change. My speed slows to a third of what it was, for the space is narrower and more constricted. The visible road ahead shortens to a bare hundred yards, its surface undulating unevenly as it rises to a bump and then turns sharply right. The shift in movement and space, the change of scene are as sudden and striking as opening a door off a wide, anonymous corridor.

    As soon as I make the turn I am greeted by a white colonial farmhouse, a modest classic,...

  9. Chapter Five Aesthetic Paradigms for an Urban Ecology
    (pp. 57-81)

    While environment has become a popular topic in many circles—conservation, legislative, corporate, community, and international—it has not often provoked a reflective inquiry into its philosophical meaning and significance. Indeed, in the increasing regard for environment, a crucial aspect of the subject has often been either disregarded, circumscribed, or trivialized: the aesthetic. And when aesthetic interests do receive attention, they are usually judged as a belated and desperate effort to save the beauty of our natural world from the irrecoverable ravages of exploitation and from the disfigurement and loss that follow.

    Recognizing aesthetic values in environment should lead, however,...

  10. Chapter Six Cultivating an Urban Aesthetic
    (pp. 82-98)

    For most people the city, particularly the industrial city, is the antithesis of the aesthetic. While there may be sections of a city that have their charm, trucks and automobiles have conquered its streets, and pedestrians scurry before them like the vanquished before a victor. Gardens and parks are occasional oases amid the barren desert of concrete and asphalt, but the dominating features of urban experience remain mechanical and electronic noise, trash, monolithic skyscrapers, moving vehicles, and air heavy with fumes. The personal and intimate are swallowed up in mass structure and mass culture. And the human place—precarious and...

  11. Chapter Seven Designing Outer Space
    (pp. 99-113)

    We live in an age in which outer space has changed from a theme for flights of science fiction to the actual locus of exploration and travel.¹ Space no longer has merely speculative significance for thinking about possible worlds; it has become a real factor in understanding the nature and conditions of the human world that we are constantly refashioning. Our entry into outer space brings with it changes in conditions and experience that require us to rethink the concepts through which we comprehend environment and act environmentally. Even the pervasive spatial metaphors by which we order things lose their...

  12. Chapter Eight The Museum of Art as a Participatory Environment
    (pp. 114-125)

    What is it to appreciate something aesthetically? This is a curious question. To the layperson it may seem unnecessary; to some scholars, at least, unanswerable.¹ The prevalent view, as we have seen, is that appreciation requires a special kind of attention that is disinterested, an attitude in which we set aside practical uses and regard the object in a contemplative manner for its intrinsic qualities. The proper aesthetic distance is supposed to foster this, for a psychological remove from the object will keep us from confounding it with actual things and events.²

    Disinterested contemplation is usually taken as an unexceptionable...

  13. Chapter Nine Environmental Criticism
    (pp. 126-144)

    Criticism occupies a distinctive place in writing about art. While not primarily historical, it usually draws on scholarship in the history of the arts. And while not mainly concerned with developing theoretical concepts or structures, critics frequently identify new movements in the artworld and contribute terminology for innovative techniques and altered sensibilities to the discussion of the arts. Yet criticism rests on theoretical commitments, even though writers are often unaware of this and rarely acknowledge their assumptions. There are notable exceptions, all the more significant because they are not typical, from Richard Wagner and Eduard Hanslick to Clive Bell and...

  14. Chapter Ten Environment as an Aesthetic Paradigm
    (pp. 145-159)

    In earlier chapters I commented on how the doctrine of aesthetic disinterestedness has dominated discussions of art and its experience since the eighteenth century.¹ The idea of keeping art distinct from practical purposes and regarding the art object sympathetically for its intrinsic qualities seems to account well for the kind of attitude necessary for appreciation. While some, like Nietzsche, have challenged its appropriateness, disinterestedness has continued to reign as a preeminent aesthetic principle to the present day.

    We have discovered difficulties with this tradition, however. Perhaps Nietzsche was not being entirely hyperbolic when he accused Kant of “a complete lack...

  15. Chapter Eleven The Aesthetics of Art and Nature
    (pp. 160-175)

    The title of this chapter masks a deliberate ambiguity, one that is, in fact, its central issue. Few would deny the possibility of obtaining aesthetic satisfaction from both works of art and from nature, customarily in the case of the first and under certain conditions in the other. But whatsortof satisfaction is this, and is it the same kind in nature as in art?

    The usual course, perhaps the most intuitively obvious, is to recognize that aesthetic value exists in both domains but, for historical and philosophical reasons, to find that the kind of appreciation each encourages is...

  16. Chapter Twelve Reclaiming the American Landscape
    (pp. 176-190)

    One of America’s great resources is its landscape, a landscape that has inspired some of our most noble painting and literature. Our sense of nature lives in a rich cultural history that celebrates the panoramas and the drama of the American scene. Emerson’s transcendental vision and the breadth of Thoreau’s moral naturalism represent this temper. So, too, does the scope of the Hudson River painters, which extended from the receding wilderness that covered the worn ranges of the eastern mountains to the great peaks and magnificent vistas of the Rockies, and even led, in the case of Frederick Church, to...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 191-208)
  18. Index
    (pp. 209-218)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-219)