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Thompson, Janna, and . Aesthetics and the Value of Nature

1995, Environmental Ethics, 17 (3): 291-305.

Abstract: Like many environmental philosophers, I find the idea that the beauty of wildernesses makes them valuable in their own right and gives us a moral duty to preserve and protect them to be attractive. However, this appeal to aesthetic value encounters a number of serious problems. I argue that these problems can best be met and overcome by recognizing that the appreciation of natural environments and the appreciation of great works of arts are activities more similar than many people have supposed.

Comment: This text provides a clear introduction to the question of environmental beauty and value. Thompson surveys aesthetic theories of environmental value as they provide reasons for environmental protection. She also provides a number of useful comparisons between art criticism and the appreciation of nature/the value of art and the value of nature. This text would fit well in an introductory course on art, beauty, environmental ethics, or value theory.

Yuriko Saito, and . Everyday Aesthetics

2007, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Publisher’s Note: Everyday aesthetic experiences and concerns occupy a large part of our aesthetic life. However, because of their prevalence and mundane nature, we tend not to pay much attention to them, let alone examine their significance. Western aesthetic theories of the past few centuries also neglect everyday aesthetics because of their almost exclusive emphasis on art. In a ground-breaking new study, Yuriko Saito provides a detailed investigation into our everyday aesthetic experiences, and reveals how our everyday aesthetic tastes and judgments can exert a powerful influence on the state of the world and our quality of life. By analysing a wide range of examples from our aesthetic interactions with nature, the environment, everyday objects, and Japanese culture, Saito illustrates the complex nature of seemingly simple and innocuous aesthetic responses. She discusses the inadequacy of art-centered aesthetics, the aesthetic appreciation of the distinctive characters of objects or phenomena, responses to various manifestations of transience, and the aesthetic expression of moral values; and she examines the moral, political, existential, and environmental implications of these and other issues.

Comment: Saito draws on the lack of strong distinctions between fine and applied arts in Japan, as well as feminist insights and environmental aesthetics, to explore topics such as the non-disinterested nature of day to day aesthetic judgment, attitudes toward mess and disorder, and the aesthetics of domestic life. Her detailed work opens up the extraordinary complexity, including moral dimensions, of ordinary aesthetic responses to everyday objects and experiences. This is a good text to pair with cross-cultural texts on everyday aesthetics. Does not require an understanding of Japanese aesthetics and philosophy.