Robert Stecker (Central Michigan Univ.). "Moral Norms and Nature Appreciation" Free & open to all. Reception follows.
Moral Norms and Nature Appreciation
The central issue in environmental aesthetics is whether there are norms that constrain aesthetic judgments about nature, and if so, what are they? This paper asks whether there are moral norms that act as such contraints. I will argue that the recent attempts to demonstrate that there are have been unsuccessful, but I will also try to construct the best case I can for the existence of such a moral norm.
Those who believe that morality has a bearing on aesthetic judgments about nature take one of two tacks. The first appeals to the idea that morally bad states of nature detract from their aesthetic value. Call this idea interaction. The other tack is that certain aesthetic judgments manifest disrespect for nature, which makes them defective or inappropriate, while others manifest respect making them more appropriate. Call this idea respect for nature.
I will first explain why contraints on aesthetic judgment play such central role in environmental aesthetics. I will then consider each of the two approaches to justifying the claim that there are moral constraints on such judgments, and in each case show that there has not been successful arguments for a moral norm that bears on aesthetic judgments. I will then use elements from each approach to make a case for the existence of such moral norms. I will argue that there are at least two reasonable competing moral norms that bear on our aesthetic judgments about nature, and in general, it is permissible to adopt either one in the face of degraded natural environments.
Robert Stecker earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy at M.I.T., and has been teaching at Central Michigan University since 1983. His research interests include aesthetics, philosophy of literature, philosophy of language, ethics, and history of modern philosophy, and he is currently working on a project on the interaction of ethical and aesthetic value. He is the author of Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art (Roman & Littlefield, 2nd. ed., 2010), Interpretation and Construction: Art Speech and the Law (Blackwell, 2003), Artworks: Definition, Meaning, Value (Pensylvania, 1997), and other books and numerous articles; and was co-editor of a new edition of Hume's Treatise of Human Nature (London, 2003). In 2014, he was presented with the Faculty of Arts and Social Science Fellowship for Distinguished Scholars by the University of Singapore.
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