Imagination and the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature

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Imagination and the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature Author(s): Emily Brady Source: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 56, No. 2, Environmental Aesthetics (Spring, 1998), pp. 139-147 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetics Stable URL: . Accessed: 12/01/2011 21:54 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . . . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected].  Blackwell Publishing and The American Society for Aesthetics are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

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Imagination and the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature

Author(s): Emily BradySource: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 56, No. 2, Environmental Aesthetics(Spring, 1998), pp. 139-147Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The American Society for AestheticsStable URL: .Accessed: 12/01/2011 21:54

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . . .

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected].

Blackwell Publishing and The American Society for Aesthetics are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,preserve and extend access to The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

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Imagination and the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature

We are familiar with the ways in which the aes-thetic response to art is guided by features ofboth the work and the individual subject, but

what guides our aesthetic appreciation of na-ture? When we interpret and evaluate a paint-ing, the perceptual features of the work guideour visual and imaginative exploration of thecanvas, and we find meaning through hese fea-tures as viewed within the framework of back-ground knowledge of the painting, feelings, andassociations. My appreciation of David's Cupidand Psyche is guided by the perceptual eaturesof the painting-I recognize a smiling youngman with his arm draped over the female figure.If I know the myth, I know that the painting

shows Cupid after he has seduced the beautifulPsyche, who lies satisfied beside him. I delightin the utter arrogance of his sensuous pose, thesmile which borders on a smirk, and I judge thepainting to be the best depiction of the myth,finely executed and expressive of the myth's en-tire narrative in a single pictorial moment.When we turn to nature, however, aesthetic ap-preciation acks the guidance of an artistic con-text. Various natural objects'-beetles, butter-cups, seascapes, or landscapes-lack a humanmaker, an artist, and also an artistic context inrespect of the type of artwork, e.g., painting orsculpture, and in respect of style, e.g., cubist orsurrealist. In my enjoyment of the soft blue-green skyline of the Blue Ridge Mountains, myappreciation is guided by what I see, colors,shapes, texture, as well as folklore and other as-sociations, but it is not directed by an artist or abody of artworks. The comparison of art and na-ture appreciation highlights the problem thatarises when artistic context is absent from aes-thetic appreciation; what replaces artistic con-text in the appreciation of nature? What frames

our aesthetic interpretation and evaluation ofbuttercups and seascapes?

Two opposing positions have been offered to

solve this problem, a science-based approach2and a nonscience-based approach.3 n this paperI suggest a solution to the problem by pointingto the drawbacks of the science-based approach.I argue that the foundation of the science-basedmodel is flawed, and that scientific knowledgeis too constraining as a guide for appreciation fnature qua aesthetic object. I offer an alterna-tive, a nonscience-based approach, which makesperception and imagination central to guidingaesthetic appreciation.


The science-based approach maintains that sci-entific knowledge guides our aesthetic appreci-ation of nature. Allen Carlson's "natural nvi-ronmental model" draws on Kendall Walton's"Categories of Art" to argue that knowledge ofthe natural sciences and their "commonsensepredecessors and analogues" replaces artisticcontext in our appreciation of nature. Waltonclaims that appropriate esthetic appreciation fart depends on having knowledge of art historyand criticism which enables us to perceive it inthe correct category; or example, we appreciateCupid and Psyche inappropriately f we per-ceive it in the category of a postimpressionistwork.4 By analogy, Carlson argues that there arecorrect categories for the aesthetic appreciationof nature. These categories are fixed by scien-tific knowledge so that, for example, correctaesthetic appreciation of a whale must involveviewing it in the correct category of a mammal(rather han as a fish).5

If one agrees with Walton's argument, it is

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convenient to appeal to natural history insteadof art history to determine appropriate pprecia-tive categories for nature. As artifacts, paintingscan be contextualized according o their history;

and for natural objects, why not turn o their his-tory-ecology and geology. But a closer lookreveals a weakness in the analogy as well asmore general problems with the science-basedapproach. The first problem involves under-standing what counts as the scientific knowl-edge which is supposed to guide appreciation nthe natural environmental model. In a responseto Noel Carroll's criticisms of the model, Carl-son says:

The primary ase Carroll resents f something hatis not meant o be commonsense nowledge f naturein the relevant ense s, in the waterfall xample, thatthe stuff hat s falling down s water." However, t isnot completely lear why such knowledge s not com-monsense knowledge n the relevant ense. Is it notthe product of the commonsense redecessors ndanalogues f natural cience?6

In these remarks, Carlson minimizes his knowl-edge requirement n such a way as to make it in-effective for determining the categories of ap-preciation he wants. If all that is needed to fixappropriate ppreciation s having a concept ofthe object, then this knowledge cannot do thework that Carlson requires of it. By his own ar-gument, it would appear hat to appreciate a wa-terfall we need to know not just that it is water,but that it is a waterfall, i.e., it is a lot of waterpouring with great force, having been channeledthrough a relatively narrow area. Only this depthof knowledge would equip us to appreciate thewaterfall's grandeur. This point fits with thewhale example above, where he claims that ap-

propriate appreciation requires not merely thatwe know it is a whale, but also that we perceiveit as a mammal because we would be unable toappreciate ts grace if we perceive it as a fish.7

Furthermore, Carlson bases the depth ofknowledge required by reference to Walton'scategories of art, which involve knowledge ofart history and criticism, yet the analogy breaksdown in the waterfall example. Here Carlson iswilling to weaken his requirement o identifyingan object under a general category-the stuffthat is falling down is water, not soil-yet this is

not analogous to Walton's categories, in which

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correct appreciation involves more specificknowledge than the capacity to identify a workof art as a painting as opposed to a sculpture.For example, to correctly judge Picasso's Guer-

nica, we must perceive it in the more specificcategory of a cubist rather han an impressionistpainting.

The consequence of the disanalogy s that thenatural environmental model cannot provide aclear answer to the problem of what groundsaesthetic appreciation of nature. This weaknessis internal to Carlson's own strategy of replac-ing artistic categories with scientific ones: thestrength of his categories is lost when he gener-alizes them so much as to include everydayknowledge of objects. To avoid this, we mightrely on remarks by Carlson which indicate amuch stronger scientific foundation for hismodel, but if this path is chosen further prob-lems emerge. I return to Carlson's response toCarroll to set out the first of these.

In his criticism of two nonscience-basedmodels, Carlson raises an excellent question:What makes these models of nature apprecia-tion a type of aesthetic appreciation?8 But weshould ask this question of Carlson's own model.It strikes me as odd to claim that scientificknowledge is essential for appreciating natureaesthetically. Scientific knowledge may be agood starting point for appreciation character-ized by curiosity, wonder, and awe, but is it nec-essary for perceiving aesthetic qualities? Coun-terexamples are not difficult to find. I canappreciate he perfect curve of a wave combinedwith the rushing white foam of the wave crash-ing on to sand without knowing how waves arecaused. My judgment of the wave as spectacularand exhilarating can be dependent solely on anappreciation of perceptual qualities and any as-

sociations or feelings which give meaning tothese qualities. It might be argued that my re-sponse also involves the very basic knowledgethat what I see is a wave, but this cannot countas an appreciative category for Carlson (asshown by the waterfall example above). I am notsuggesting a formalist approach which makesknowledge irrelevant o aesthetic appreciation,for that would "purify away" he richness of aes-thetic experience of nature.9 All sorts of knowl-edge may be appropriate according to the par-ticular object of appreciation, e.g., the cultural

narratives of history, religion, and folklore.'0

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However, while such knowledge may expandappreciation as the backdrop of an aesthetic re-sponse or when more actively fed in, this knowl-edge is not always essential to appreciation.

Carlson's emphasis on scientific knowledgefor framing appreciation also raises a practicalproblem or his model. His motive for fixing theappreciative ontext of aesthetic udgments withscientific categories is to achieve some degreeof objectivity, so that conservationists and otherenvironmental decision makers might more eas-ily use it to determine the aesthetic value ofsome part of the natural environment.'1 How-ever, alongside this possible advantage is thedisadvantage hat scientific and aesthetic valuemight become indistinguishable n the delibera-tive process. Ecological value in particular playsa dominant role in the process which leads to adecision about how to conserve or manage thenatural nvironment, yet aesthetic value is oftendismissed as too subjective and too difficult tomeasure, and thus loses an important placealongside other types of value. To ensure thataesthetic value is treated seriously in practice,we need a model of aesthetic appreciation of na-ture that carves out a distinctive place for aes-thetic appreciation and provides an understand-

ing of aesthetic value as not merely personal orarbitrary. Carlson's model meets the second cri-terion, but I am doubtful that it meets the first,because although it emphasizes disinterested-ness, it lacks sufficient emphasis on other dis-tinctive features of the aesthetic response, per-ception and imagination. We can develop amodel which meets both criteria by prioritizingthese aspects of the aesthetic response. (I expandon this point in the next section, where I set outmy alternative o the science-based model.)

My final objection to the science-based

model involves a further concern about Carl-son's emphasis on science. Another distinctiveaspect of aesthetic appreciation s its free anddisinterested character; in particular we arefreed up from instrumental or intellectual con-cerns. In this respect, contemplation of thebeauty of buttercups or seascapes is directed byperceptual qualities, rather than the origins orcategories of these natural objects. Scientificknowledge can impede attention to these quali-ties, thus diverting aesthetic attention. Againthe problem stems from making scientificknowledge a condition of appropriate esthetic

appreciation, with another undesirable mplica-tion-the necessary condition is too limiting onthe aesthetic response. 2 Although Carlson pro-vides an excellent account of the differences be-

tween artworks and natural objects and howthese differences shape our aesthetic response,13the natural environmental model does not ade-quately take on board the demands of aestheticappreciation when we move from art to nature.In this context, we need an approach hat allowsfor the freedom, flexibility, and creativity de-manded by nature qua aesthetic object. Thecomplexity of nature provides the possibility ofrich and rewarding aesthetic experience, butsuch an experience is made as much by the ob-ject as by the percipient-we must take up thechallenge that natural objects offer. Ronald Hep-burn expresses this well when he says that:

Aesthetic xperience f nature an be meagre, epeti-tive and undeveloping. odeplore uch a state of af-fairs and to seek amelioration s to accept an idealwhich can be roughly ormulated hus. t is the idealof a rich and diversified xperience, ar from static,open o constant evision f viewpoint nd of organi-sation f the visual ield, constant ncrease n scope ofwhat an be taken as an object of rewarding esthetic

contemplation, n ideal of increase n sensitivity ndin mobility f mind n discerning xpressive ualitiesin natural bjects.'4

This resounds Dewey's warning that the ene-mies of the aesthetic are those experiences of theworld that are conventional, hackneyed, hum-drum, and inchoate.15 Both Hepburn andDewey point to the power of imagination as thehuman capacity that enables us to create freshperspectives on the world. Imagination, alongwith perception, is an important resource for

taking up the aesthetic challenge offered by ournatural nvironment.

The most desirable model of aesthetic appre-ciation of nature will solve the problem of howto guide appreciation n the absence of artisticcontext, and also meet the more practical crite-ria of providing a way to make aesthetic judg-ments which are not merely subjective and away to distinguish aesthetic value from othervalues. With its emphasis on science, Carlson'smodel cannot meet the first and third require-ments. The natural environmental model isproblematic with either a weak or strong foun-

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dation of science: minimizing the requirementto everyday knowledge of objects makes thefoundation of the natural environmental modelineffective for directing appreciation, while

strengthening he requirement makes it both dif-ficult to distinguish aesthetic from scientificvalue and excessively restrictive on the aestheticresponse.

How to cope with the indeterminacy of naturewithout the help of artistic context is the prob-lem here, and I have shown that we cannot finda solution by replacing artistic context with theconstraints of science. Nor does the solution liein turning purely to the subject. In the next sec-tion I argue that we need an approach whichdraws on both subject and object, where bothcontribute to guiding the response, and I pro-pose that instead of using scientific knowledgeas the basis of aesthetic appreciation of nature,we turn o the aesthetic resources with which weare more familiar.


My nonscience-based model draws on our per-ceptual and imaginative capacities to provide afoundation for aesthetic appreciation of nature.The model is loosely Kantian, for it also in-cludes disinterestedness as a guide to appropri-ate appreciation. How exactly can these capaci-ties provide the basis of a desirable alternative othe science-based approach? To answer thisquestion, I begin constructing my alternativemodel with a discussion of the role of percep-tion, before turning to the role of imagination.

As with art, the aesthetic response to naturalobjects begins with perceptual exploration ofthe aesthetic object. With Cupid and Psyche, Iexplore the features n the painting, recognizing

the objects depicted as well as gradually inter-preting what I see. This recognition and inter-pretation eads to an appreciation of the artist'sskill in composition and the expressiveness ofthe depicted figures-Cupid's arrogance besidePsyche's sensuousness. With a natural environ-ment, such as a seascape, my perception is notdirected by what an artist has depicted, but it isnonetheless directed by the recognition and en-joyment of perceptual qualities. I focus on theforeground of the seascape, the perfect curve ofthe wave and the white foam which coincideswith the spectacular crashing sound of the

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waves hitting the sand. I delight in the contrastof the still water in the horizon which presents apeaceful and dramatic backdrop to the waves.My appreciation of aesthetic qualities is di-

rected by what I perceive, but what I pick out forappreciation depends to some extent on the ef-fort I make with respect to engaging my percep-tual capacities. With art, much depends on theability of the artist to create an engaging andimaginative work of art. With nature, the char-acter of the natural object to a great extent de-termines how much perceptual effort is re-quired. It may take less effort to see the beautyof a particularly grand andscape than a mudflator a wasteland. However, mudflats and waste-lands may also have aesthetic value, and perceiv-ing that is dependent upon the effort of the per-cipient.

An example from my own experience helps toillustrate his point. The local government whereI live is debating how to manage a landscapethat was formerly the site of an oil refinery. Be-sides some remnants of building foundationsand an old road around the site, it has becomea habitat for various plants, insects, and birds,as well as pond life in two ponds on the site.Some have argued for digging up the landscapeto

replace it with a neat and trim park. Othershave argued hat t should be left as it is, with theexception of building a boardwalk or path and afew information boards to facilitate explorationof the area for visitors. I have spent some timeexploring the place, and discovered that whatappeared to be an uninteresting andscape wasin fact very aesthetically interesting. Throughcareful attention to the various aspects of thelandscape, I discovered the graceful flight ofnumerous birds, delicate wildflowers, and anelegant pair of swans in one of the ponds. My

delight in these aspects of the place may havebeen heightened by my background knowledgeof the debate and the history of the place, but theaesthetic value I found there did not dependupon such knowledge; rather, it depended onperceptual nterest and immersion in the land-scape. 16

Such perceptual attentiveness is intimatelylinked to imagination. Imagination encouragesa variety of possible perceptual perspectives ona single natural object or a set of objects, therebyexpanding and enriching appreciation. Hepburnpoints to imagination's power to

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shift attention lexibly from aspect o aspect of thenatural bjects before one, to shift focus from close-up to long shot, rom extual detail o overall tmos-pheric haze or radiance; o overcome tereotyped

grouping nd cliched ways of seeing.'7

Perception also supports the activity of imagi-nation by providing the choreography of ourimaginings. In these ways, the perceptual quali-ties of the aesthetic object as well as the imagi-native power of the percipient come together todirect aesthetic appreciation.

To illustrate the role of imaginations in ouraesthetic appreciation of nature, I identify fourspecific modes of imaginative activity in rela-tion to natural objects: exploratory, projective,ampliative, nd revelatory magination. 9Along-side perception, these modes identify and orga-nize many of the ways we use imagination whenwe appreciate natural objects. We may use none,some, or all of them, and our responses rangefrom imaginatively thin to imaginatively thick,depending on the aesthetic object and the imag-ination of the percipient.

Exploratory imagination is the most closelytied to perception of the various modes we use.Here, imagination explores the forms of the ob-ject as we perceptually attend to it, and imagi-nation's discoveries can, in turn, enrich and alterour perception of the object. Whilst perceptiondoes much of the work in simply grasping theobject and cordoning it off in our perceptualfield, it is imagination that reaches beyond thisin a free contemplation of the object. In this wayexploratory magination helps the percipient tomake an initial discovery of aesthetic qualities.For example, in contemplating he bark of a lo-cust tree, visually, I see the deep clefts betweenthe thick ridges of the bark. Images of moun-

tains and valleys come to mind, and I think ofthe age of the tree given the thickness of theridges and how they are spaced apart. I walkaround he tree, feeling the wide circumferenceof the bark. The image of a seasoned old mancomes to mind, with deep wrinkles from age.These imaginings lead to an aesthetic judgmentof the tree as stalwart, and I respect it as I mighta wise old sage. My interpretation f the locusttree is tied to its nonaesthetic qualities, such asthe texture of the bark, as well as the associa-tions spawned by perceptual qualities.

Another feature of the exploratory mode is

that imagination sometimes undeliberatelysearches for unity in a scene where perception sunequal o the task. Imagination may struggle tobring together the various aspects of a moor

which stretches beyond sight by supplying miss-ing detail or filling in what is not seen, such asimages of the landscape beyond the horizon.

Projective imagination draws on imagina-tion's projective powers. Projection involvesimagining "on to" what is perceived such thatwhat is actually there is somehow added to, re-placed with, or overlaid by a projected mage. Inthis way projective imagination is associatedwith deliberate "seeing as," where we intention-ally, not mistakenly, see something as anotherthing. We put "seeing as" to work in order o tryout new perspectives on objects by projectingimages onto them.

In visually exploring the stars at night, imag-inative activity may overlay perception in at-tempting to unify the various forms traced byindividual stars, perhaps by naturally projectinggeometrical shapes onto them. Sometimes wetake the further imaginative leap of projectingourselves into natural objects. For example, toappreciate the aesthetic qualities of an alpineflower, I might somatically imagine what it islike to live and grow under harsh conditions.Without imagining such conditions I would beunable to appreciate the remarkable strengthhidden so beautifully in the delicate quality ofthe flower. Both of these examples show howimagination provides a more intimate aestheticexperience, and thus allows us to explore aes-thetic qualities more deeply than through per-ception alone.

The third mode of imaginative activity, am-pliative imagination, nvolves the inventive pow-ers of imagination, and need not make use of

images. It is marked by heightened creativepowers and a special curiosity n its response tonatural objects. Here imagination amplifieswhat is given in perception and thereby reachesbeyond the mere projection of images onto ob-jects. This activity may thus be described asmore penetrative, esulting n a deeper magina-tive treatment of the object. It is imagination nits most active mode in aesthetic experience.

This use of imagination nvolves both visual-izing and the leaps of imagination hat enable usto approach natural objects from entirely new

standpoints. In contemplating the smoothness

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of a sea pebble, I visualize the relentless surgingof the ocean as it has shaped the pebble into itsworn form. I might also imagine how it lookedbefore it became so smooth, this image contrib-

uting to my wonder and delight in the object.Merely thinking about the pebble is not suffi-cient for appreciating the silky smoothnesswhich is emphasized by contrasting ts feel withan image of its pre-worn state. Ampliative im-agination enables us to expand upon what wesee by placing or contextualizing the aestheticobject with narrative mages. Andrew Wyeth il-lustrates his with another example from the sea.

A white mussel shell on a gravel bank in Maine isthrilling to me because it's all the sea-the gull that

brought t there, the rain, the sun that bleached t thereby a stand of spruce woods.20

Ampliative imagination also accounts for anonvisualizing activity in which we try outnovel ways to aesthetically appreciate some ob-ject. Calling on imagination in this way facili-tates our experience of a valley as imbued withtranquillity, or by contrast, we might imaginethe cold, icy feeling of the glaciers that carvedout the valley's form.

Where ampliative imagination leads to thediscovery of an aesthetic truth, I call this imagi-native activity revelatory. In this mode, inven-tion stretches the power of imagination to itslimits, and this often gives way to a kind of truthor knowledge about the world-a kind of reve-lation in the nonreligious sense. When my alter-native contemplation of the valley, glaciers andall, reveals the tremendous power of the earth tome, a kind of truth has emerged through a dis-tinctively aesthetic experience.

I want to distinguish an aesthetic truth rom a

nonaesthetic truth according to the manner inwhich it becomes known. We do not seek outaesthetic truths in the way we seek out the an-swers to philosophical or scientific problems.Rather, aesthetic truths are revealed through aheightened aesthetic experience, where percep-tual and imaginative engagement with nature a-cilitate the kind of close attention that leads torevelation. A quick glance at a lamb reveals lit-tle except an acknowledgment of its sweetness.But the fuller participation of perception andimagination can lead to a truth about nnocence.

Contemplating the fresh whiteness of a lamb

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and its small, fragile stature evokes images ofpurity and naivete. It is through dwelling aes-thetically and imaginatively on such naturalthings that we achieve new insight.


The exploratory, projective, ampliative, andrevelatory modes of imagination explain howimagination guides aesthetic appreciation of na-ture. More generally, my model provides anappreciative context by bringing together per-ception and imagination in place of scientificknowledge.

However, my model raises a potentially seri-ous objection. To what extent should imagina-tion play a role in appreciation? t might be ar-gued that the use of imagination is likely tocause incorrect or inappropriate esponses bytrivializing the aesthetic object. Such trivialtreatment emerges with irrelevant imaginingsby the percipient, imaginings which cannot betied to the perceptual properties of the object, orthose which indulge the percipient n a personalfantasy. This line of argument might continueby claiming that imagination nevitably eads toan experience which is too unpredictable, oo ar-bitrary and prone to fantasy to guide appropriateaesthetic appreciation of nature.

Carlson does not explicitly make this objec-tion, but I believe that his model entails it. Hisaccount of the justification of aesthetic judg-ments of nature ncorporates he view that thereis an appropriate way to appreciate natural ob-jects when approached rom the aesthetic pointof view. Correct aesthetic judgment depends onappreciation of nature nformed by science, andtherefore imaginative responses which divergefrom experiencing natural objects through their

ecological, geological, or other scientific cate-gories would be inappropriate.Although I have rejected Carlson's model as

too constraining, I do not think that all imagina-tive responses are appropriate. magination etloose can lead to the manipulation of the aes-thetic object for one's own pleasure-seekingends. With art, the narrative of a novel or char-acterization determines the imaginative re-sponse to some extent. With natural objects suchexplicit guidance is absent, so on what groundsis it possible to distinguish imaginings tied to

the object from those which are not? In some

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ways this seems an impossible task; a solutionto the problem s difficult to find even for art.21However, t is possible to specify ways in whichimagination need not lead to aesthetic apprecia-

tion which trivializes and instrumentalizes na-ture, and thus to show that imaginative engage-ment can provide a valuable alternative to thescientific approach.

The close connection between perception andimagination in the aesthetic response providessome help in distinguishing appropriate rominappropriate maginings. Wyeth's response tothe seashell involves an imaginative aspectwhich is guided by attention to perceptual qual-ities and the recognition that the object comesfrom the sea. But problems arise if we dependsolely on the connection between imaginationand perception, because some imaginings canbe so tentatively ied to perceptual qualities as tobecome inappropriate because they are irrele-vant. For example, when coming upon BeachyHead, a high cliff on the south coast of England,one is awestruck by the dramatic, sheer drop tothe sea, and this feeling is heightened by theknowledge that this is a favorite suicide spot.Imagining the feeling of jumping off the cliffand the fear of someone standing at the top of

it accentuates the sublimity of the place. Butthis train of images would become irrelevant oaesthetic appreciation of the cliff if one thenimagined several possibilities, such as financialdifficulties, which might serve as a motive forsuicide.

Also, although many images evoked by an ob-ject are obviously connected to its perceptualproperties, as in the example above of the tree asan old man, there will be cases when particularimaginings are appropriate ven if this is not so.Some valuable uses of imagination do not

emerge through attention to perceptual proper-ties alone. Aldo Leopold's appreciation of amountain as wild and majestic is achievedthrough "thinking ike a mountain," or a sort ofempathetic, imaginative identification with themountain.22

So despite the fact that perception helps toguide our imaginings, reliance on the link be-tween imagination and perception alone will notserve to distinguish appropriate rom inappro-priate maginings. To remedy this, I suggest twoguidelines; the first is disinterestedness, whilethe second is characterized by comparing mag-

ination to a virtue, so that we "imagine well"when we use imagination skillfully and appro-priately according o the context of aesthetic ap-preciation. These guidelines are intended to be

flexible, since inflexibility will conflict with therange of responses demanded by the diversity ofnatural objects and percipients.

The first guideline, disinterestedness, harac-terizes aesthetic appreciation as nonpracticaland noninstrumental. Adherence to this guide-line eliminates the danger of self-indulgence bythe imaginative subject. It might be argued thatthere s a tension between the active engagementof the subject's magination and the detachmentoften associated with disinterestedness. How-ever, disinterestedness does not entail cool, dis-tanced detachment; rather, it requires detach-ment from self-interested concerns, and it doesnot follow from this that the percipient's aes-thetic response is passive.23 Properly under-stood, it is the active detachment of disinterest-edness that clears the ground for the freeactivity of imagination, but it is also what keepsit in check, thereby preventing self-indulgentimaginative responses. In freeing the mind fromself-interested and instrumental oncerns, mag-ination can underpin appropriate appreciation

of the aesthetic object. Disinterestedness hecksany thoughts or imaginings that stray from anaesthetic focus in my appreciation of the sea-scape, such as fantasizing about the abundanceof shells I might collect if the waves were not sobig.

The first guideline specifically addresses theconcern that the use of imagination eads to self-indulgence, while the second targets irrelevantimaginings. The second guideline requires amore active role by the percipient n that she orhe is expected to "imagine well." Just as keen

rather han slack perception enables the discov-ery of aesthetic value in a wasteland, imagina-tion can be used effectively or ineffectively inthe context of aesthetic appreciation. An anal-ogy to virtue is helpful for explaining how to"imagine well." For Aristotle, virtue is not a nat-ural capacity, but rather it is learned and ac-quired hrough practice. We reach a comfortablepoint where we exercise a virtue as a matter ofhabit. Imagination too is developed throughpractice, and it gains a habitual ooting just likevirtue. We can begin to see how an effective useof imagination might develop, but how exactly

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would such a use sort relevant from irrelevantimaginings? An important aspect of virtue pro-vides an answer to this question. The proper as-sessment of the context or situation of the moral

problem (using practical reason), as well aspractice, provides the foundation of the appro-priate virtue. In the aesthetic context, imagina-tion is mobilized and exercised according to thedemands of the aesthetic object, so that we be-come able to determine the irrelevance of, forexample, some of the Beachy Head imaginings."Imagining well" involves spotting aestheticpotential, having a sense of what to look for, andknowing when to clip the wings of imagination.This last skill involves preventing the irrele-vance of shallow, naive, and sentimental magi-native responses which might impoverish ratherthan enrich appreciation.24 magining a lambdressed up in baby clothes might underline theaesthetic truth of innocence, but it is sentimen-tal and shallow, and it fails to direct an appreci-ation appropriately. uch discriminations re notalways easy to make nor by any means clear-cut,but through practice it is possible to develop theskill of keeping imaginings on track.


Supported by these guidelines, imagination, to-gether with perception, can provide the frame-work for an alternative model which has severaladvantages over the science-based model. First,it provides a framework or aesthetic apprecia-tion of nature which is based n familiar aestheticsources, perception, imagination, and disinter-estedness. In contrast to scientific knowledge,perception and imagination provide a frame-work that is clearly aesthetic and which, in thepractical context, makes aesthetic value distin-

guishable from other environmental alues, e.g.,ecological, historical, and cultural. Another ad-vantage lies in the alternative model's freedomfrom the constraints of scientific knowledge, be-cause imagination and perception acilitate aes-thetic rather han intellective attention, and alsobecause this approach does not require specificknowledge of the percipient. This is especiallyimportant in the practical context where envi-ronmental decision making involves a wide va-riety of individuals who enter into the delibera-tive process with more or less expertise. The

alternative model is more inclusive, more open

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

to the aesthetic experiences of inhabitants, visi-tors, developers, ocal government, tc., in work-ing out the best solution. My guidelines showhow inappropriate maginings are avoided, and

in the practical context, they point to possibleagreement in aesthetic judgments within theframework of perception and imagination. Ar-bitrary and self-interested imaginings are pre-cluded by the guidelines, which makes it easierto settle disputes in the deliberative process.25

EMILY BRADYPhilosophy DepartmentFurness CollegeLancaster UniversityLancaster LAI 5DQEngland

INTERNET: E. [email protected]

1. By "natural bject" I do not assume objects which havenever been touched by human beings, as is sometimes ar-gued when "natural" s equated with "wilderness." Whenusing the term "natural" ere I recognize the inevitability ofsome human role in the genesis of much of what we call "na-ture," rom the significant role played by humans n the cre-

ation of an artificial lake or an English hedgerow, o the (ar-guably) negligible role in the appearance of Greenland'sicescapes. Acknowledgment of the human role is likely to bea component of the background knowledge we bring to anyparticular aesthetic encounter with nature.

2. In this paper I shall focus on Allen Carlson's science-based model since it is the most developed of them. See var-ious papers by Carlson, including: 'Appreciation and theNatural Environment," The Journal of Aesthetics and ArtCriticism 37 (1979): 267-275; "Nature, Aesthetic Judgment,and Objectivity," The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism40 (1981): 15-27; "Nature and Positive Aesthetics," Envi-ronmental Ethics 6 (1984): 5-34; "Nature, Aesthetic Appre-ciation, and Knowledge," The Journal of Aesthetics and ArtCriticism 53 (1995): 393-400. Other versions of the modelcan be found in Marcia Muelder Eaton, "The Role of Aes-thetics in Designing Sustainable Landscapes" (forthcom-ing), and "Fact and Fiction in the Aesthetic Appreciation ofNature" in this issue); and Holmes Rolston III, "Does Aes-thetic Appreciation of Nature Need to be Science-Based?"The British Journal of Aesthetics 35 (1995): 374-386.

3. Examples of nonscience-based approaches includeRonald Hepburn, "Contemporary Aesthetics and the Ne-glect of Natural Beauty," n Wonder and other Essays (Ed-inburgh University Press, 1984); Arnold Berleant, Aesthet-ics of the Environment Temple University Press, 1992);"The Aesthetics of Art and Nature," n Landscape, NaturalBeauty and the Arts, eds. Salim Kemal and Ivan Gaskell(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); and Living

in the Landscape: Towards an Aesthetics of Environment

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(University Press of Kansas, 1997); Stan Godlovitch's mys-tery model: see Godlovitch, "Icebreakers: Environmental-ism and Natural Aesthetics," Journal of Applied Philosophy11 (1994): 15-30; and Noel Carroll's arousal model in "OnBeing Moved By Nature: Between Religion and NaturalHistory," in Landscape, Natural Beauty and the Arts, eds.Kemal and Gaskell.

4. Kendall Walton, "Categories f Art," The PhilosophicalReview 79 (1970): 334-367.

5. Carlson, "Nature and Positive Aesthetics," p. 26.6. Carlson, "Nature, Aesthetic Appreciation, and Knowl-

edge," p. 399. For Carroll's quote, see Carroll, "On BeingMoved by Nature," p. 253.

7. Carlson, "Nature and Positive Aesthetics," p. 26.8. See Carlson, "Nature, Aesthetic Appreciation, and

Knowledge," pp. 394-395. The two models he criticizes areGodlovitch's mystery model and Carroll's arousal model(see note 3 above).

9. For some excellent remarks on the drawbacks of a for-

malist approach to aesthetic appreciation of nature, seeRonald Hepburn, "Trivial and Serious n Aesthetic Appreci-ation of Nature," n Landscape, Natural Beauty and the Arts,eds. Kemal and Gaskell, pp. 72-73.

10. I should point out that scientific knowledge can ex-pand appreciation as well. If my companion tells me that thewave is an aspect of a great ake, I might appreciate he waveas more spectacular due to my surprise hat a lake could cre-ate such big waves. These additional beliefs expand my per-ception and add to appreciation. But this is only a minorconcession to the science-based approach because I main-tain that scientific knowledge is not a necessary condition ofappropriate esthetic appreciation of nature.

11. For Carlson's defense of his model in this context, see

Carlson,"Nature and Positive Aesthetics."

12. I should note that Carlson does not support a dryscientific approach as the model of aesthetic experience. Hehas argued for the active, engaged, and disinterested ap-proach of the aesthetic standpoint. Nonetheless, his con-dition of the correct scientific category stands, and he is crit-ical of a strongly subjective stance. See Carlson: Appreci-ating Art and Appreciating Nature," n Landscape, NaturalBeauty and the Arts, eds. Kemal and Gaskell, pp. 203-205;and 'Aesthetics and Engagement," The British Journal ofAesthetics 33 (1993): 222-227.

13. See Allen Carlson, "Environmental Aesthetics," in ACompanion to Aesthetics, ed. D. Cooper (Oxford: BasilBlackwell, 1992), pp. 142-143.

14. Ronald Hepburn, "Nature n the Light of Art," in Won-der and Other Essays (Edinburgh University Press, 1984),p. 51.

15. See John Dewey, Art as Experience (New York:Perigee Books, 1934), p. 40.

16. Sometimes finding aesthetic value in a wasteland isimpossible without the help of someone who has had moreexperience of the landscape. As is often the case with art,sometimes we fail to find aesthetic value for ourselves andrely on others to direct us to aesthetic qualities we have notdiscovered. Here I have in mind something like Sibley's

seven critical activities (See Frank Sibley, 'Aesthetic Con-cepts," The Philosophical Review 67 [1959]: 421-450), al-though I do not think that appropriate ppreciation of art ornature requires he expertise of an art critic or naturalist, e-spectively. The guidance of a companion who has viewed

the artwork before or is familiar with the landscape may besufficient for the discovery of aesthetic qualities.

17. Hepburn, "Nature n the Light of Art," p. 47.18. My use of the term imagination s intended o include

a range of imagination's apacities, from visualizing powersto imagination's more inventive capacities such as make-be-lieve and imagining possibilities. I include here those pow-ers which do not depend on visualizing and having mentalimages.

19. The exploratory, rojective, and ampliative modes ofimagination are loosely borrowed from Anthony Savile,who discusses them in relation to narrative paintings. Thefourth, revelatory imagination, is my own. See AnthonySavile, Aesthetic Reconstructions Oxford: Basil Blackwell,

1988).20. These remarks are from an interview with AndrewWyeth in Wanda Corn, The Art of Andrew Wyeth (Green-wich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1973), p. 55. I amgrateful to Fran Speed for this quotation.

21. Some useful ways to sort relevant from irrelevantimaginings are suggested by Ronald Hepburn n "Trivial ndSerious n Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature" and in "Land-scape and the Metaphysical Imagination," EnvironmentalValues 5 (1996): 191-204. In the context of fiction, cf. PeterLamarque, "In and Out of Imaginary Worlds," n Virtue andTaste. Essays on Politics, Ethics, and Aesthetics In Memoryof Flint Schier, eds. Dudley Knowles and John Skorupski,Philosophical Quarterly Supplementary Series, vol. 2 (Ox-ford:

Blackwell, 1993).22. Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (New York:Oxford University Press, 1949), p. 129.

23. My view of disinterestedness is based (loosely) inKant's discussion of the concept, in which disinterestednessis opposed to particular kinds of interest, namely, self-inter-est and practical nterest, where in both cases we wish to usethe object as a means to some end (whether hat end is plea-sure or utility). Understood n these terms, the logic of dis-interestedness does not entail abstraction or passive con-templation, but only that we value the object for its aestheticqualities rather han how it might serve our ends. I have ar-gued elsewhere that as a condition of aesthetic appreciation,disinterestedness requires that we set aside what we want,but not who we are. (See "Don't Eat the Daisies: Disinter-estedness and the Situated Aesthetic," forthcoming n Envi-ronmental Values 7 [1998].) In this respect disinterestednessguides imagination by precluding self-indulgence withoutexcluding "embedded" r "situated" spects of the percipient.

24. See also Hepburn, "Trivial and Serious in AestheticAppreciation of Nature," or issues related to this point.

25. I am grateful to Jane Howarth, anonymous referees,and Arnold Berleant and Allen Carlson for their commentson drafts of this paper.