- PHL 360: Philosophy and the Arts
- The task of aesthetically appreciating natural environments typically tugs contemporary theorists in two directions: the desire to enhance our sensual experience of nature is tempered by the ethical impulse to establish a sense of respect for the planet we inhabit. One philosopher, Yuriko Saito, argues that these drives can be reconciled by imbuing our aesthetic theories with an explicitly moral component, which would affirm the intrinsic value of nature by recognizing its autonomous existence independent of our “humanizing” concepts.1 But while this is a commendable sentiment, I worry that its fixation on a moral principle, which in itself can be challenged, also runs the risk of restricting further potentialities for meaningful connection with nature. Thus, my critique consists in two claims, namely, that 1) our “humanization” of nature cannot be so easily transcended as Saito believes, and that 2) by embracing certain of the humanizing tendencies inherent in our theories we can still rival, if not exceed, the “moral” impact of Saito’s approach and at the same time strengthen our encounters with nature. The justification of these claims rests in the ability of humans to regard the natural environment not, as Saito intends, as a distinct moral entity, but as something with which they themselves identify in a sense. As this paper proceeds, it should become clear what is meant by such identification, what it entails, and why it is ethically and aesthetically significant.