Three Problems for the Aesthetic Foundations of Environmental ...
Three Problems for the Aesthetic Foundations of Environmental Ethics Written by J. Robert Loftis Presented by Kelsey Ruben Preview Present 3 reasons why we should NOT rely on aesthetic foundations to justify the environmentalist program Aesthetic value of nature can provide weak reasons for action at best Not everything environmentalists want to protect has positive aesthetic qualities
Development can be as aesthetically positive as nature Reasons to Investigate Aldo Leopold writes that: Aesthetics is a big part of his motive for adopting his environmental ethic We seek contact with nature because we derive pleasure from them Many philosophers have suggested that the value of nature is primarily aesthetic Reasons to Investigate Eugene Hargroves Foundations of Environmental
Ethics Philosophical argument to justify aesthetic motivations Aesthetic considerations justify an environmental ethic (ethical imperative to preserve), and the existence of the environmentalist movement (political movement) Actual existence of objects with positive aesthetic qualities is valuable apart from those objects being experienced we have a duty to preserve the existence of positive aesthetic qualities in nature, like our duty to preserve works of art with positive aesthetic qualities Hargrove offers no indication that satisfactory nonaesthetic justifications exist now Mission
Argue that aesthetic considerations do not have justificatory force (arguments that are likely to lead to the truth) that Hargrove claims Environmental Ethic Not conservationist, but preservationist Goal of environmentalism: to leave much of nature in its original state or restore it to that state Assumes that actions/demands of environmentalists represent what an
environmental ethic demands Mission Aesthetics are not sufficient ground to an ethic of preservation of nature We should find other justifications for environmentalism Aesthetics should only play a limited role in foundations of environmental ethics Does not rule out abandonment of environmentalist program
Why would a self-acclaimed environmentalist neglect to rule this out? The Superficiality Problem Aesthetic Considerations involving nature are weak and cannot motivate the kind of substantial measures that environmentalists routinely recommend People are asked to sacrifice jobs/economic well being for sake of environment
EX: Loggers, developers etc. The Superficiality Problem Compares duties generated by positive aesthetic qualities in nature to the duty to protect and preserve positive aesthetic characteristics in humans It is likely that there is an evolutionary basis for both judgments of positive aesthetic characteristics of humans and landscapes Western society acts to preserve positive aesthetic qualities in humans but recognize it as a silly waste of resources; while preserving beauty of nature is called virtueBut we have discussed instances
when vanity in nature can be detrimental (gasoline lawnmowers/fertilizer) The Superficiality Problem Environmental organizations are like clubs devoted to promoting the careers of models other people find unattractive -- What do you think? We do not let human physical beauty play a role in decision making But environmentalists work to protect parts of nature which are commonly viewed as ugly EX: swamplands
The Superficiality Problem If actions are superficial when regarding humans they are superficial when regarding nature Compares Julia Butterfly Hill (spent 2 years in a Redwood to keep it from being cut down) to a psychotic stalker Obj: Stalker is inappropriate analogy Her actions can only be seen as noble, if she is motivated by more than aesthetics (which she was) Resp: A relationship is deeper than mere aesthetic appreciation. Stalker is appropriate if
aesthetics are motivation. The Superficiality Problem Obj: We only object to overvaluing the aesthetic qualities of humans because it obscures the deeper value that humans have Resp: There are more problems than this (Tom Cruise being paid millions to look good) Obj: If someone highly values the appearance of all humans equally, they are less superficial Resp: Still focused on properties that we
consider less important The Range of Habitat Problem If we are to preserve nature because it has positive aesthetic qualities, then it seems as though we should only preserve a limited range of landscapes those that we find positive aesthetic qualities in Typical environmentalist also wants to protect less attractive areas Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not a particularly inviting place
The Range of Habitat Problem It appears that the aesthetic foundations of environmental ethics will not justify the protection of the full range entities environmentalists are currently fighting to protect Positive Aesthetics: all natural objects are beautiful because they are natural Obj: The seemingly unattractive species and landscapes are actually full of aesthetic value Much like humans are full of inner beauty as well as outer beauty?
The Range of Habitat Problem One could argue in accordance with Allen Carlson Appreciating a landscape requires understanding its ecology/geology & appreciating an animal requires understanding its biology One can then argue that underappreciated parts of nature are full of aesthetic qualities Resp: But there is no guarantee that a
scientifically informed aesthetic will lead us to preserve the range of habitats and species that environmentalists want to preserve The Range of Habitat Problem Carlson: purpose of scientific knowledge is to provide the kind of background that knowledge of art history provides for the judgment of art We must find the right categories under which to judge something Rorqual whale as mammal vs fish Criticizing ANWR for being desolate is like
criticizing Pulp Fiction for being violent But what if you dont like barren landscapes/violent movies? The Range of Habitat Problem Response to Positive Aesthetics If being natural eliminates all negative aesthetic qualities, then natural things with profoundly negative qualities are included EX: animal eating its young, tapeworms, tornados
Obj: Instrumental value via Aesthetic value: argues for the preservation of the parts of nature that lack positive aesthetic qualities on the grounds that they are necessary for the the parts that do have positive aesthetic qualities Resp: Many endangered species cannot play big role in stability of ecosystem The Range of Habitat Problem Aesthetic foundations of environmental ethics cannot support the preservation of the full range of habitats and species
environmentalist wish to preserve Environmentalists overreaching their foundations Trying to protect species that have no positive aesthetic characteristics and are not necessary for the survival of any other species that does Do you agree? The Technology-Is-Beautiful Problem Because a well-designed piece of technology can have a wide variety of positive aesthetic qualities by technologically altering the landscape, one is not necessarily making it
more ugly Obj: The sort of development of landscape that angers environmentalists has no positive aesthetic qualites EX: strip mines, suburban sprawl etc. Resp: If we can bring seemingly unattractive ecosystems under the protective umbrella, why cant we learn to love ugly culture? The Technology-Is-Beautiful Problem Obj: The loss of natural objects represents the loss of a particular kind of aesthetic value
Someone painting over all cubist canvases Resp: This happens all the time. Not only do entire genres of art disappear, but whole media EX: Panoramas before film Conclusion Aesthetic considerations cannot play a significant role in the foundations of environmental ethics If we, environmentalists, are to adequately press our case, we need to find a better way
to characterize the value we find in nature As an environmentalists then, Loftis must believe that there is such a way to do this. Why not introduce it or renounce his stance as an environmentalist?
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