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An Affect-Based Model of Environmental Aesthetic Evaluation: An Explanation, Exploration, and Defense of the Influential Role That Aesthetic Values Play in Our Conception of the Natural World

Allison J Fritz, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Aesthetic reactions to the environment are an important feature of how many different persons value the natural world around them. I argue that aesthetic evaluation and values are constituted primarily by affect. Looking seriously at and borrowing from psychological research and theory about the emotions, I argue that emotions are best understood as appraisals which include many different, but some not necessary dimensions: they are valent, motivating, meaningful, and often related to cognition. The various facets of such account can explain different characteristics often supposed as part of aesthetic reactions or value, and can further illuminate debate over such characteristics. ^ Assuming then, that aesthetic evaluation of the natural world is affect-based, I use another affect-based model from a different domain—that of moral foundations theory—in order to explain the patterns of aesthetic judgments found between people. Moral foundations theory can explain how similarly directed aesthetic judgments can have different bases for differently situated people. What is interpreted as disorderly by some, may be interpreted as harmful by others. I further argue that understanding the deep foundational differences between people can help in garnering support for conservationist causes. This can be done by highlighting the aesthetic changes that co-occur with some practice or by adopting language that resonates for groups usually not associated with environmentalism. ^ Aesthetic evaluation, understood as affectively constituted, does not have the objectivity many environmental aestheticians have supposed. I address these different accounts, and show how they fail to deliver on objectivity and how my own meta-account can explain the foci of these different accounts on appreciation. Contrary to many of these theorists, I also argue that environmental aesthetic considerations are useful in conservationist debates, this despite being subjective. Aesthetic considerations can bridge the political divide, and understanding the varying foundations that people of different political backgrounds respond to is of use to those wanting to garner support for a conservationist issue. Besides being useful, these differences create a responsibility on the part of the government, which I argue can be met by offering clear visual representations of proposed changes to public lands.^

Subject Area

Environmental philosophy|Ethics|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Fritz, Allison J, "An Affect-Based Model of Environmental Aesthetic Evaluation: An Explanation, Exploration, and Defense of the Influential Role That Aesthetic Values Play in Our Conception of the Natural World" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10616017.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI10616017

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