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The Aesthetics of Environment

Arnold Berleant

Publication Year: 2010

"Not since Thoreau has an American author displayed such a profound appreciation for the aesthetics of nature; but, unlike Thoreau, Berleant has designed a program for allowing others to join in on that appreciation." —E. F. Kaelin, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University Environmental aesthetics is an emerging discipline that explores the meaning and influence of environmental perception and experience on human life. Arguing for the idea that environment is not merely a setting for people but fully integrated and continuous with us, Arnold Berleant explores the aesthetic dimensions of the human-environment continuum in both theoretical terms and concrete situations. Insisting on the need to reconceptualize environment and recognize its aesthetic implications, he pursues a variety of topics and approaches to environmental aesthetics. Aesthetic experience, maintains Berleant, is always contextual. Recognizing that humans, along with all other things, inhabit a single intraconnected realm, he names the quality of engagement as the foremost characteristic of environmental perception. Berleant moves from natural to nonnatural environments, suggesting that the aesthetic aspect of any human habitat is an essential part of its desirability. From outer space to the museum, from architecture to landscape, from city to wilderness, this book discovers in the aesthetic perception of environment the reciprocity that constitutes both person and place. "Arnold Berleant's Aesthetics of Environment poses an important path for philosophy to walk down—instead of environmental ethics, where what is right and wrong in nature is discussed, he goes after the difficult destination of deciding how to articulate what is beautiful in the nature we want, not the nature we see." —Human Ecology Review "Berleant's new environmental aesthetics is a challenge not only to the philosophers but also to the practitioners of environment-making. With rich illustrations and freedom from technical jargon, Berleant applies his new aesthetics to analyzing and solving the practical problems concerning various environmental designs of today." —Canadian Philosophical Review "A pioneering contribution to this discipline. It raises a large number of challenging questions and suggests new dirrections in the analysis of the environment as an aesthetic category." —Michael H. Mutias, Professor of Philosophy, Millsaps College

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

...field of study, environmental aesthetics, out of the convergence on a similar body of issues by scholars and researchers from different fields. This work appeared first at interdisciplinary conferences in aesthetics, environmental design, philosophy, and the human sciences. Soon, articles and books began to appear that addressed similar questions from the standpoint of various disciplines-phi...

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pp. xv

The American Museum of Natural History, 1990); "The Environment as an Aesthetic Paradigm," Dialectics and Humanism 15, nos. 1-2/1988: 95-106; "Space by Design: Aesthetic and Moral Issues in Planning Space Communities," with Sarah Fowler, The Monist 70/ 1 (October 1987): 72-87; "Cultivating an Urban Aesthetic" Diogenes 136 (October-December 1986): 1-18; "Aesthetic Paradigms for

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One: Environment as a Challenge to Aesthetics

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pp. 1-13

...little to contribute to any discussion of environment. To the unre flective eye, in fact, no two interests must appear less related. The one, aesthetics, is an esoteric discipline, the philosophically minded inquiry into the nature and meaning of the arts. And the arts, what epitome of contrivance, a manipulation of materials such as stone, ...

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Two: The Aesthetic Sense of Environment

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pp. 14-24

...many different levels. It moves from the fleeting recognition of cues that provide practical information to the specialized study of natural phenomena. It includes the objects of environmental interest in design, architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and ecology. In its simplest form environmental perception is mere sensory aware...

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Three: Descriptive Aesthetics

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pp. 25-39

...diversifying in recent years, not just in the matters we choose to reflect on, but in the very methodology by which we inquire into them. One can, in fact, distinguish several different ways of doing aesthetics. Substantive aesthetics has the longest history. It comprises theories that propose positive (and sometimes negative) views...

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Four: Scenes from a Connecticut Landscape: Four Studies in Descriptive Aesthetics

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pp. 40-56

...side road marks an abrupt change. My speed slows to a third of what it was, for the space is narrower and more constricted. The visible road ahead shortens to a bare hundred yards, its surface undulating unevenly as it rises to a bump and then turns sharply right. The shift in movement and space, the change of scene are as sudden and striking...

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Five: Aesthetic Paradigms for an Urban Ecology

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pp. 57-81

...circles-conservation, legislative, corporate, community, and international- it has not often provoked a reflective inquiry into its philosophical meaning and significance. Indeed, in the increasing regard for environment, a crucial aspect of the subject has often been either disregarded, circumscribed, or trivialized: the aesthetic. And when...

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Six: Cultivating an Urban Aesthetic

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pp. 82-98

...is the antithesis of the aesthetic. While there may be sections of a city that have their charm, trucks and automobiles have conquered its streets, and pedestrians scurry before them like the vanquished before a victor. Gardens and parks are occasional oases amid the barren desert of concrete and asphalt, but the dominating features...

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Seven: Designing Outer Space

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pp. 99-113

...from a theme for flights of science fiction to the actual locus of exploration and travel. I Space no longer has merely speculative significance for thinking about possible worlds; it has become a real factor in understanding the nature and conditions of the human world that we are constantly refashioning. Our entry into outer space brings with it changes in conditions and experience that require us...

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Eight: The Museum of Art as a Participatory Environment

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pp. 114-125

...a curious question. To the layperson it may seem unnecessary; to some scholars, at least, unanswerable. I The prevalent view, as we have seen, is that appreciation requires a special kind of attention that is disinterested, an attitude in which we set aside practical uses and regard the object in a contemplative manner for its intrinsic qualities.

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Nine: Environmental Criticism

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pp. 126-144

...art. While not primarily historical, it usually draws on scholarship in the history of the arts. And while not mainly concerned with developing theoretical concepts or structures, critics frequently identify new movements in the artworld and contribute terminology for innovative techniques and altered sensibilities to the discussion of the...

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Ten: Environment as an Aesthetic Paradigm

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pp. 145-159

...aesthetic disinterestedness has dominated discussions of art and its experience since the eighteenth century. I The idea of keeping art distinct from practical purposes and regarding the art object sympathetically for its intrinsic qualities seems to account well for the kind of attitude necessary for appreciation. While some, like Nietzsche,...

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Eleven: The Aesthetics of Art and Nature

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pp. 160-175

...one that is, in fact, its central issue. Few would deny the possibility of obtaining aesthetic satisfaction from both works of art and from nature, customarily in the case of the first and under certain conditions in the other. But what sort of satisfaction is this, and is it the same kind in nature as in art? The usual course, perhaps the most intuitively obvious, is to...

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Twelve: Reclaiming the American Landscape

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pp. 176-190

...landscape that has inspired some of our most noble painting and literature. Our sense of nature lives in a rich cultural history that celebrates the panoramas and the drama of the American scene. Emerson's transcendental vision and the breadth of Thoreau's moral naturalism represent this temper. So, too, does the scope of the...


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pp. 191-208


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pp. 209-218

E-ISBN-13: 9781439905388

Publication Year: 2010