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Don't Eat the Daisies: Disinteredness and the Situated Aesthetic

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In debates about nature conservation, aesthetic appreciation is typically understood in terms of valuing nature as an amenity, something that we value for the pleasure it provides. In this paper I argue that this position, what I call the hedonistic model, rests on a misunderstanding of aesthetic appreciation. To support this claim I put forward an alternative model based on disinterestedness, and I defend disinterestedness against mistaken interpretations of it. Properly understood, disinterestedness defines a standpoint which precludes self-interest and utility, and it does not entail a passive subject abstracted from who they are. This standpoint is compatible with a 'situated aesthetic' in which appreciation of aesthetic qualities is grounded in an embedded subject who is sensitive to the context and narrative of the object. The alternative model provides a conception of aesthetic value which distinguishes it from amenity value, and it also defines a non-instrumental approach that offers the opportunity for enhanced appreciation and attention to nature's value.

Keywords: aesthetic value; disinteredness; environmental aesthetics; natural beauty

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 1998

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has an impact factor (2015) of 1.311.
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