Monthly Archives: September 2011

Critique of the Scientific Cognitive Environmental Aesthetics Approach

As one might expect, each of the competing approaches in the non-cognitive models [that will be explained later posts] insist that Carlson’s scientific cognitive approach fails to accommodate their particular perspective.[1] However, Budd focuses on two macro issues with Carlson’s proposal. He suggests that, “Although focused on the appreciation of the natural environment, it [the cognitive approach] appears to be offered as the correct model, not just for the appreciation of the natural environment, but for aesthetic appreciation of nature tout court.”[2] The over-emphasis on the scientific information about the environment results in an inability for the cognitive to account for the fact that environments are always in motion with animals changing migration patterns and plants growing where they are not indigenous. The second objection against the cognitive approach is the scope of knowledge necessary to be successful. If common-sense/natural-scientific knowledge of nature is essential, Budd inquires, “How much knowledge about a natural item is relevant? If not all, what makes a piece of knowledge relevant or de rigueur for the item’s aesthetic appreciation?”[3]The cognitive approach provides no criteria for determining which information is pertinent for making environment aesthetic valuations.

[1] Ronald Moore, “Appreciating Natural Beauty as Natural,” Journal of Aesthetic Education 33, no. 3 (1999): 149. Moore summarizes the critiques of the cognitive approach well as he concludes, “Many people, even those that admire the contributions Carlson has made to environmental aesthetics, believe the cognitive model is over-intellectualized. Noel Carroll, for example, objects that Carlson fails to give an adequate role to emotion; Stan Godlovitch objects that Carlson fails to given an adequate role to mystery. Arnold Berleant is concerned that Carlson’s view does not sufficiently provide for what he calls engagement. Cheryl Foster believes that the cognitive model leaves out the meditative response that is important in our experiences of nature.”

[2] Malcolm Budd, The Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature: Essays on the Aesthetics of Nature (Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press ; Oxford University Press, 2002), 135.

[3] Ibid.,  136.


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