What makes people appreciate the aesthetic aspect of nature? What are its basic characteristics?
Many of us possess aesthetic values. Can this be used to benefit nature or the environment? Can this
have a counter influence and actually damage the environment? How?
Is aesthetic value something intrinsic to a person or can this be modified? What factors (education,
culture, religion etc.) might influence the formulation and evolution of aesthetic values of a person?
If aesthetic appreciation is that which delights the senses, then the characteristics of nature which we
value relate to the senses, but aesthetic experience is more than purely sensual: I'm not sure we want
to include eating and sex as aesthetic. To exclude these it could be suggested that aesthetic value
involves externality of that which is appreciated together with its ability to cause prolonged
contemplation and also that such value is only given to that which culture determines as art although
on an institutional definition of art, nature would be excluded.
Kant thought that we appreciate nature as beautiful because it looks as if it is designed for our
appreciation. This is an artistic approach to nature. I think that the artistic and purely visual approach
may not ultimately be beneficial since it is not to appreciate the environment for simply being. At a
certain level of development man is in a position to create something other than nature. Two of the
arts, architecture and landscape gardening, can enhance the environment, but the further from the joy
of being in nature people get and the more sophisticated and civilised they become, the more
damage is done, ie there is not so much nature around to appreciate. I think that the pleasure of
being or existing in the world is the sort of appreciation that is needed if we are to care about
protecting the environment. To care about, love and enjoy nature as wonderful in itself, not simply
visually, includes appreciation of the less than perfect, eg the smells, the dirt, the danger, the pure
reality of nature and the sense of timelessness it evokes. This is aesthetic insofar as the senses are
roused to contemplation — it is more than perception — but this is not aesthetic in the sense of the
term in which it only applies to art.
Although you might be able to bring someone to appreciate art and nature, what we appreciate is
probably based on taste which depends upon our psychological type. In 1995 Leicester University did
a survey asking people to list the art they thought "best" and the art they "loved best". Michelangelo's
Sistine Chapel paintings were thought "best", but not "best loved" because people didn't want such
things decorating their homes. Education, culture and religion will probably influence what we take to
be "best", or of greatest aesthetic value, as it did in this Western survey since most of those involved
probably had little knowledge of Japanese art, for instance. What they actually like, and choose to
hang on their walls, may be mass-produced Japanese art though. I don't think that taste can be
modified much and, in any case, according to the survey the formulation of aesthetic value of art
doesn't depend on taste but on recognition of quality. It seems that taste is intrinsic to a person but
when we ascribe aesthetic value we seem to take a more objective stance. There may be no such
thing as "taste" in a purely artistic evaluative sense. It may be that people find Michelangelo's
paintings too grand or serious and like something they feel comfortable with on their walls, and
likewise, it may be that those who appreciate nature feel comfortable in it. But this is good. There will
always be people who appreciate aspects of nature and these people will be among those who
protect the environment.