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Join the Philosophy Department's Kleiner Seminar co-hosted with UGA's Environmental Ethics Certification Program and the UGA School of Public and International Affairs.

Abstract: Although there are theories of environmental aesthetics which can be described as pluralist, they do not, generally, show why this feature is an explicit strength. This paper develops a pluralist environmental aesthetics by arguing against monism and in favor of engaging diverse resources, epistemologies, and ontologies to inform both theory and practice. I begin by noting existing theories which may be described as pluralist and critical, that is, they argue that a variety of grounds are reasonable for aesthetic judgments of mixed and natural environments, e.g., multisensory perception, imagination, emotion, various knowledge systems, place-based narratives, and the arts. The advantages and disadvantages of pluralism are discussed with reference to, respectively, the complexity and heterogeneity of appreciative situations and contexts and the differences between critical pluralism and relativism. Pluralism is then brought into the context of environmental problems which are trans-spatial, crossing the boundaries of regions, continents, ecologies, and earth systems. Given the trans-spatial and trans-temporal nature of climate change, I also show how the flexibility and richness of pluralism offers the advantage of drawing upon a range of global resources to articulate aesthetic meanings and values now and into the future, from the predictive models of climate science to imagination and fiction.

Emily Brady is professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University. Her research and teaching interests span environmental and everyday aesthetics, environmental ethics, and eighteenth-century philosophy. She has authored or co-edited several books, including, Aesthetics of the Natural Environment (2003), The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature (2013), and Between Nature and Culture: The Aesthetics of Modified Environments (with Isis Brook and Jonathan Prior, 2018). Her current research project, “Aesthetics in Planetary Perspective: Environmental Aesthetics for the Future,” develops a new agenda for aesthetics in response to urgent environmental problems, which she constructs through the conceptual frames of 'future aesthetics', 'intergenerational aesthetics', 'aesthetic humility', beauty, wonder, and the sublime.

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