Throughout modernity, aesthetics had been marked by a significant narrowing of its subject matter, the early peak of this trend being Kantian aesthetics of disinterestedness and modernist formalism based on distance. Arnold Berleant’s mission in aesthetics has been to re-open its domain towards all elements of every-day life, including consumer products, political systems, and the environment. By defining the aesthetic field as an environment of continuity between the self and the non-self, Berleant has managed to transform the Kantian subject-object relation into one of unity. However, the paper argues that such an environmental aesthetics requires a basically realist or materialist ontology of perceiving bodies in a physical environment that seems incompatible with the sort of ontology Berleant deploys. Thus, in Berleant’s perspective, a sensory or aesthetic field and a material, partly-external environment seem to be two ways of articulating the same space. But this elides or collapses a series of key distinctions. The paper argues that the status of “woods” or “mountains” as objects outside our sensorium, objects not constituted by interpretation, is ultimately needed for a fully responsive and responsible environmental ethics and aesthetics. Nevertheless, despite this difficulty, Berleant’s opening in aesthetics is extremely salubrious.

Included in

Aesthetics Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.