Some Final Exam Study Questions***
****Students: These are study questions for exams on aesthetics and the environment that I have used in the
past. As you can see, they are incomplete in that they do not cover all readings we have studied. Even in cases
where I do list questions, they are incomplete about important topics in those readings that we have discussed.
Working though these questions should help you prepare for the exam. But don't assume these questions are
comprehensive or that they necessarily indicate appropriate focus. There will be material on the exam not
included in these questions. There will also be material on the exam drawn from these questions.
Hepburn's neglect of natural beauty
- Why does Hepburn argue that one can't properly evaluate and aesthetically respond to an object if one
doesn't know whether it is an artefact or a natural object? Do you think he is right? How would a formalist
respond to this argument?
- Hepburn claims that art objects have features that objects in nature lack and that these differences can
positively contribute to the aesthetic experience of nature. Describe the features he identifies and discuss
the ways they contribute to the aesthetic experience of nature.
- Using an example, explain what Hepburn means when he says that theoretical knowledge is appropriate in
the aesthetic appreciation of nature, though not for its own sake but to help us determine the aesthetic
impact of the object on us.
- Using one of Hepburn's own examples, explain why he does or does not make a distinction between
superficial, shallow aesthetic experiences of nature and those less superficial that are more worth having.
- Hepburn suggests that science can both enhance and undermine our aesthetic experience of nature. Give
examples of each
- According to Carlson, properly appreciating both art and nature involves placing aesthetic objects from
each in the right categories. Use Carlson's example of appreciating Van Gogh's Starry Night and
appreciating a whale (or woodchuck) to explain this point. Do you agree with it?
- What is Carlson's view of the role of science in nature appreciation and how does his conception of proper
aesthetic appreciation support this position? Do you agree with Carlson about the role of science in nature
- Explain in what way Carlson's thinks natural history takes the role that art history plays in the aes
appreciation of art for the aes appreciation of nature.
- What are Carlson's views about the role of science in the appropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature? (If
you can, compare and contrast them with Rolston's views on this issue.) What are some of Carlson's main
arguments for this view about the role of science. Assess from your own perspective both Carlson's
conclusions about the role of science in the aesthetic appreciation of nature and his arguments for it.
- Carlson argues that just as serious art appreciation is informed by art history, so too serious nature
appreciation is informed by knowledge of natural history/science. Explain this analogy using examples and
assess it from your own perspective.
- Is reason an important part of aesthetic appreciation??
- Using an example, explain Carlson's distinction between serious and easy beauty. Do you accept this
- Explain how Carlson believes his account of the role of science in the aesthetic appreciation of nature can
support the preservation of nature. Use a swamp as an example.
- Is Carlson's account of serious aesthetic appreciation of nature elitist? Why might someone think it is?
How might Carlson respond to this charge?
- Is it true that more knowledge we have of nature, the more we are likely to positively aesthetically evaluate
- What is Noel Carroll's major objection to Carlson's theory of the aesthetic appreciation of nature? How
might Carlson respond to Carroll's objection?
- Does Carroll reject the type of aesthetic appreciation of nature that Carlson is advocating? Why or why
- Does Carroll think an uninformed emotional arousal is acceptable in both art and nature appreciation?
- What is the problem of "aesthetic focus?" How does Carlson address this problem? How does Carroll
- Does Carroll think an uninformed emotional arousal is acceptable in both art and nature appreciation? Do
you think he is right? Does Carroll think one can be appropriately emotionally aroused by a natural object
about which one has false beliefs? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
- Given Carroll's account of aesthetic appreciation of nature as emotional arousal, explain how he accounts
for the presence (or lack) of objectivity in nature appreciation.
- How does Carroll respond to someone who might argue that being moved by nature is mere enjoyment of
nature and is not the deep level of appreciation of nature that is had by one with scientific knowledge of
- How does Carroll respond to the suggestion that being moved by nature is to have a displaced religious
emotion that needs to be demystified and psychoanalyzed away?
- Discuss the issue of aesthetically appreciating something while having a false belief about it. Is this a
problem? (Does it lead to inappropriate or less than fully adequate aesthetic appreciation?) Why or why
not? For Carlson? For Carroll?
- What is Noel Carroll's critique of Carlson? Does Carroll believe that his sort of aesthetic appreciation can
be "objective?" Explain why or why not.
- Does Rolston believe that a scientific understanding of nature is necessary and/or sufficient for the aesthetic
appreciation of nature? Does he think it is necessary for the best aesthetic appreciation of nature? Do you
agree with him? Why or why not?
- What are the two components that Rolston thinks are necessary for a proper aesthetic appreciation of
nature? Which of these does Daniel Boone lack? Which of these might a scientist lack?
- If a person's aesthetic appreciation is based on a false belief, does that mean that appreciation is deficient?
Using an example explain both Rolston's view and your own view.
- Do you accept that there are better and worse aesthetic appreciations of nature? That there are more or less
appropriate aesthetic appreciations?
- Is science the only way we can know what something really is?
- Must one appreciate an object for what it is in order to properly appreciate the object?
- Suppose one believes that the lakes in Minnesota were created by Paul Bunyan's blue ox Babe and that one
has a powerful aesthetic response to those lakes because of this belief. Is this an appropriate appreciation of
nature? Is it as appropriate as an equally powerful aesthetic response based on knowledge of glaciation and
how kettle ponds form?
- Is Thomas Heyd a post-modernist in terms of the aes app of nature, given Carlson's understanding of post-modernism (what does Carlson mean by this)?
Rolston Evaluating Nature Aesthetically (on Positive Aesthetics)
- What is positive aesthetics? Distinguish between several versions of this thesis. Which version does
- What is positive aesthetics? Distinguish between several versions of this thesis. Discuss Saito's objections
to this thesis. Assess these objections from your own perspective. In light of the above discussion, what
are your own views on the issue of positive aesthetics for nature? Do you agree with this perspective or
not? Why or why not?
- What are two distinct objections to positive aesthetics that Saito provides. Do you think these objections
- What is the "scenery cult?" What are some aesthetic objections to the scenery cult? What is Saito's moral
argument against the scenery cult? Assess these objections to the scenery cult from you own perspective.
- Are moral considerations aesthetically relevant? What does Saito say about this and why? What do you
think about this and why?
- Yuriko Saito presents the following argument to show that moral value can appropriately affect our
aesthetic appreciation. Consider the character of abandonment and desolation of a ghetto with burned cars,
broken windows, boarded-up houses, weed-infested vacant lots. Sometimes we aesthetically value
abandonment and desolation as in a rugged moor. So if we do not find these characteristics aesthetically
pleasing in a ghetto it must be because we have a negative moral view of the ghetto. Do you accept this
argument? Why or why not? Is Saito right that our aesthetic judgments about things can change as our
ethical beliefs about those things change?
- Is it wrong to aesthetically appreciate an atom bomb mushroom cloud or a pollution sunset? Is it
aesthetically inappropriate or only morally so (or is it aesthetically inappropriate because it is morally
- Consider the following conflicting aesthetic judgments: (1) The litter and clutter of a suburban sprawl
highway expresses waste, disregard, carelessness and exploitation, and it spoils the scenic beauty, warmth
and integrity of the natural landscape. (2) "Roadside clutter" of the sprawl highway expresses hard work,
determination and vision. Is it plausible to argue that one of these judgements is better, more appropriate,
or truer than the other? Are the ethical consequences of these aesthetic judgements for the preservation of
nature good reasons to prefer one judgement over the other?
- Is it legitimate to think that an aesthetic response to nature is inappropriate because it gets in the way of
protecting nature from human caused degradation?
- Discuss the dispute between Emily Brady and Marcia Eaton on the role of imagination in the proper
aesthetic appreciation of nature.
Hepburn on trivial and serious
- Using some of the ideas of Hepburn, Carlson, Carroll, Saito, and Heyd on this subject, discuss your own
position on the idea that some aesthetic appreciation of nature is better or worse than others. Make sure you
distinguish between different ways of thinking about the better/worse distinction.
- In what ways does Hepburn distinguish between better and worse (e.g., serious and trivial) in the aesthetic
appreciation of nature? How do Carlson, Heyd, and Carroll make this distinction (do they?)? How do you
make this distinction (do you?) and explain why.
Carlson an env. art as aes affront
- Explain Carlson's views on environmental art. Use examples. Doe he disapprove of any, and if so what
are his reasons? Does he approve of any, and if so what are his reasons? Assess Carlson's argument
concerning environmental art from your own perspective.