Monday, April 18, 2011

Natural Beauty

My last post, on the natural sublime, contained two images: one was a photograph by Ansel Adams, the other a painting by Georgia O'Keeffe. Both were of the same subject -- a leaf -- but the difference between the two shows that there can be no "objective" view of even an ordinary object. Of course, we all recognize that a leaf is being represented. To that extent, we all possess (as Kant might say) a common cognitive apparatus. The representation, however -- the photograph or the painting -- is evidence of the artist's "distinctive soul" (as Roger Scruton says, in his book Beauty). All of us, likewise, when viewing nature, see something different. Thus, according to Kant, the subjective aspect of our view of nature or of art. As Scruton notes, for Kant the appreciation of arts became a "secondary exercise of aesthetic interest." It is our appreciation of nature -- even the most utilitarian people respond to their surroundings -- that is the "primary exercise of judgment."

The lovely image at the top is of a species of butterfly, Kallima inachus, that mimics dry leaves for camouflage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much Emily Dickinson was influenced by pictures like these. One thinks of her seated alone, or standing near a window.