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The Beauty of Nature As a Foundation for Environmental Ethics: China and the West

By Shan Gao

Abstract

My dissertation aims at constructing an environmental ethics theory based on environmental aesthetics in order to advocate and promote environmentally sustainable practices, policies, and lifestyles. I attempt to construct an integrated environmental aesthetics in order to inspire people’s feelings of love towards nature and motivate them to protect it.  In order to achieve this goal, I first examine the philosophical understanding and aesthetic appreciation of nature from philosophical traditions of China, which have an impact on the general public’s attitude towards nature. in chapter one of my dissertation, I point out that nature is viewed as an organic system which is always in a self-generating process of production and reproduction of life. the metaphysical foundation for this perspective of nature is ch’i. Therefore the aesthetic appreciation of nature in China is also the aesthetic appreciation of ch’i. with regard to the concept of ch’i, I focus on the following three questions: (1) what are the objective and aesthetic features of ch’i? (2) How do the Chinese appreciate aesthetic features of ch’i? (3) Why the objective features of ch’i are regarded as the objects of aesthetic appreciation? I argue that the Chinese appreciate the aesthetic features of ch’i by using intellectual intuition and that empathy is the reason why the objective features of ch’i are considered to be aesthetic features. in Chapter 2, I explain in detail the two aesthetic categories for aesthetic appreciation of nature in two major philosophical schools in China: emptiness and creativity. in Chapter 3, I examine the philosophical foundations for aesthetic appreciation of nature in the West. I first investigate the influence of traditional Western philosophy on the perceptions of nature. I argue that traditional Western philosophical thinking doesn’t support aesthetic appreciation of nature. I point out that aesthetic appreciation of nature started from eighteenth century in the West. I examine Kant’s aesthetic categories of beauty and sublime in his appreciation of nature. in contemporary world, I focus on the Allen Carlson’s positive aesthetics and Arnold Berleant’s engagement model to appreciate the beauty of environment. in Chapter 4, I evaluate the theories of aesthetic appreciation of nature in the West and China and attempt to construct an integrated theory of aesthetic appreciation of nature. the key point of this theory is to establish a caring relationship with nature based on aesthetic appreciation of nature and active participation in the beauty of it. This relationship will motivate people to protect nature and also contribute to human happiness

Topics: Beauty, ch’i, affection
Publisher: University of North Texas
Year: 2012
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Provided by: UNT Digital Library
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