The Aesthetics of Everyday Life

By Andrew Light; Jonathan M. Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
What Is the Correct
Curriculum for Landscape?

Allen Carlson


The Central Question of Environmental Aesthetics

IN HIS CLASSIC WORK, The Sense of Beauty, aesthetician, philosopher, and poet George Santayana characterizes the landscape as follows:

The natural landscape is an indeterminate object; it almost always contains
enough diversity to allow the eye a great liberty in selecting, emphasizing, and
grouping its elements, and it is furthermore rich in suggestion and in vague
emotional stimulus. A landscape to be seen has to be composed… then we feel
that the landscape is beautiful…. This is a beauty dependent on reverie, fancy,
and objectified emotion. The promiscuous natural landscape cannot be enjoyed
in any other way.1

With these few words, Santayana sets the stage for the central question of environmental aesthetics. The landscape, he says, is indeterminate and promiscuous. To be appreciated it must be, as he puts it, composed. But yet its appreciation is dependent upon all that is vague and whimsical, upon reverie, fancy, and emotion. Thus, the problem posed, the central question of environmental aesthetics, is that of how the landscape is to be composed in order to facilitate its appreciation. And furthermore, among all of the vague and whimsical stuff upon which this composition might depend, what is really relevant to a landscape's appropriate aesthetic appreciation?

In this chapter, I address this central question of environmental aesthetics as an issue in aesthetic education. The question is that of exactly how to appropri-

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