When Ethics and Aesthetics Are One and the Same

A Wittgensteinian Perspective on Natural Value


  • Marcello Di Paola Department of Political Science, LUISS University




Natural value, environmental ethics, Wittgenstein, sub specie aeternitatis (‘through the lens of eternity’)


Many environmental philosophers have held naturalness to be a primary source of nature’s value. Seen this way, the nature that is most valuable is wild nature, and ‘wild’ is that which is unmodi?ed by human activity. However, accounts of our attributions of value to the wild often have an aura of elusiveness to them, as if what really matters about nature being wild could not ultimately be captured by words. In an attempt to account for what really matters, I relate our fascination with wild nature to a famous Wittgensteinian quote—‘Ethics and Aesthetics are one and the same’ (Tractatus 2006a: 28, §6.421)—and inspect the ways in which important dimensions of our attributions of value to wild nature can be elucidated by re?ecting on such cryptic identi?cation. I claim that the experience of wild nature more than any other experience forces on us the adoption of what Wittgenstein called the view sub specie aeternitatis (‘through the lens of eternity’) leading us to appreciate the miraculous character of anything being the case at all, ourselves included. Accordingly, the value of wild nature lies in its being a most powerful gesture towards the miracle of existence. The experience of wild nature shows us the good of being alive rather than not. This sort of experience is one in which ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.


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How to Cite

Di Paola, M. (2015). When Ethics and Aesthetics Are One and the Same: A Wittgensteinian Perspective on Natural Value. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 9(1), 19–41. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.v9i1.15828