When Ethics and Aesthetics Are One and the Same

A Wittgensteinian Perspective on Natural Value

Authors

  • Marcello Di Paola Department of Political Science, LUISS University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.v9i1.15828

Keywords:

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

Abstract

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.

References

Berleant, Arnold. 2004 [1992]. The Aesthetics of Environment (Philadelphia: Temple University Press).

Brennan, Andrew. 1984. ‘The Moral Standing of Natural Objects’, Environmental Ethics 6: 35-56. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5840/enviroethics19846118.

Callicott, J.B. 2003. ‘A Critique of and an Alternative to the Wilderness Idea’, in Light and Rolston 2003: 437-43.

Carlson, Allen. 1979. ‘Appreciation and the Natural Environment’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 37: 267-76. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/430781.

Carroll, Noël. 1993. ‘On Being Moved by Nature: Between Religion and Natural History’, in S. Kemal and I. Gaskell (eds.), Landscape, Natural Beauty and the Arts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 244-66. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511554605.012.

Cavell, Stanley. 1980. The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (New York: Oxford University Press).

Conant, James. 2005. ‘What “Ethics” in the Tractatus Is Not’, in D.Z. Phillips (ed.), Religion and Wittgenstein's Legacy (London: Ashgate): 39-88.

———. 2007. ‘Mild Mono-Wittgensteinianism’, in Crary 2007: 31-142.

Conant, James, and Cora Diamond. 2004. ‘On Reading the Tractatus Resolutely’, in M.

Kolbel and B. Weiss (eds.), The Lasting Signi

Published

2015-05-18

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

Issue

Section

Articles