Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Christopher Preston

Commitee Members

Cara Nelson, Matthew Strohl


aesthetics, Allen Carlson, anti-formalism, Emily Brady, environmental ethics, environmental protection, Kendall Walton, Marcia Eaton, natural world, Ned Hettinger, Noel Carroll, preservation, scientific cognitive model, beauty, environmentalism


University of Montana


Aesthetics has played an influential role in how we ascribe value to the environment. Yet, it seems that if we are to take the beauty of the natural world seriously, certain aesthetics judgments must be better than others. The scientific cognitive model posits that the natural world must be interpreted through an understanding of biological and geological categories, which are provided by scientific knowledge and common sense. While there are clearly merits to this model, it is not without its own set of problems and limitations. These problems exist in both the model itself and with its extension to environmental ethics. This thesis functions as an analysis and critique of this particular model, suggesting that it should not be thought of as comprehensive in both a descriptive and a normative sense, nor relied on exclusively for environmental decision making. I suggest two other models of aesthetic appreciation that can and should exist alongside the scientific cognitive model, eventually settling on a position of constrained pluralism.



© Copyright 2011 John K. Hays