Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Matthew Strohl

Commitee Members

Christopher Preston, Louise Economides


wilderness, aesthetics, aesthetic concepts, environmental practice


University of Montana

Subject Categories



In this paper I argue that many of the philosophical problems with the concept of wilderness can be mitigated by thinking of wilderness as an aesthetic concept rather than as a real feature of the world or a special metaphysical category. In Section 1, I respond to arguments for wilderness no longer being extant in the world as well as being conceptually contradictory by examining the ways in which people continue to experience wilderness in spite of these challenges. To resolve this tension, I offer an account of wilderness as an aesthetic concept, that is, as something that cannot be reduced to sufficient or necessary conditions and requires the exercise of taste to identify. I then offer examples of situations in which wilderness experience in an environment seems to be indicative of it being in line with aesthetic concepts. In Section 2 I explore what work an aesthetic concept of wilderness can do for environmental philosophy. Wilderness as an aesthetic concept allows for a greater degree of comparability with other aesthetic traditions that may yield useful solutions to environmental problems. I give an account of the Japanese aesthetics of imperfection and how it may be relevant to environmental philosophy as an example of this. Additionally, I argue that thinking of wilderness as an aesthetic concept allows it to be retained in a way that mitigates the extent to which it may be used in a harmful way while continuing to do the positive work of motivating interest in environmental issues.

Included in

Philosophy Commons



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