Aesthetics | Encyclopaedia Britannica | 15 edition

Stephen C. Pepper was a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, that was released in 1974 (and seemed to be the current resource through 2012).

A critical review of the Aesthetics entry specifically mentions Pepper. The section on Aesthetics doesn’t seem to follow the “clans” with a British orientation, with American and/or Continental points of view.

One of the articles that overrides to an admirable extent the clannishness exhibited thus far is the entry on “Aesthetics” by Stephen Pepper and Thomas Munro. The discussion not only includes the historical and contemporary options of the West, but also considers in some detail the interpretations presented by the Orient, the special province of Thomas Munro in this work. This is the only article in the systematic section that gives substantial attention to the Orient, a direction future editors of the Encyclopaedia should be encouraged to follow as a matter of policy in an increasingly global society. And at the same time, the article exhibits more than casual acquaintance with work being done in the sciences on aesthetics. Pepper recommends the study of aesthetics, among other things, as a case study for the philosophy of science, for it is a discipline in process of breaking away from philosophy to become a specialty in its own right. [p 727]

Philosophy is thus viewed as general comprehension and the seat of future specialties. Pepper basically divides approaches to the field into naturalist-hedonistic theories which have been developed in the direction of the scientific approach, and “non-scientific” approaches. The latter category begins with Kant’s analysis of the insight into deeper values afforded by the genius through the harmonization of understanding and sensibility. It includes contextualist emphases upon the qualities that are the objects of experience, organistic emphases upon the wholeness of experience with its objects, formistic emphases upon imitation of the object, expressionist theories, mystical theories as well as linguistic analytical theories. The Oriental section underscores the mystical interpretation, though Munro goes out of his way, by repeating it several times, to claim the possibility of a naturalist interpretation. Pepper’s conclusion calls for an integration of the varying non-scientific approaches with the scientifie, since the aesthetic ought not only to be studied “from without,” but most especially lived through and reflected upon “from within.” [pp. 727-728]

Two deficiencies in an otherwise excellent article might be noted. The limitation of Plato’s notion of art to imitation omits the distinction between imitative artists and divine artists in the Phaedrus and fails to consider Plato’s own practice in myth-making at the end of the Republic. Secondly, Pepper’s description of the limitation of Gestalt theory to dealing with the object does not give any attention to the Leipzig Gestaltists Felix Krueger, Wilhelm Stern, and Philipp Lersch who focused attention upon the status of feeling. But these are minor limitations in an otherwise admirable exposition. [p. 728]


Wood, Robert E. 1977. “Philosophy in the New Encyclopaedia Britannica.” The Review of Metaphysics 30 (4): 715–52.


#aesthetics, #stephen-c-pepper

Root Metaphor: The Live Thought of Stephen C. Pepper (1980)

For scholars seeking references to the articles published in special issue of Paunch (1980) on the work of Stephen C. Pepper, the pursuit will seem elusive. Fortunately, the editor in chief, Art Efron, put the contents on the open Internet. Although he’s Efron has since retired and the web pages are gone, the content has been preserved on the Internet Archive!

This issue of Paunch is devoted entirely to the philosophy of S.C. Pepper. Eventually all twenty of the essays will be available at this site including the painting by Hiroshige, “The Shono Station.” The essays will be individually listed on this page but can also be accessed through the Table of Contents by clicking on Paunch link at the beginning of this paragraph.

“Work Related to Pepper”, at
Utagawa Hiroshige (1933) Driving Rain at Shono (Station 46) from the series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido [described at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and displayed on Flickr as “Shono, 45è station du Tokaido (Musée Guimet / MNAAG, Paris)” by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra as part of a temporary exhibition “Sur la route du Tokaido” in 2019.

The 221-page issue was reviewed in a variety of philosophy journals.

This special edition edition of of Paunch magazine magazine presents essays on Stephen C. Pepper’s theory of root metaphor, developed in in World Hypotheses, and its extensions to aesthetics aesthetics and art criticism. [p. 90] [….]

The order of presentation of these essays generally follows Pepper’s original view, beginning with the general theory of root metaphor in metaphysics, then moving to more special applications in aesthetics. Arthur Efron in a 42-page Introduction indicates that Pepper’s attempt was not to devise a metaphysical theory, but to determine a procedure for testing truth claims, a method for understanding any metaphysical theory. And Pepper clearly saw here no sharp division between philosophy, psychology (especially psychology of visual perception), and physiology. Pepper, Efron claims, “is the only one to argue consistently that actually there are only four or five relatively adequate views” in metaphysics. Relations may be found here, however, with Irwin Edman’s Four Ways of Philosophy, which was published in 1937, the same year as Aesthetic Quality. There is no question that Pepper was in close contact not only with Dewey but with Edman as well—Columbia University’s professor of “Philosophy of Art and Theory of Criticism.” Elmer H. Duncan writes about why he believes “Pepper should be considered one of the greatest philosophers of this century” (p. 64). Of the general commentators on Pepper’s theory of root metaphor, only Charles Hartshorne is seriously negative. [p. 91] [….]

It is clear that the hope of many of these writers is to help rectify the eclipse of Pepper’s metaphysical and aesthetic theory by the domination in recent decades of analytical philosophy. But the suggestion in many places that the significance of Pepper’s thought is to be found in its practical application—not only to art criticism, but to psychology, gerontology, the teaching of humanities, or even to library science (see p. 34) — bypasses the kind of logical argument needed to defend the significance of Pepper’s thought on a philosophical level. The telling criticisms of Hartshorne or Yanal remain unanswered by notes of practical usefulness.

Harrell, Jean G. 1980. Review of Root Metaphor: The Live Thought of Stephen C. Pepper, by Arthur Efron and John Herold. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 39 (1): 90–92., .

Pepper’s work in aesthetics was closely linked to his contributions to value theory and to metaphysics. In value theory he extended the cognitive naturalism of Ralph Barton Perry in conjunction with the purposive behaviorism of Edward Tolman. In 1947 Pepper presented his value theory in compact form in A Digest of Purposive Values, and elaborated it in comprehensive, technical detail in Sources of Value (1958). His textbook, Ethics (1960), offers a social adjustment theory of morality; it contains, in compressed and elementary form, his general theory of value based on the concept of the selective system as the unifying principle. In metaphysics, Pepper’s book, World Hypotheses (1942), is a minor, contemporary classic. Against the anti-metaphysical positivisms of his time, Pepper treated metaphysical theories as world hypotheses, and traced their origin to root metaphors drawn from ordinary experience. He then argued that there are only four adequate world hypotheses – formism, mechanism, organicism, and contextualism; and, further, that these world hypotheses are equally adequate and autonomous. Then in his 1961 Carus lectures, published as as Concept and Quality (1967), Pepper advanced a fifth world hypothesis — selectivism — as his own. [pp. 66-67].

Despite the quantity and quality of his works, Pepper, like so many of his philosophical compatriots, has been neglected by the contemporary American community of professional philosophers. Perhaps the present volume under review will usher in a period of deserved critical appre- ciation of Pepper’s thought, although it is noteworthy that its editors, Arthur Efron and John Herold, are not professional philosophers, but an English professor and a professor of literature and music appreciation respectively. Nonetheless, the volume of essays they have assembled and to which they have ably contributed will reward the attention of philosophers. Arthur Efron introduces the volume with a long essay (pp. 5-53) which provides not only a probing interpretation of Pepper’s thought but also a helpful overview of significant commentary on it, including the contents of the volume under review. For a judicious assessment of Pepper’s continuing value, Efron’s essay is highly recommended. [p. 67]

Reck, Andrew J. 1981. Review of Review of Root Metaphor: The Live Thought of Stephen C. Pepper, by Arthur Efron and John Herold. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 17 (1): 65–69. .

In the poetry collection of the University of Buffalo is a collection of “Paunch Magazine records (Art Efron)” with the note, “This collection has not yet been fully processed”.

Paunch, the journal of literary criticism founded by longtime UB English faculty member Art Efron, endured for 37 years and became a home for radical ideas and different genres.

Efron, who retired from UB in 2005 after more than 40 years on the faculty, will share behind-the-scenes stories of Paunch ….

Wuetcher, Sue. 2016. “Efron to Share Behind-the-Scenes Stories of Paunch.” Research News. UBNow (blog). May 16, 2016. .

#contextualism, #paunch, #stephen-c-pepper

Stephen Pepper’s “World Hypotheses” | TOK-SOCIETY-L@LISTSERV.JMU.EDU | 2018

A rich discussion on “Stephen Pepper’s World Hypotheses” was begun in January 2018 on the Theory Of Knowledge listserv at , led by Steven Quackenbush at the University of Maine, Farmington

2018-01-07 First episode at;533b5a05.1801

2018-01-24 Season 1, Episode 2 at;cb6d2f1b.1801&S=

2018-01-21 Season 1, Episode 3 at;c93812d7.1801&S=

2018-01-28 Penultimate Episode at;a36f9d53.1801&S= , with Conceptualism.pdf at–089e082767f0df56290563e1c630&T=application%2Fpdf;%20name=%22Contextualism.pdf%22&N=Contextualism.pdf&attachment=q&XSS=3

2018-02-04 Season Finale at;5f06bad6.1802&S= , with Organicism.pdf at–94eb2c14aa7c2c95a0056469034f&T=application%2Fpdf;%20name=%22Organicism.pdf%22&N=Organicism.pdf&attachment=q&XSS=3

#conceptualism, #organicism, #stephen-c-pepper, #world-hypotheses

Archive of Work related to Stephen C. Pepper ~ 1989 | Bill J. Harrell

In reading Daley (2000), I noted the following footnote.

I would like to thank Bill J. Harrell, recently retired professor at the department of Sociology and Anthropology at S.U.N.Y. Institute of Technology, for his time and helpful claficiation relative to the work of Stephen C. Pepper. In addition I refer the read to Harrell’s web page at ( [sic, dead link, available at ] where he has assembled articles related to Pepper’s work in a variety of disciplines, a Pepper list for communication between researchers using Pepper’s ideas, and more. Also, refer to the Stephen C. Pepper homepage organized and maintained by Bill Harrell at ( [sic, dead link, available on Internet Archive] (p. 62)

The Stephen C. Pepper archive, apparently last updated in 3/89, was available until 2007, at

On the page “Links to Webpages Related to S.C. Pepper” at is a mention of a special issue of The Journal of Mind and Behavior,

The “Work Related to Pepper” page at has some resources that aren’t readily accessible anywhere, including:


Daley, Michael C. 2000. “An Image of Enduring Plurality in Economic Theory: The Root -Metaphor Theory of Stephen C Pepper.” Doctoral dissertation, Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire. .

Stephen C. Pepper Home Page
#paunch, #stephen-c-pepper, #world-hypotheses

Kairos and chronos in medical practice | Hippocrates ~ 300 BCE

Attributed to Hippocrates is the use of the term kairos in observational methodology, and the presentation of significant findings.

Hippocrates uses timing and time issues continually throughout his medical works. His most famous statement on kairos occurs at the beginning of his book called Precepts. It has been translated as: “every kairos is a chronos, but not every chronos is a kairos.” I will quote it more fully: [p. 98]

  • Time [chrónos] is that wherein there is opportunity [kairós], and opportunity [kairós] is that wherein there is no great time [chrónos]. Healing is a matter of time [chrónos] but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity [kairós]. However, knowing this, one must attend in medical practice not primarily to plausible theories, but to experience combined with reason. For a theory is a composite memory of things apprehended with the sense- perception. For the sense-perception, coming first in experience and conveying to the intellect the things subjected to it, is clearly imaged, and the intellect, receiving these things many times, noting the occasion, the time and the manner, stores them up in itself and remembers. Now I approve of theorizing also if it lays its foundation in in- cident, and deduces its conclusions in accordance with phenomena. ( Jones I.313 – 15)

Kairos here is clearly aligned with experimentation, with experience, with incident, with phenomena. It is opposed to theorizing separated from these contacts. This solid declaration placed medical methodology on the path which it has fairly steadfastly pursued in Western civilization since that time. Hippocrates also defines “theory,” insisting that it is intimately tied to and re- liant upon the particular context of observed experience. The process of the- orizing is thus made more complex, but certainly not cut off from the realities of normal experience. The definition’s proximity to the statement on time and the theoretical weight of timeliness in the definition further prove the importance of kairos in the overall outlook of Hippocrates. [p. 99]

Just to be scholarly, Hippocrates is generally reported as a institution, rather than a person.

Although Hippocrates is generally accepted as the father of medicine, few have recognized, or even realized, the extent to which he is responsible for the discourse of science more generally (and some might even claim, of history as well). Perhaps the reason for this oversight is the lack of agreement about the connection between the historical figure of Hippocrates and what is generally called the “Corpus Hippocraticum.” There is no doubt that an historical physi- cian named Hippocrates existed, but the ability of scholars to prove (or dis- prove) his authorship of certain medical texts throws his reliability into doubt (Levine, 19; Prioreschi, 231). For this reason, when I refer to “Hippocrates,” I am not referring to the doctor born on Cos in 460 b.c., but rather to the Hip- pocratic Collection gathered c.300 b.c. by the Alexandrian Medical School. These texts are what has come to represent for us the notion of Hippocrates and Hippocratic medicine. Beyond the issues of textual assignation, however, are the very innovative ideas which Hippocrates left for posterity. [p. 97]


Eskin, Catherine R. 2002. “Hippocrates, Kairos, and Writing in the Sciences.” In Rhetoric and Kairos: Essays in History, Theory, and Praxis, edited by Phillip Sipiora and James S. Baumlin, 97–113. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. .

Autopoiesis as in the contextualist root metaphor | Mancing, Marston-William (2022)

Autopoiesis, as coined by Humberto Maturana, is in the contextualist root metaphor of Stephen C. Pepper, rather than the organismic root metaphor, say #HowardMancing and #JenniferMarstonWilliam @PurdueLibArts .

The reference to Pepper comes through Diane Gillespie, working in cognitive psychology.

In place of mechanism, Gillespie proposes the worldview Pepper calls contextualism. The root metaphor of contextualism, she notes, is the historical event:

  • For the contextualist, experience consists of total events that are rich in features… . Because the event takes up the knower in the known, contextualism is an interactive, dynamic worldview. Moreover, nothing in the event is permanent or immutable because each particular changes with the flux of time. The contextualist focuses on the richness of experience and on shared meanings that arise out of interaction with others. Truth lies in the process of taking up the whole context of the event … And so meaning is embodied in our experience of the world. (18)

In contrast to Gardner’s (1985) definition of cognitive science, with its emphasis on empirical methods and its strong cognitivist orientation, Gillespie defines the field as one which “poses fundamental questions about knowing and acting, about how we come to understand our experiences in the world” (1). [p. 283]

The philosophical orientation is clarified.

Contextualism is always explicitly situated in the real world and in the actual activities of living organisms; as Pepper indicates (1942, 141), it is closely associated with pragmatism. If cognitivism ignores or removes context to isolate mind from body and body from environment, a contextualist approach does exactly the opposite. contextualism always maintains a sense of the past, both the historical past and the past of an individual’s personal experiences. [pp. 283-284]

Referring to the inspiration for autopoiesis by Matarana, the contrast with an organismic root metaphor is described.

Pioneering proponents of our embodied reality were the neurobiologists Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela. Following up on their earlier collaborative work (1980; originally published in Spanish in 1973), the two collaborated on The Tree of Knowledge (1992), an introduction to the biology of understanding built around the concept of autopoiesis. Maturana has described how he coined the term that became central to his and Varela’s work:

  • It was in these circumstances that one day, while talking with a friend (José Bulmes) about an essay of his on Don Quixote de la Mancha, in which he analyzed Don Quixote’s dilemma of whether to follow the path of arms (praxis, action) or the path of letters (poiesis, creation, production), and his eventual choice of the path of praxis deferring any attempt at poiesis, I understood for the first time the power of the word “poiesis” and invented the word that we needed: autopoiesis. This was a word without a history, a word that could directly mean what takes place in the dynamics of the autonomy proper to living systems. (1980, xvii) [p. 285]

It is interesting that this Contextualist biologist finds inspiration in literature, something that no bona fide Cognitivist would consider doing.

For Maturana and Varela, the paradigmatic model of an autopoietic system is the living cell, which constantly makes and remakes itself in conjunction with its surroundings. In contrast to most traditional work in biology, Maturana and Varela contextualize the organism within its environment. The result of this contextualization, they propose, is the need for the autopoietic (i.e., self-organizing, or self-making) organism to “bring forth” its cognitive world; that is, to create its own pragmatic understanding of its relation to external reality. Thus cognition becomes self-defining action: “All doing is knowing, and all knowing is doing” (1992, 26); “to live is to know (living is effective action in existence as a living being)” (174). As we will see below, these ideas echo throughout the recent work of numerous contemporary biologists, psychologists, and philosophers. Further, the similarity between this concept of biology and Bakhtin’s contextualized, dialogic, emergent approach to language also becomes clear.

An animal, unlike a machine, is an “autopoietic system” in the sense that “it pulls itself up by its own bootstraps and becomes distinct from its environment through its own dynamics, in such a way that both things are inseparable” (46–47). This organism-environment inseparability comes about by means of a process Maturana and Varela call “structural coupling,” the result of “recurrent interactions leading to the structural congruence between two (or more) systems” (75).1 For human beings, everything we do is part of “a world brought forth in coexistence with other people” (239). Maturana and Varela insist—completely obviating the validity of any subject-object, mind-body, self-other, or nature-nurture dualism—that knowledge is “enactive,” that “human cognition as effective action pertains to the biological domain, but it is always lived in a cultural tradition … for cognition is effective action; and as we know how we know, we bring forth ourselves” (244; see also Varela 1992). [p. 286]

Philosophically, autopoiesis in a contextualist root metaphor illustrates how an authentic systems approch is not reductive.


Mancing, Howard, and Jennifer Marston William. 2022. “Contextualism.” In Restoring the Human Context to Literary and Performance Studies: Voices in Everything, edited by Howard Mancing and Jennifer Marston William, 281–306. Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance. Cham: Springer International Publishing. .

#autopoiesis, #root-metaphor, #stephen-c-pepper, #world-hypotheses

Mastodon design decision on Quote Toots

Refugees from birdsite missing #QT #QuoteTweet might reflect on conscious design decisions made in Mastodon core, that could be modified in a specific instance. This means that if a poster REALLY wants QT, he or she has the option to move to an instance where that is supported.

Original 2018 Design Decision at

Pointer from discussion thread from 2000 on Quote Toots

Just because birdsite declares a unitary design approach doesn’t mean that Mastodon developers haven’t thought about a feature.

Another feature that has been requested almost since the start, and which I keep rejecting is quoting messages. Coming back to my disclaimer, of course it’s impossible to prevent people from sharing screenshots or linking to public resources, but quoting messages is immediately actionable. It makes it a lot easier for people to immediately engage with the quoted content… and it usually doesn’t lead to anything good. When people use quotes to reply to other people, conversations become performative power plays. “Heed, my followers, how I dunk on this fool!” When you use the reply function, your message is broadcast only to people who happen to follow you both. It means one person’s follower count doesn’t play a massive role in the conversation. A quote, on the other hand, very often invites the followers to join in on the conversation, and whoever has got more of them ends up having the upper hand and massively stressing out the other person.

Twitter forces you to choose between two extremes, a protected account and a fully public account. If you have a public account, all your tweets are visible to everyone and infinitely shareable. Mastodon realizes that it’s not something you might always want, though

Where retweets carry the veneer of an endorsement, a quote tweet can do so much more—particularly given that Twitter, in its infinite generosity, engineered the format so that the quoted tweet doesn’t count toward the character limit. The result is that you can go long above whatever you don’t like. But it’s often the short tweets that contribute the least.

… wrote #ClaireMcNear

A fork of Mastodon is Fedibird, with features more like Twitter.

The lead developer is @noellabo .

The Fedibird site looks to prefer Japanese writers.

If anyone knows of English language Fedibird instances, perhaps we could help others to find them.

Reposted from .

#mastodon, #twitter

Process philosophy | Gerald Midgley (2000)

Chapter 4 on “Process philosophy” follows after Chapter 3 on “The Systems Idea”. For context here’s an outline of the sections on the philosophy Chapter 3.

  • 3.1 The Meaning of ‘Systems Philosophy’
  • 3.2 The Boundary Concept
  • 3.3 The ‘Enemies’ of Systems Thinking: Mechanism, Reductionism and Subject/Object Dualism
  • 3.4 The Struggle against Subject/ Object Dualism
  • 3.5 General Systems Theory
    • 3.5.1 Critique of General Systems Theory
  • 3.6 The Theory of Mind
    • 3.6.1 Critique of the Theory of Mind
  • 3.7 The Theory of Autopoiesis
    • 3.7.1 Critique of the Theory of Autopoiesis
  • 3.8 Interpretive Systemology
    • 3.8.1 Critique of Interpretive Systemology
  • 3.9 Conclusion

Here’s the outline of Chapter 4.

  • 4.1 The Problem of Subject/Object Dualism
  • 4.2 The Linguistic Tum
  • 4.3 A Linguistic Tum in Systems Thinking
  • 4.4 The Theory of ‘Three Worlds’
  • 4.5 A Critique of the Linguistic Tum
  • 4.6 The Origins of Knowledge
  • 4.7 From Content to Process Philosophy
  • 4.8 Defining Knowledge
  • 4.9 Sentient Beings
    • 4.9.1 Shorthand Expressions of Boundary Judgements
  • 4.10 Second-Order Reflections on the Nature of the Self
  • 4.11 The Importance of Time
  • 4.12 The Indeterminacy of Process
  • 4.13 Some Consequences of Process Philosophy for Speaking about Reality
    • 4.13.1 Realism
    • 4.13.2 Idealism
    • 4.13.3 Social Constructionism
    • 4.13.4 What can be Said using Process Philosophy?
    • 4.13.5 From Realism to Process
    • 4.13.6 From Idealism to Process
    • 4.13.7 From Social Constructionism to Process
  • 4.14 Conclusion

My interest is in section 4.7, excerpted here.

4.7 From Content to Process Philosophy

If the comrrun assumption of Bateson, von Bertalanffy and Maturana is the specification of a prime originator of knowledge, let us ask if there is anything other than a knowledge generating system that could be treated as analytically prime. My answer is that we can view as prime the process of bringing knowledge into being. Bateson, von Bertalanffy and Maturana all offer a content philosophy. They try to make some propositions (specify some content) about what the knowledge generating system must be like. In contrast, we can switch analytical primacy to the process of specifying that content.44

  • 44 Analytical primacy is not the same as ontological primacy. Something is analytically prime if it is advisable to look at it first, but this does not necessarily mean that it has a more fundamental reality.

Now, in saying this I should acknowledge that I am. using the term ‘process’ in a related, but subtly different, manner to others who have talked about ‘process philosophy’ (e.g., Bergson, 1911; Whitehead, 1929; Pols, 1967; Capek, 1971; Leclerc, 1972, 1986; Mathews, 1991; and Gare, 1996).

Tracing the origins of process philosophy, Gare (1996) cites the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus who says, “nothing is, everything is becoming” (p.310, my italics). However, as I understand it, 20th Century process philosophers do not assume that ‘nothing is’. Rather, they take as analytically prime those ‘objects’ (or systems) that provide the means of becoming. Thus, Gare aligns von Bertalanffy with process philosophy because, in general systems theory, the activities of open systems give rise to change: inputs are transformed into outputs, and properties of whole systems emerge. For von Bertalanffy (1968), open systems are therefore the means of becoming.

In contrast, I wish to avoid the identification of any one type of object or system as analytically prime — as I see it, a process should not be logically reliant en the prior identification of just one type of object or system, otherwise we have merely generated another content philosophy (albeit one which is slightly more sophisticated than content philosophies that disregard process altogether). It is for this reason tIiat I cannot accept von Bertalanffy as a process philosopher: he is primarily interested in specifying the nature of systems (i.e., content) giving rise to process. [p. 78, editorial paragraphing added]

So, for me, process philosophy involves identifying a process that is not dependent on the further identification of a single type of system giving rise to that process.

Fuenmayor (1991a,b) goes quite a long way towards such a position. As we saw in Chapter 3, he proposes a recursive form relating together the intentional subject and distinctions of its other (which also serve to delineate the subject). Essentially, making distinctions is process and the subject is content. So, while Fuenmayor takes a step toward process philosophy, he still hangs on to an aspect of content.

It seems to me that the subject has to be expressed as content because of the assumption that Fuenmayor inherits from Phenomenology that the starting point for building a philosophical position should be lived experience. From an experiential point of view, it would be inconceivable not to have a subject (or self) in a semi-pivotal position. Of course, when the self is placed in relation to its other to create a vision of epistemology, this generates the paradoxes expressed in Fuenmayor’s recursive forms (and indeed, these can be made even more paradoxical through the introduction of language, as we saw earlier in this chapter).

So, although Fuenmayor distances himself from the tendency of biological epistemologists to try to root everything in one prime originator of knowledge, there are still problems with his position (which I believe can be overcome) [p. 79, editorial paragraphing added].

In switching analytical primacy from content to process, the particular process I have in mind is making boundary judgements (which are similar to Fuenmayor’s distinctions).45 If we regard the process of making boundary judgements as analytically prime, rather than a particular kind of knowledge generating system, then subjects come to be defined in exactly the same way as objects — by a boundary judgement.

  • 45 See Chapter 3 for an introduction to the idea of boundary judgements, and Chapter 7 for a more detailed discussion.


Midgley, Gerald. 2000. “Process Philosophy.” In Systemic Intervention: Philosophy, Methodology, and Practice, 69–99. Contemporary Systems Thinking. Boston, MA: Springer US. .

Can we Use Energy Based Indicators to Characterize and Measure the Status of Ecosystems, Human, Disturbed and Natural? | 2001

Discovered a description of Eric D. Schneider and James J. Kay (1994), in a 2001 article written in the author’s style of Timothy F.H. Allen, for The Second Biennial International Workshop, Advances in Energy Studies, Exploring Supplies, Constraints, and Strategies, Porto Venere, Italy, 23-27 May 2000 .

Kay and Schneider take a recent interpretation of the second law of thermodynamics and extend it into nonequilibrium regions. For such nonequilibrium circumstances the second law is no longer just the simple statement that entropy increases or that processes are irreversible. Rather the thermodynamic principle is that as systems are moved away from equilibrium by externally applied gradients (temperature difference, pressure difference, etc.), they will utilize the means available to them to dissipate the applied gradients. Furthermore as the applied gradients increase, so does the system’s resistance to being moved away from equilibrium. Simply put, systems have a propensity to resist being moved from equilibrium and a have a tendency to return to the equilibrium state when moved from it. This is can be related to the development of interconnections in ecosystems, as they receive and process energy from the sun. Ulanowicz has developed a series of hypotheses about how these networks of interconnections develop over time.

Ecosystems can be viewed as the biotic, physical, and chemical components of nature acting together as nonequilibrium self-organizing dissipative systems . As ecosystems develop or mature they should develop more complex structures and processes with greater diversity, more cycling and more hierarchical levels all to abet exergy degradation. Species which survive in ecosystems are those that funnel energy into their own production and reproduction and contribute to autocatalytic processes which increase the total exergy degradation of the ecosystem. In short, ecosystems develop in a way which systematically increases their ability to degrade the incoming solar exergy [Kay and Schneider 1992; Kay 1984; Schneider and Kay 1994b; Schneider and Kay 1994b].

In the footnote of the first page of the article:

Written as an introduction to the Workshop panel session on “Energy and Environmental Constraints”, chaired by J.J. Kay (University of Waterloo. Canada). Panelists were: Tim Allen (University of Wisconsin, USA). Roydon Fraser (University of Waterloo, Canada), Jeffrey C. Luvall (NASA’s Global Hydrology and Climate Cenler, USA), and Robert E. Ulanowicz (University of Maryland, USA).


Kay, James, Timothy F. H. Allen, Roydon Fraser, Jeffrey Luvall, and Robert Ulanowicz. 2001. “Can We Use Energy Based Indicators to Characterize and Measure the Status of Ecosystems, Human, Disturbed and Natural?” In Advances in Energy Studies: Exploring Supplies, Constraints and Strategies, edited by S. Ulgiati, M.T. Brown, M. Giampietro, R.A. Herendeen, and K. Mayumi, 121–33. Padova: SGEditoriali. Accessed at

Schneider, E. D., and J. J. Kay. 1994. “Life as a Manifestation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.” Mathematical and Computer Modelling 19 (6): 25–48. .

Kay, James, Timothy F. H. Allen, Roydon Fraser, Jeffrey Luvall, and Robert Ulanowicz. 2001. “Can We Use Energy Based Indicators to Characterize and Measure the Status of Ecosystems, Human, Disturbed and Natural?” In Advances in Energy Studies: Exploring Supplies, Constraints and Strategies, edited by S. Ulgiati, M.T. Brown, M. Giampietro, R.A. Herendeen, and K. Mayumi, 121–33. Padova: SGEditoriali.

#entropy, #nonequilibrium, #second-law, #thermodynamics

The Aesthetics of Nature | Carlson and Berleant (2004)

Towards a non-anthropocentric view of aesthetics, we explore the legacy of work in the aesthetics of nature. The collection of essays in The Aesthetics of Natural Environments (2004), edited by Allen Carlson and Arnold Berleant, illuminates some of the issues and debates on this perspective.

In the Acknowledgements for the 2004 book is a trail back to work published in 1998.

We especially thank the authors for agreeing to contribute their essays.

Moreover, we thank Philip Alperson, editor of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, as well as the journal’s editorial board, for inviting us to edit a special issue of the journal (Volume 56, number 2, spring 1998) on environmental aesthetics. Several of the essays reprinted here first appeared in that special issue, the editing of which was our initial collaboration and eventually led to the publication of this volume [p. 9]

Philosophical works can develop slowly!

The Introduction chapter is a sequential exposition, working through the history, into prospects for research. The philosophy of aesthetics is not limited to works of art!

I. Introduction

The aesthetics of nature is the initiating and central focus of environmental aesthetics, one of the two or three major new fields of aesthetics to emerge in the second half of the twentieth century. Environmental aesthetics considers philosophical issues concerning the aesthetic appreciation of the world at large and, moreover, the world as constituted not simply by particular objects but also by larger units, such as landscapes, environments, and ecosystems. Thus the field extends beyond the confines of the artworld and our aesthetic appreciation of works of art. Its scope covers the aesthetic appreciation of non-artistic artifacts and natural objects, as well as the appreciation of both natural environments and our various human-influenced and human-created environments.1

This collection of essays, however, focuses on only that part of environmental aesthetics that considers the aesthetic appreciation of the natural world. It concerns philosophical issues about the appreciation of nature, addressing matters such as the exact nature of both the natural world and the modes of aesthetic appreciation appropriate for it. This renewed interest in the aesthetics of the natural world has developed only recently. Nonetheless, it has historical roots in earlier work on the aesthetics of nature. To fully appreciate the recent and contemporary research in this area, it is useful to briefly examine this historical background and the developments that follow from it.2 [p. 11]

There’s a companion volume on The Aesthetics Of Human Environments (2007), that “investigates philosophical and aesthetics issues that arise from our engagement with human environments ranging from rural landscapes to urban cityscapes”. For now, we’ll focus on natural, acknowledging the artifactual as separate.

This volume is oriented towards Western philosophies.

II. The Background to the Current Interest in the Aesthetics of Nature

The historical roots of the interest in the aesthetics of nature lie in the ideas concerning aesthetic appreciation developed in the eighteenth century by British and Scottish philosophers, such as Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Burke, and Alison, and solidified by Kant.3 Central to this approach is the concept of disinterestedness.4 The basic idea of disinterestedness is that aesthetic appreciation requires appreciators to abstract themselves and the objects of their appreciation from their own interests, such as the personal, the possessive, and the economic. Coupling the concept of disinterestedness with the eighteenth century fascination with the natural world resulted in a rich tradition of landscape appreciation. With the aid of disinterestedness, not only could domesticated, rural countrysides be seen as beautiful, but even the wildest of natural environments could be appreciated as sublime. Moreover, between the two extremes of the beautiful and the sublime, disinterestedness made space for the emergence of an even more powerful mode of landscape appreciation, the picturesque.5 The picturesque mode, although initially tied to particular sorts of landscapes, ultimately developed so as to facilitate the aesthetic appreciation of other kinds of environments by means of focusing attention on the picture-like properties of sensuous surface and formal composition. The upshot was an eighteenth century aesthetic synthesis having disinterestedness as the central theoretical concept, landscapes as the paradigm objects of aesthetic appreciation, and formalistic, picturesque appreciation as the favored mode of appreciation. [pp. 11-12]
Although lacking the natural world as their main focus, the other key elements of the eighteenth century synthesis — disinterestedness and the formalistic mode of appreciation — nonetheless survive into the twentieth century. [p. 12]


The relevance of the early twentieth century re-entrenchment of disinterestedness and formalism to the current interest in the aesthetics of nature is to be found somewhat ironically, in the fact that a major theme of mid-twentieth century philosophical aesthetics involves the rejection of both disinterestedness and formalism. The rejection begins with the development of the expressionist theory of art and reaches its climax in the institutional theory of art.8 [pp. 12-13]


This paradigm shift results in a problem that directly impacts the development of the aesthetics of nature. The problem is that the new paradigm is a paradigm for the aesthetic appreciation of art. Moreover, it is a paradigm seemingly exclusive to art appreciation, for few, if any, of the resources introduced to replace those inherent in the doctrines of disinterestedness and formalism have application to the appreciation of anything other than art. This is no surprise, for the new paradigm is developed explicitly within the context of philosophy of art, and the rejected Bulloughian and Bellian reincarnations of the old doctrines were especially tailored to accommodate works of art. The upshot is that the resources of the new paradigm — designing intellects, art historical traditions, art critical practices, the artworld itself — appear to have little relevance to the world beyond the artworld. Thus, the aesthetic appreciation of the natural world is left behind, seeming to involve at best only distanced contemplation of sensuous and formal properties. [p. 13]

Hmmm …. “Disinterestedness” and a “formalistic, picturesque appreciation” doesn’t seem very compatible with 21st century thinking!

Moving forward in time, research into aesthetics hasn’t been oriented towards nature.

III. The Rise of the Renewed Interest in the Aesthetics of Nature

In the second half of the twentieth century, this problem finds expression in two developments that constitute the immediate background to the renewed interest in the aesthetics of nature.

The first is that, in developing and defending the new par- adigm of aesthetic appreciation, analytic aesthetics apparently abandons any remaining interest in the aesthetics of anything other than art. The abandonment is institutionalized by virtually equating philosophical aesthetics with philosophy of art. [p. 13, editorial paragraphing added]


The second development constituting the immediate background to the renewed interest in the aesthetics of nature involves the real world beyond both philosophical aesthetics and the artworld. It relates to the public awareness of the aesthetic quality and value of the natural environment that begins to evolve, especially in North America, early in the second half of the twentieth century. 13 This awareness causes a difficulty, since, given the developments in philosophical aesthetics, individuals concerned about the aesthetics of the natural environment are left with few theoretical resources other than the old neo-picturesque paradigm of distanced contemplation of scenic views. [p. 14]


The renewed interest in the aesthetics of nature is in part a response to these two developments. This is evident in the title of the essay that almost single-handedly initiates the renewal: Ronald Hepburn’s groundbreaking 1966 article, “Contemporary Aesthetics and the Neglect of Natural Beauty.”17 Reacting to the treatment of the appreciation of nature within analytic aesthetics, Hepburn argues that those features that other philosophers have seen as aesthetic deficiencies in the natural world and thus as reasons for deeming its appreciation subjective, superficial, and even non-aesthetic, are actually sources for a different kind of, and potentially very rich, aesthetic experience. He emphasize the fact that, since it is not constrained by things such as designing intellects, art historical traditions, and art critical practices, the natural world facilitates an open, engaging, and creative mode of appreciation. Moreover, he argues that, as in the appreciation of art, there is in the appreciation of nature a movement from shallow and trivial to deep, serious aesthetic experience, and thus the open, engaging, creative mode of appreciation should be guided by our realizations about the real nature of the natural world. [pp. 14-15]

Recognition of the overlooking of the asthetics of nature has spurred two directions: (i) a more cognitive, science-oriented approach; and (ii) a more culture-based approach.

IV. Recent and Contemporary Research in the Aesthetics of Nature

[….] The call to fill this [theoretical] vacuum results in two kinds of responses: on the one hand, attempts to provide sociobiological underpinnings for the aesthetic appreciation of nature, such as Appleton’s own prospect-refuge theory,20 and, on the other, a wide range of theoretical models of aesthetic response grounded in, for example, developmental and environmental psychology.21 In general, this kind of research is beyond the scope of this collection, but there are a number of overview articles concerning it 22 as well as some useful anthologies.23 [p. 15]


The former of the two initial developments stresses the role of the cognitive in the aesthetic appreciation of nature. This cognitive line, as noted, is in part a response to the old appreciative paradigm’s obsession with sensuous and formal properties. [….] [Analogous] to the way in which the appropriate aesthetic appreciation of art is cognitively informed by art history and art criticism, the appropriate aesthetic appreciation of nature must be cognitively informed by natural history and scientific understanding. Thus Carlson finds a central place in the aesthetic appreciation of the natural world for the knowledge provided by sciences such as geology, biology, and ecology.26 [p. .16]

The second of the initial philosophical developments in the aesthetics of nature involves a reaction against the traditional concept of aesthetic appreciation as disinterested contemplation and an endorsement of the idea that the natural environment facilitates an open, engaging, and creative mode of appreciation. Consequently, it parallels some of the developments that helped to clear the ground for the new paradigm of art appreciation, primarily analytic aesthetics’ attack on both the Bulloughian and other more recent reincarnations of disinterestedness, such as the aesthetic attitude theory.29 [p. 17]

This leads to V. Directions for Future Research … which is what the rest of the book is about.


Carlson, Allen, and Arnold Berleant. 2004. “Introduction: The Aesthetics of Nature.” In The Aesthetics of Natural Environments, edited by Allen Carlson and Arnold Berleant, 11–42. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press.

#aesthetics, #nature