James M Dow

February 6, 2018
by dow@hendrix.edu
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The Aesthetic Appreciation of Agricultural Landscapes

If you’ve ever driven through the Midwest in the middle of August, for instance, through Iowa on I-70, you will have a distinctive aesthetic experience of long stretches of highway bracketed by corn and soy and corn and soy. If you stop at one geometrical intersection of industrial fields, you might appreciate the scale of a landscape stretching out for miles. You might look straight ahead at the even, regular rows, and appreciate the uniformity of a single crop precisely planted by a German-engineered tractor. If you squint a little, the horizon shifts to three bands of color. Green stalks, yellow tassles, and blue sky mix up the already coarse detail into color fields like a Rothko painting. You might also see the scenery of Iowa as nothing but a dull and sterile blandscape. You look around for signs of life other than the single crop of corn. However, you find the fields barren: few bugs, fewer birds, and no mammals. The field becomes as dreary as an industrial lot filled with shipping containers. You might look out on a monoculture field and see merely a monotonous repetition of one plant after another, with no variation, no difference. The field becomes a bleak and desolate location for the production of cattle feed.  Continue reading

December 21, 2017
by dow@hendrix.edu
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Observation or Participation? Disinterestedness or Engagement?

You’re sitting on a fallen ponderosa tree that lays across a mountain creek. You look into the contrast of the reflectivity of the water against the coarseness of the bark of the tree. The rippling of the water over the rocks is shadowed by the tree below but also allows a resonance to bounce with the flowing sound. You smell the sap being extruded under the press of the late day sunlight. There is a difference between observing the orange-red bark covering grottoes of black through the category or concept of Pinus Ponderosa and participating in picking and peeling or debarking the trees harsh covering. Is there a difference between a disinterested appreciation of the textures of the bark and an engaged appreciation of the niches and recesses of the ponderosa covering? Continue reading

July 18, 2017
by dow@hendrix.edu
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Navigating Between the Scylla of Non-Aesthetics and the Charybdis of Freedom

Do responses to natural environments not count as aesthetic judgments because nature is not made by an artist? Are aesthetic judgments of natural environments free and unconstrained because aesthetic judgments of nature are relative to perceivers?  In this post, I discuss Elliott’s non-aesthetic view and Budd’s freedom view I articulate the debates between such views and Carlson’s scientific cognitivism about nature appreciation and focus on the impasses that require more discussion of philosophy of mind and action theory. Continue reading