Emotion, Expressive Qualities, and Nature. By Emily Brady
Emotion, Expressive Qualities, and Nature. By Emily Brady -Zack Bosshardt Overview of the Paper How can we justify attributions of expressive qualities to the natural environment? Conclusion: The similarity account along with the embodiment account gives us an explanation of expressive qualities in natural environments.
A distinction Felt emotion - Having some feeling or emotion as a result of aesthetic influence. We discussed this on Monday with Carrolls article. Example: We feel exhilarated when taking a morning walk through a forest. Expressive Quality - We do not feel any particular emotion, but rather we just find expressive qualities in what we experience. Bradys examples: a landscape that is bleak and forbidding, or a tree that is anguished. In short, felt emotion is an internal condition, while expressive qualities are external to us. The focus of the article is the latter.
Worries About Subjectivity, Emotion, and Aesthetics Emotion viewed as too subjective- Emotions can be fickle, differ among people, and be based on false beliefs; thus emotion and expressive qualities derived from nature could possibly be too subjective for appropriate aesthetic judgment. Cognitive Theory of Emotion Brady agrees with Carroll: Emotions are not subjective projections upon a landscape. Justifying the feeling of excitement
from the grandeur of a waterfall depends upon the qualities of the waterfall and the beliefs and thoughts that underlie the response. Carrolls Cognitive Theory of Emotion is a solution to the subjectivity worry We talked about this on Monday. Certain beliefs about the world are appropriate or inappropriate according to their corresponding truth or falsity. And further, an emotion resulting from a belief can be appropriate or inappropriate. People reasonably share the same emotional response given a base level of knowledge and belief. In this way, we can judge emotion resulting from nature as objective. Some Clarification on the Cognitive Theory from Brady
1. Brady emphasizes Carrolls assertions that beliefs that elicit an emotional response are not scientific or specialized beliefs, but common sense beliefs. 2. Although beliefs are important and essential for emotion, they do not provide the fullest account of the grounds for our emotions. Imagination and thinking may affect our emotional response as much as belief. Also, that our affective response reach beyond beliefs for their grounding and context. Brady gives the cloud example. 3. Overall Brady accepts Carroll's views on emotion and aesthetic response.
Expressive Qualities Expressive qualities are emotional qualities that we perceive in external objects or environments. There are various ways we could fail to explain how environments and their objects are expressive: 1. Attribute emotional states to inanimate objects. 2. Compare nature to art. 3. Utilize a causal account. Ways Not to Think of Expressive Qualities 1. Attributing emotional states to inanimate objects - We could say that when an environment or object has a particular expressive quality, then the object or environment actually has the
corresponding psychological or emotional state. For example, when we say a loch is somber, we are saying that the loch possess the psychological or emotional state of somber. This fails quickly because, inanimate objects, objects without minds, do not have emotional states. She gives another example of the child projecting emotions onto the teddy bear. 2. Comparing nature to art In the case of art, the artists intention of an expressive quality emerges in the painting. Like weve said many times, this analogy cannot be applied to nature. Nature does not have an artist, so the intent and corresponding expressive quality do not exist like an art object. Ways Not to Think of Expressive
Qualities 3. Causal account When we ascribe an expressive quality to something, it is because the thing causes one to feel a particular emotion. The loch can make a person feel a range of emotions, calm, relaxed, satisfied, or even no emotion at all. Despite this fact, the loch will retain its expressive quality of somberness. So, the causal account cannot explain expressive qualities either. Example of Winning the Lottery Even after winning the lottery experiencing the emotion of happiness, one can still recognize the loch as somber. Expressive Qualities in Nature, and how we ought
to think of them: Similarity Theory Similarity Theory - Identification of non-aesthetic qualities, the way things are arranged or the way things look or sound, leads us to a comparison between the identified object and emotions that we experience. This comparison gives us the ability to identify an expressive quality in the object that corresponds, or is similar to, human emotion. The weeping willow example We can give the expressive quality of sad to a weeping willow. By this we dont mean that the tree possesses the psychological state of sadness, but that it is sad looking. Weeping willow is sad or sad-looking because we recognize in it the posture of someone feeling down. The reference point to ascribe an expressive quality is human emotion, but it is possible that the resemblance works both ways. (The storm example)
Similarity Theory Objective Approach The approach relies on observation of nonaesthetic qualities, or the formalistic ways things appear to us. These nonaesthetic qualities appear more or less the same to everyone, and so I can communicate the corresponding expressive qualities to other people with relative ease. Stephen Davies elaborating on Carroll Another explanation of similarity and expressive qualities is in music. Take the example of a sad song. Although I may not feel the emotion of sadness currently, I can nonetheless identify sadness as a quality of a sad song. The similarity exists structurally, and he describes a piece of music as a sound map of particular emotional expression. When we hear a song with an expressive quality of sadness, we are recognizing in music a resemblance to human emotional
behavior through speech, gestures, and bodily movement. Potential Problems with Similarity Theory Similar, though not an exact translation or comparison Given our particular human vocabulary of emotion, there may be some instances in which we cannot accurately describe an expressive quality in nature. A particular emotional quality can be roughly analogous to some nameable human emotion, desolation for instance; but the precise quality of desolation revealed in some waste or desert in nature may be quite distinctive in timbre and intensity. Humans are quite different from nature - Nature can have certain expressive qualities that do not equate to a familiar human emotion.
By attempting to equate human emotion with some expressive quality in nature, we can overly humanize nature which overlooks natures own distinctive otherness. Solution to this Problem? Problem - We can attempt to describe nature in terms of its expressive qualities according to our human emotions and fail to encompass these qualities accurately. Solution: Reciprocal Relationships - Reciprocally, nature can determine certain new categories for human emotion? (p.179) natural expression will influence our moods or determine them altogether, so that we reflect nature's qualities rather than the other way around. Example: We can experience in nature an expressive quality x, which will elicit a corresponding emotional response x in the appreciator. This does not appear to be
different from the causal theory weve already dismissed. If there is something distinctively other about nature, why are we trying to describe it in terms of human emotion? Another Problem Expressive qualities in nature whether they are caused or causal, can be ultimately reduced to human origins. The example of the stormy person. A Second Problem for Similarity Theory Complexity of the Real World - The similarity theory focuses upon the non-aesthetic properties of an examined object, and thus does not account for complex chains of association and belief. The quarry example An outsider of the community would view the quarry
as ugly in terms of its arrangement, but a community member knowing the appropriate cultural history would regard the quarry as a source of pride. Aesthetic judgments involve complex associations beyond the appearance of non-aesthetic properties which similarity theory does not account for. Customs and social practices Cultures can begin to associate particular non-aesthetic qualities (the appearance) of an object or landscape with a particular emotion and thus expressive quality. The quarry example is dependent upon customary associations. The other example is of the falling cherry blossoms in Japanese literature associated with sorrow. Embodiment Theories Used to Supplement Similarity Theory. Embodiment account suggests that environments
embody history, emotions, memories and so on. An environment is not simply the configuration or arrangement of objects, but is within a larger context of associations. The two-term account of expression Many instances of our aesthetic appreciation of nature are based upon this fusion between the object's sensuous surface and various associated facts such as scientific facts, historical or literary associations , or practical values. For example, we may appreciate the way in which the fierceness of a battle is reflected in a disfigured landscape with poor vegetation.
More on embodiment Subjectivity and Individual vs. Community Associations This is mentioned briefly and potentially is a worry. If an expressive quality in an environment is tied to associations, and since my associations may differ from someone elses, then an expressive quality may be dependent upon the individual appreciators particular associations. Carlson on embodiment For an object to express a quality or life value, the latter must not simply be suggested by it. Rather the quality must be associated with the object itself; that is, what Santayana meant by saying that the object must seem to embody that which it expresses. Clarified in this way, expression is not typically due to the unique associations resulting from an individual's own personal history. In short, associations are not found in the individual but are embodied in the
object. The object of appreciation has factual associations that an individual may or may not be aware of. Criticism of Embodiment My Criticism which associations are appropriate, or most important in aesthetic appreciation? The environmentalist viewing the quarry vs. a community member viewing the quarry. Bradys Criticism - Although the embodiment account helps us address problems with similarity theory, like the quarry example, Brady says it may be too vague. What exactly does it mean to say that environments or objects are drenched with emotions or images? Brady concludes that although drenched and embodiment are metaphorical concepts,
they give us a better way to understand expressive qualities in nature. Conclusion and Implications Conclusion: I have argued that the similarity account provides part of the answer to the problem of expressive qualities in nature but that it needs to be supplemented by the embodiment account. Practical Implications in Environmental Planning Brady explains that her blending of similarity and embodiment theory to explain expressive qualities, combined with other aesthetic qualities that weve mentioned of imagination, emotion, and perception, give us a good vocabulary in
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