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Environmental Values

The Aesthetics of Sky and Space

Ronald W. Hepburn

Environmental Values 19 (2010): 273-288. doi: 10.3197/096327110X519835


How can we best understand our aesthetic appreciation of sky and space? This essay begins by outlining the nature of spatial experience through some examples. Then it examines how our responses can be shaped by art and myth. Here we see how themes, such as ascension, that were current in prehistory and developed religions, can be reappropriated as components of a justifiable aesthetic experience. However, the task of finding defensible aesthetic responses to space as both experience and abstract idea does present paradoxes. For example, how are we to respond to scientific updates about the ever greater vastness of space? The way forward presented here is to endorse, but not with any sense of uniqueness of misplaced grandeur, our freedom to contemplate with due seriousness both the near and the far and our own capacities, such as imagination and love, as also part of the wonder and mystery of the universe.


Cosmology, awe, special freedom, aesthetic response, size

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Ronald Hepburn and the humanising of Environmental Aesthetics. Isis Brook

Contemporary Environmental Aesthetics and the Requirements of Environmentalism. Allen Carlson

Future Directions for Environmental Aesthetics. Yuriko Saito

Aesthetic Value, Ethics and Climate Change. Emily Brady

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