In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Environmental Aesthetics

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Collections of Original Essays
  • Anthologies
  • 20th-Century Origins
  • Approaches to Nature Appreciation
  • Animals
  • Positive Aesthetics
  • The Sublime
  • The Picturesque
  • Gardens
  • Environmental Art
  • Human Environments
  • Nature, Restoration, and Rewilding
  • The Aesthetics of Everyday Life

Philosophy Environmental Aesthetics
Glenn Parsons, Allen Carlson
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0428


Environmental aesthetics is a subfield of philosophical aesthetics that emerged in the latter 20th century. Previously, aesthetics largely focused upon issues concerning the arts, but this new subfield considered appreciation of the world at large, including non-art objects as well as the larger environments in which they reside. The most central issue in the field has been how to understand the aesthetic appreciation of nature, a question with roots in 18th- and 19th-century aesthetics as well as early environmental debates. But work in the field has extended to encompass environments that blend the natural and human, such as gardens and sites of environmental art, thoroughly urban environments, and the spaces, places, and activities of everyday life. Given its concern with the aesthetic value of environments and its connection to human well-being, environmental aesthetics often intersects with debates concerning the rationale behind, and best means for achieving, environmental protection.

General Overviews

Brady and Prior 2020, Carlson 2019, Parsons 2015, Berleant and Brady 2014, Crawford 2003, and Fisher 2005 are recent essays covering the field. These differ somewhat in focus, but Carlson 2019 is the most comprehensive bibliographical survey. Carlson 2009 and Parsons 2008 are textbook-style introductions to debates in the field; the latter deals only with nature. Carlson 2014 is a short historical overview of the recent development of Western environmental aesthetics. Chen 2015 is an extensive treatment of the contributions by Chinese scholars to environmental aesthetics.

  • Berleant, Arnold, and Emily Brady. “Environmental Aesthetics.” In Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. 2d ed. Edited by Michael Kelly, 114–120. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    A short overview by two important contributors to the field.

  • Brady, Emily, and Jonathan Prior. “Environmental Aesthetics: A Synthetic Review.” People and Nature 2.2 (2020): 254–266.

    DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10089

    An overview of the field paying special attention to environmental policy, ecological restoration, and new directions in recent work.

  • Carlson, Allen. Nature and Landscape: An Introduction to Environmental Aesthetics. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

    A short introduction to the field, focusing on both natural and human environments, by a leading researcher. Extensive footnotes and a useful bibliography.

  • Carlson, Allen. “Ten Steps in the Development of Western Environmental Aesthetics.” In Environmental Aesthetics: Crossing Divides and Breaking Ground. Edited by Martin Drenthen and Jozef Keulartz, 13–24. New York: Fordham University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1515/9780823254521-003

    A brief historical overview of the recent development of Western environmental aesthetics.

  • Carlson, Allen. “Environmental Aesthetics”. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2019.

    A synoptic overview of the literature, organized thematically; periodically updated, with an extensive bibliography.

  • Chen, Wangheng. Chinese Environmental Aesthetics. Translated by Feng Su. Edited by Gerald Cipriani. London: Routledge, 2015.

    A comprehensive presentation of contemporary environmental aesthetics in China.

  • Crawford, Donald. “The Aesthetics of Nature and the Environment.” In Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics. Edited by Peter Kivy, 306–324. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470756645.ch17

    This overview of the field contains nuanced discussion of the concept of nature, as it relates to aesthetic appreciation.

  • Fisher, John Andrew. “Environmental Aesthetics.” In The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics. Edited by Jerrold Levinson, 667–678. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199279456.003.0039

    This overview includes a section reviewing debates on environmental art.

  • Parsons, Glenn. Aesthetics and Nature. London: Continuum, 2008.

    A comprehensive survey of work on the aesthetics of nature prior to 2008; includes chapters on gardens and environmental art. Includes a concise bibliography.

  • Parsons, Glenn. “Environmental Aesthetics.” In Bloomsbury Companion to Aesthetics. Edited by Anna Christina Ribeiro, 228–241. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

    This essay focuses on the way in which different interpretations of the term “environment” influence our conception of the field.

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