“Evaluating Positive Aesthetics”

Ned Hettinger

Journal of Aesthetic Education 51, 3 (Fall 2017): 26-41.


Positive aesthetics views all of pristine nature as beautiful. Versions include the no negative judgment and equal beauty theses, Eugene Hargrove’s no negative aesthetics, Glenn Parsons’s beauty-making defense, Allen Carlson’s science-is-aesthetic argument, Parsons and Carlson’s abiotic positive aesthetics, and Holmes Rolston’s nature aesthetic holism. Rolston’s version makes a strong case for the idea that nature is specially and predominantly beautiful and best meets four adequacy conditions. Positive aesthetics should (1) accommodate the existence of negative aesthetics in nature; (2) articulate a conception of nature’s beauty inapplicable to the rest of the world, including art; (3) be dependent on the actual contingent characteristics of nature; and (4) not undermine the role of natural aesthetics in the conservation of nature.