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Observing the Beauty of Nature (Devant la beauté de la nature)

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Original Language: French | 430 pp. | September 2018

2 Seas Represents: World Excl. French

PHILOSOPHY | NATURE WRITING

Everyone is fascinated by the sight of the sunset, the seaside, the starry sky, the savannah or the mountains. Why do we have an aesthetic and not just utilitarian relationship with nature? Why do certain landscapes move us, soothe us, make us dreamy or joyful?

To answer these questions, Alexandre Lacroix gives us access to the great texts of aesthetics, from Epicurus to Kant and Thoreau, by addressing a discipline hitherto confined to a small circle of specialists: environmental aesthetics, which started in the mid-1960s in England and the United States.

For the purposes of his investigation, he also questions the sciences (theories of evolution, physiology, theories of perception) and the arts (painting, poetry, literature). And he isn’t merely satisfied with readings: he actually goes to the Sibylline Mountains and the coast of Liguria, Burgundy, to the forest of Fontainebleau or along the Wye River in England to hunt down the secrets of some places praised for their beauty.

The result is a fascinating journey through disciplines, eras and continents. An aesthetic essay that turns out to be political when it makes us discover the foundations of the ecological crisis that are anthropological (our senses have blunted) and civilizational (we no longer live according to the rhythm of nature). It is because we lose contact with nature that we mistreat it. Opening our sensitivity to the landscapes that surround us is now vital.