The Cultural Landscape

Field 1

The Cutural Landscape

Here is an excerpt from an article by David E Cooper published in TPM.

‘ An analogous complaint might be made about the narrowness of the notion of nature that dominated Western environmental ethics until very recently. (“Western”, since the complaints I am making do not apply to, for example, Japanese traditions of thinking about art and about nature.) Here, nature has usually been identified with wilderness – with nature set apart from human activity – and the chief question concerned the “intrinsic value” or otherwise of nature thus understood. Environmental ethics had peculiarly little to say, beyond expressing regret at a necessary evil, about people’s comportment in and towards the environments – humanised, cultural landscapes – in which they actually act and move. The discipline, fortunately, is now coming to maturity. Its practitioners go beyond agonising about whether it is proper even to “tread lightly” on the earth and are instead examining how virtues – from tidiness and cleanliness to compassion and humility – might inform such heavy-treading interventions as landscape design and agriculture.

 The older environmental ethics presupposed a sharp distinction between nature (“wilderness”) and the human domain – a distinction that has also plagued philosophical anthropology’s attempt to locate the human in relation to the natural. Views have tended to swing between a picture of experience of the world as a Promethean human construct, and a conception of it as, essentially, the passive effect of objective natural processes. Attention to cultural or “hybrid” landscapes can provide a sharp reminder of the implausibility of separating, even notionally, the possibility of human creative practice and a way of experiencing the natural world. The historically and philosophically alert landscape designer and farmer know that the goals they pursue could not have been envisaged except against a background experience of nature that has itself been shaped and enabled by traditions of human practice. Cultural landscapes are good to think with, for they are salient epiphanies of a deep relationship of co-dependence between human endeavour and the experience of nature.’  (full article here)

Cooper’s comments on ” the Aesthetics of everyday life ” in the first part of the  full article are interesting when viewed in the context of much contemporary photographic practice.


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