The Way We Get By: Aesthetic Engagement with Place


  • Gregory Blair Northern State University


art, place, landscape, ethics


The intersection of aesthetics and ethics has a long history in philosophy. Kant wrote The Critique of Judgement as means to use aesthetic judgment to reflect how an ethical judgment could be both universal and particular; the result of judgment “must involve a claim to validity for all men.”[1] However, in the context of contemporary environmentalism, there is still much ambiguity and countless bewildering suggestions for the relationship between aesthetics and ethics in actual practical modes of existence.

Some contemporary art practices however, directly encourage a connection between aesthetics and ethics through a form of aesthetic engagement with the landscape. This type of engagement with the landscape is intended as a form of questioning. The word “engagement” itself is a significant as part of this phrase. The etymology of the word “engagement” stems from the French word “engager” meaning to pledge, commit, involve, encourage, hire or enlist.

This manuscript will argue that certain aesthetic expressions have the ability to create a relationship with the environment that has personal meaning and engages the individual into the derivation of a personal ethos. This claim is also accompanied by the assertion that contemporary environmental discourse is inhibited by a deficient collaboration with artistic practice.

[1] Immanuel Kant. The Critique of Judgement. Trans. James Creed Meredith. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952, 51.