Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
My thesis is that there is an aesthetic dimension of nature that is metaphysically significant, qualitatively pluralistic, and artistically creative, and that this accounts for the sensuous complexity of experience, as well as the possibility of discovering new qualitative features about the world and expressing them in novel forms, as exemplified in art. I call the philosophy that endorses the reality of this dimension Transcendentalist Aesthetics. The term "Transcendentalist" recalls the philosophy of New England Transcendentalism with its core in Ralph Waldo Emerson, and which influenced the philosophical writings of Charles S. Peirce and the art of the nineteenth-century American landscape painters of the Hudson River School and Luminism. The primary overall goal is to present and argue for a Transcendentalist Aesthetics by making use of the philosophy of Emerson and Peirce, together with the writings and landscapes of the painters. More specifically, Emerson's claims about nature and art and the painters' representations of nature provide various poetic observations of nature that provide an empirical starting point concerning the rich aesthetic complexity of the world. This complexity finds a theoretical ground in Peirce's metaphysical cosmology, which presents a rationally coherent account of the greater structures and processes of the universe while possessing important aesthetic consequences for lived experience and art. The landscape paintings also have a role in that they are expressive of the Transcendentalist philosophy itself, serve as case studies for theoretical interpretation, and are concrete evidence that new qualitative features about the world may be discovered and realized in novel artistic ways.
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