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But what is it about nature and the entities that make it up that cause us, oftentimes unwillingly, to feel or declare that they are beautiful?
Often it is merely the perception of these things itself which gives us pleasure, and this emotional or affective response on our part seems to be crucial to our experience of beauty. So in a way there is a correlate here to the intrinsic value of nature; Emerson says: In fact, one might even think that this experience of beauty is one of the bases for valuing nature — nature is valuable because it is beautiful.
Emerson seems to think that beauty in the natural world is not limited to certain parts of nature to the exclusion of others. The inhabitants of the cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only half the year…. To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.
Nature can reveal its beauty in all places and at all times to the eye that knows how to look for it. We can hear Emerson wrangle with himself on this very point in the words of this journal entry: At night I went out into the dark and saw a glimmering star and heard a frog, and Nature seemed to say, Well do not these suffice?
Here is a new scene, a new experience. Ponder it, Emerson, and not like the foolish world, hanker after thunders and multitudes and vast landscapes, the sea or Niagara. Emerson says that nature is beautiful because it is alive, moving, reproductive. In nature we observe growth and development in living things, contrasted with the static or deteriorating state of the vast majority of that which is man-made.
More generally, he writes: He cites natural structures as lacking superfluities, an observation that in general has been confirmed by the advancement of biology.
Furthermore, he says that whether talking about a human artifact or a natural organism, any increase of ability to achieve its end or goal is an increase in beauty.
So in Emerson we might find the resources for seeing evolution and the drive to survive as a beautiful rather than an ugly process, governed by laws that tend to increase reproductive fitness and that we can understand through observation and inquiry.
And lastly, Emerson points to the relation between what we take to be an individual and the rest of nature as a quality of the beautiful. Nothing is quite beautiful alone: All of these qualities of beauty seem to go beyond the mere impression of sensible forms that we started with, and what they require is what also served as the basis of truth and goodness in nature.
Think for instance of the geometric structure of a crystal, or snowflake, or nautilus shell. Or consider the complexity of the fact that the reintroduction of the wolf in Yellowstone National Park changed the course of the rivers due to a chain reaction of cause and effect through the food web, a process called a trophic cascade.
There is thus an emotional or affective component in the beauty of the intellect just as there is in the immediate beauty of perception.In other words, the more one perceived nature’s beauty, the more one reported life satisfaction unit increase in life satisfaction for every 1 unit increase in natural beauty perception, to be exact).
However, more connectedness to nature did NOT predict greater life satisfaction overall. Nature is one of God's beautiful creations. Through nature, God is able to teach us, speak to us, and provide for us. For this reason, we can find in scripture that we humans are called to protect all which is of He has created.
“Such beauty, he thought, was too perfect to have come about by mere chance. That day in the center of the Pacific was, to him, a gift crafted deliberately, compassionately, for him and Phil. Joyful and grateful in the midst of slow dying, the two men bathed in that day until sunset brought is, and their time in the doldrums, to an end.”.
August in the Rocky Mountains is a wonderful time to explore. Many flowers are in full bloom, their vibrant colors putting on a show. Even the deer are impressed. Life and nature are similar concepts because nature is the study of how life acts and interacts within the circle of existence.
When we take the time to examine the beauty of the world around us, we are able to see parallels within our own lives. This is the unified philosophy of nature that I set out to explicate in the first essay – nature is the source of truth, goodness, and beauty, because of its intelligible structure, and because of its production of organisms that can recognize that structure, us.