Australasian Journal of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology (AJE), Vol 3 (2013)

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Embracing the ineffable: landscape art, gesture and environmental ethics.

K John Stockfeld

Abstract


I explore the interrelationships between environmental ethics and landscape art. An environmental ethic has long proven to be elusive, and I make the case that this is because it has been mistakenly viewed as an addendum to our established ethical systems, wherein some particular notion of value will serve as its basis. Affirming Taylor’s insight that our deeper values are those we find most difficult to articulate, I make the case that this inarticulacy is something we ought to embrace. Seeking to identify or specify environmental values is counterproductive, and if we are to succeed in arriving at an environmental ethic, then we must chart a very different course. The starting point is to return to fundamental questions, indeed to the most fundamental of them all, the Question of Being as Heidegger formulated it. Gesturing turns out to be the key to a middle-voiced engagement with the natural world that brings this question to life. Landscape art, whether verbal or visual, has an indispensible role to play in this endeavour: being the leading edge in our gradual maturing towards an ecological ethic, it has its basis in an engagement with our deeper, more inchoate values, and environmental philosophy finds its rightful place by following in its wake.

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