Abstract

John Muir’s writings portray total personality engagement leading to the liberating unification of the following components of aesthetic experience: keen perception, scientific understanding, empathy and a sense of the expressiveness of nature, imagination cultivated by the arts, intellectual recognition of the harmony of contrasts, philosophical aesthetic reflection (little developed in Muir), and joyful appreciation of beauty as divine. Muir’s theocentric aesthetic contributes to the current variety of cultural and disciplinary aesthetic perspectives. He shows the roles of empathy and imagination in sensitivity to expressiveness in nature. He points the way toward a post-Kantian conception of the relation of the beautiful and the sublime. And the harmonies he finds range from simple to complex, easy to difficult, and small scale to cosmic. The paper is a version of a document used to launch experiential projects in environmental aesthetics for university art students (and there is support for those who choose not to pattern after the religious dimension of Muir’s aesthetic experience). The educational assumption is that it helps those who wish to develop their appreciation of the beauties of nature to study an analysis of an example of heroic personality dynamics with its dimensions of body, mind, and soul so magnificently engaged.

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