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Aesthetic Engagement in the City


KeywordsTriple Keywords
Beautiful, The
Taste (Aesthetics)
Western art (Western countries)
Arts, Fine
Fine arts
Art, Visual
Arts, Visual
Occidental art
Visual arts
Art, Occidental
Art, Western (Western countries)
Concept formation
Political power
Empowerment (Social sciences)
Power (Social sciences)
Science, Political
Political science
Political theory
Commonwealth, The
Civil government
Political thought
Mass political behavior
Practical politics
Political behavior
Electoral politics
Politics, Practical
Ecology, Social
Human environment
Human ecology (Social sciences)
Social ecology
Environment, Human
Learning and scholarship


International audience This article aims at showing how environmental aesthetics relates to the common environment, the ordinary environment that we discuss, share, and live in. Aesthetics has primarily been understood in relation to art and art history, but it has now been emancipated from this framework of interpretation. In the wake of John Dewey, aesthetics has become the problem of experience as ordinary sensitivity. One can even think that it is a question of adequately defining the world of sensitivity that rests on the faculty of perception: both the capacity to perceive and the concept of the perceptual commons that follows from this. The forms that are perceived could then very well be understood as those we have in common and that we discuss in questions of policy (formal commons). Arnold Berleant, in his essay "The Aesthetic Politics of Environment," explains: Such a vision brings us to the need for recognizing and shaping environment. It may be that the perceptual commons identifies the establishing conditions of the human environment, that is, of the human world, and that in shaping environment we are enhancing and making coherent all its participating constituents.[1] In the remarks that follow I would like to show just how much aesthetic engagement, involving active participation in the appreciative process, sometimes by overt physical action but always by creative perceptual involvement,[2] concerns urban lives and also, in spite of the eminently artificial nature of the urban environment, how much it draws on the depth of the perceptual experience involved. Indeed, if there is knowledge in our city-dwellers' gaze, it is not this erudition that gives the aesthetic experiences their depth and liveliness, but the human capacity to project ourselves into these environments, to feel connected to them ecologically.

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