Adam Smith's 'Sympathetic Imagination' and the Aesthetic Appreciation of Environment

Emily Brady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the significance of Adam Smith's ideas for defending non-cognitivist theories of aesthetic appreciation of nature. Objections to non-cognitivism argue that the exercise of emotion and imagination in aesthetic judgement potentially sentimentalizes and trivializes nature. I argue that although directed at moral judgement, Smith's views also find a place in addressing this problem. First, sympathetic imagination may afford a deeper and more sensitive type of aesthetic engagement. Second, in taking up the position of the impartial spectator, aesthetic judgements may originate in a type of self-regulated response where we stand outside ourselves to check those overly humanizing tendencies which might lead to a failure in appreciating nature as nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-109
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Scottish Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011


  • aesthetics
  • Adam Smith
  • nature
  • imagination
  • environment


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