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ECPR General Conference 2020, University of Innsbruck

On the Possibility of Motivating Environmental Protectionism through Kantian Aesthetics

Amy Kings
Keele University
Amy Kings
Keele University

This paper will explore the possibility of finding support for changing policies on the environment via Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. I will argue that there are potentially fruitful ways of understanding human relations with non-human nature which can be found in Kantian aesthetics. One such way is through the notion of aesthetic disinterestedness, comparable to the environmentalist emphasis on making decisions about the preservation of nature aside from personal inclinations. Debate over ideal vs non-ideal theory provides an interesting back-drop from which to discuss this issue especially as it pertains to the far from ideal circumstances in which we find ourselves now, and the relative ignorance of those writing during the 18th Century about the far reaching and long-term impacts of industrialisation. Of particular relevance here, is the question of whether it is still possible to take a disinterested view of the environment or instead, whether our interests are now so intertwined with those of our surrounding environment (including non-human animals) that it is impossible to divorce ourselves from them. I will maintain that whilst Kantian disinterest in itself may no longer be possible (if it ever was) the notion of side-lining selfish interests is still immensely useful for environmental politics. I will argue for the necessity of problematising the notion of disinterest, if it is to be useful as a Kantian tool in tackling the global problems caused by climate change.
Ultimately however, this is only one potential avenue of exploration within Kant’s work which may help to motivate political change concerning environmental policy-making, but it is a useful starting point.
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