Konrad Lorenz: From Aesthetics to Environmental Protection
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The article is concerned with links between the ideas of Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) and several topics in aesthetics. Lorenz was one of the most interesting and influential biologists of the twentieth century, and aesthetics played an important role in his work. The first part of the article considers the characteristic features of 'Lorenz's aesthetics'. His thinking follows on from Darwin and Darwinian ideas, and also reveals the strong influence of traditional German ideas of nature (for example, those of Goethe). For Lorenz the beauty or attractiveness of natural objects is always linked with usefulness, but not strongly determined by use. Bird songs, for example, are more beautiful, more complicated when they are sung without a purpose. Lorenz also based his theory of aesthetic perception on Gestalt psychology, thus placing emphasis on the whole. Landscape is more beautiful when its complexity and its 'health' are on a higher level; a landscape without biodiversity or one that is too simple (for example, industrial, modern agricultural, or monocultural landscapes) are objects of low aesthetic value. In the second part of the article the author traces some of Lorenz's ideas on the origin of art and culture. Lorenz links these origins with play (following on from Friedrich Schiller) and ritualized behaviour supported by 'Funktionslust' (delight in performing a skill well), which grows in the process of mastering complicated movements. For Lorenz, ceremonies (or rituals) bind human (and animal) society together.
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