Movement, wildness and animal aesthetics

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The key role that animals play in our aesthetic appreciation of the natural world has only gradually been highlighted in discussions in environmental aesthetics. In this article I make use of the phenomenological notion of ‘perceptual sense’ as developed by Merleau-Ponty to argue that open-ended expressive-responsive movement is the primary aesthetic ground for our appreciation of animals. It is through their movement that the array of qualities we admire in animals are manifest qua animal qualities. Against functionalist and formalist accounts, I defend and develop an account of expressive-responsive movement as the primary perceptual sense of animals. I go on to suggest that the primacy of movement in the aesthetic appreciation of animals is also the primary sense of animal ‘wildness’, and that a key part of the rewilding paradigm should be the development of such appreciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-470
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Values
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Animal aesthetics
  • primacy of movement
  • perceptual sense
  • Merleau-Ponty
  • wildness
  • rewilding
  • Rewilding
  • Perceptual sense
  • Wildness
  • Merleau-ponty
  • Primacy of movement

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