Sensory perception and aesthetic judgement


As Bonaventure observes, "this whole external world must enter the human soul through the doors of the senses," i.e., the first stage of our knowledge about the world is sensory perception. However, the senses do not only perceive and report to us their data about the world. They also react to perceived objects with pleasure (positive reaction) or pain (negative reaction). This means that some primary assessment, appreciation of, and passing judgment about the quality of things takes places already at the level of the senses. Such appreciation and judgment, being reactions to the beauty and order in the world, are called aesthetic (from the Greek for "sense perception"). Thus sense and aesthetic reaction become the primary evaluating faculties before the intellect. According to Bonaventure, our aesthetic response (positive reaction to beauty and order) also leads to the recognition of the divine origin of both the world and our judgment about it. This step teaches us to appreciate nature, as natural beauty is a sign of order and, ultimately, of God.


Bonaventure, Itinerarium 2.3-6, 11-13.

 Text of Step 2, transl. by O. Bychkov

Aesthetic experience of nature

Thoreau, Henry David. “The Maine Woods.”  From the Journal, ed. Henry Wood, Ch. 12, “Up the West Branch,” pp. 216-38.

Arnold, Matthew, “In Harmony With Nature.” Poetry and Criticism of Matthew Arnold. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968.


Experience of nature and God

Novak, Barbara. Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting. 1825-75.  NY: Oxford UP, 1980. Introduction: “The Nationalist Garden and the Holy Book.” pp. 3-17.

 Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur.” Norton Anthology.

St. Francis, Canticle of the Sun, pp. 27-28

Life of Francis 9:1, (pp. 262-63)