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Nature Godly and Beautiful: The Iconic Earth

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Rooted in a tradition of thought and spirituality akin to, yet other than, the onto-theology of the Latin West, the aesthetico-theological experience of the Byzantine icon can help articulate aesthetic and numinous elements of our relation to nature that environmental philosophy should no longer ignore. In contrast to the technical mastery of the natural in Western art inaugurated by the Renaissance, itself related to the emerged technological mastery of nature in the late Middle Ages, the iconic sensibility characteristic of the Byzantine East exhibits an experience of materiality common to non-Western humanity, seeing nature as a visible window to the invinsible, a lintel of the holy. A series of correlations between features of iconic seeing and exemplary encounters with the natural environment by prominent naturalists elaborates this thesis, along with examples from the later writings of Dostoevsky, who looked to divine beauty to save the earth.

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