Gernot Böhme’s aesthetics is born originally from his ‘ecological nature-aesthetics’ (ökologische Naturästhetik). While ecology responds to the environment through natural sciences, ecological nature-aesthetics rather reckons with the relationship between diverse qualities of environment and ‘affective state(Affektion)’ of people livingin that environment. Ecological nature-aesthetics, thus, investigates there lationship between qualities of environment and ‘state of being situated with a certain mood(Befindlichkeit)’. The first object of its study is, then, anatmosphereas ‘between(Zwischen)’, which exists between qualities of environment and ‘state of being situated with a certain mood.’ This ecological nature-aesthetics developed gradually in such away that aesthetics as ‘perception-theory(Wahrnehmungslehre)’ initiated by Baumgarten, that is to say, aesthetics as ‘general perception-theory’ is reinstated.
In Böhme’s view, an important contribution of aesthetics as reinstated perception-theory is above all to train affection in this age of the scientific and technological culture, which is an age of ‘existence without body’. ‘Contemplative life’ or ‘spiritualization of human beings’ was a classical ideal in the past. The new aesthetics of today, however, reminds us that perceptive experience too has a place in human reality. But since such experience is not given and yet to be acquired, Böhme contends that the new aesthetics should be required of.
For Böhme, the most important task of the new aesthetics is critique of three areas of aesthetic labor(nature, design and art). Here, the most crucial concept that the new aesthetics promotes is atmosphere.
First, there is critique of the area of nature. Ecological nature-aesthetics asks what nature is for human persons as beings with body and perception. Relying on Goethe’s paradigm, Böhme calls this ‘phenomenology of nature’ as well. Now, therefore, the quality of environment is not the object of analysis of natural sciences, but the object of esthetical experience.
Second, there is critique of the area of design, especially of political aesthetics. The new aesthetics sees that what politics does in the age of mass media is a kind of staging for a mass of people or a creation of atmosphere, and offers a critique of the ways in which each political event is orchestrated. Thus, it saves an individual from manipulation of feelings, and returns freedom to the individual.
Third, there is critique of the area of art. In modern art, beauty is just one aspect of what appears as atmosphere, for instance, along with surprise, cheerfulness, threat and the like. The advantage of perception-theory, says Böhme, is precisely that it is a theory not of artwork, but of perceptive experience. Now, modern artwork is nothing other than what is perceived in the complex of appearances. That is to say, the beautiful is the “reality that appears in perceptive experience.” Thus, the new aesthetics is helpful for understanding above all the modern art that reflectively thematises perceptive apperception.
Böhme’s aesthetics of atmosphere, as he confesses, is welcomed in the framework of Japanese language and culture, rather than of European philosophy. Because ‘ki(氣)’ in Japanese, like atmosphere, represents not only a phenomenon of ‘ten-ki(天氣)’ or of the climate, but also a phenomenon of a person’s moods. A comparative study between aesthetics of atmosphere and that of ‘ki(氣)’ would be promising.
Böhme’s outstanding contribution, above all, is that he extended the area of aesthetics from art up to nature and design. This, in a sense, is natural since he is a philosopher of practice. The aesthetics of atmosphere, thus, does not remain as a mere theory, but it becomes aesthetics of life where aesthetic practice and consumption is constantly involved in people’s everyday life.