In the face of nature – admiration and humility

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By Lucas Carregari Carneiro

Which are the virtues exercised in the immersion experience in the natural environment?

Those who admire nature usually enjoy aesthetic and recreational experiences by being immersed in lectual, moral and spiritual development. Whether it is through sports, reading, or observing its complexity, of the unique beauty contained in living beings in interaction in the search for the flowering of their potentialities, being in the natural environment tends to elevate our experience from the physical to the metaphysical, exercise the virtues of intellectual contemplation and wisdom. This is the image analogous to a beautiful sunset amid the steep mountains of a mountain range carved by nature, among valleys, streams of water reflected in the golden light, the admiration.

And if a head of water – a sudden flood of a river due to rains in higher reaches of its course – flooded where you watch the sunset, taking everything along your path and putting your life at risk … would be this raw nature, crude, different from the first sublime image? Situations like this bring to the surface our size, the magnanimity, the respect that we must exert before the phenomena of nature, humility.

Thus we perceive faces that complement each other. While nature is a basic source of resources, knowledge, recreation, invigoration and spiritual experiences, it is also a constant threat, indifferent to us and independent of human values. This relational complexity calls for a robust ethics, grounded in experience, as virtue ethics can provide (SANDLER, 2017).

Rachel Carson, Henry Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, influential authors who discuss the relationship between human being and the natural environment seem to agree that the virtues of admiration and humility access the essence of the phenomenon. Besides these virtues, temperance, simplicity, insight and connection are exercised in communion with the natural. (WENSVEEN, 2000).

However, these benefits are more accessed by some than by others. For example, people with traces of admiration, humility, and love of nature more often receive stimulation, renewal, knowledge, and bliss. Already a person with traits of arrogance, laziness and indifference to nature usually does not get these benefits, since he is less willing to go out into nature, enjoy, study and reflect enveloped in that environment.

Thus, the search for admiration and humility makes us experience virtuously from the storm on the high seas to innocent blossoming of a whole mountain in the first spring sun. It is up to us to cultivate the perception that the human-nature relationship occurs in the interrelation and coincidence of human flowering in harmony with movement and nature (CAFARO, 2001).


CAFARO, Philip. Thoreau, Leopold, and Carson: Toward an environmental virtue ethics. Environmental ethics, v. 23, n. 1, p. 3-17, 2001.

SANDLER, Ronald L. Environmental Ethics: Theory in Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Capitulo 10 “Character Ethics: Virtue, Vice and the environment”.

VAN WENSVEEN, Louke. Dirty virtues: The emergence of ecological virtue ethics. 2000.