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8/28/2015 2:58 am  #1


The Metaphysics of Beauty

I'm not sure if this is the right place, but I want to ask if anyone is familiar with the metaphysics of beauty? If so, could you direct me to heavy works about these things? As well as full defenses and so forth? I don't specifically care for how much(if it is a whole lot) I have to read. I just want to know to anything and everything I can about it, but I really haven't a clue where to start from, and where I can find rigoros defenses of the positions and so forth, so don't be hesitant to post as much as you can.

 

8/29/2015 7:20 am  #2


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

Thanks for being this considerate and for your recommendation, I'll be getting that book. I'm a Catholic and a Classical Theist. Modern theists, for the most part, seem to think that mystery of consciousness is key to God, I feel somewhat the same when it comes to Beauty. Whether I'm right or wrong, is a totally different matter which concerns rigoros investigations. Whether beauty should  be recognized purely as a theological category? Whether it is to be looked at from a more natural perspective? Whether it has something to do with personal tastes, in such fashion that there is no dispute? Is it a psychological account of perception that is dependent on certain things, platitudes, etc.? Is it a universal? Is it possible to properly predicate beauty to anything? Such questions come to mind when I think of beauty. There is an obvious attraction and inclination to beauty, for most people at least. I want to know the full cause, it's nature, and it's being, so, whatever the conclusion, I'm interested in the investigations leading to it. And I don't think that my spirit is going to let me rest at ease until and unless it is satisfied. So, thanks for the recommendation.

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8/30/2015 6:01 pm  #3


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

Hi Dennis,

Dennis wrote:

I'm not sure if this is the right place, but I want to ask if anyone is familiar with the metaphysics of beauty? If so, could you direct me to heavy works about these things? As well as full defenses and so forth? I don't specifically care for how much(if it is a whole lot) I have to read. I just want to know to anything and everything I can about it, but I really haven't a clue where to start from, and where I can find rigoros defenses of the positions and so forth, so don't be hesitant to post as much as you can.

Neither focuses specifically on metaphysics, but you may find this bookthis book, and their respective bibliographies a good place to start.

 

8/30/2015 8:11 pm  #4


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

I suspect that Roger Scruton's books might be a good place to start. He has two or three that discuss what beauty is and why it's important. And he's got a solid background in serious philosophy.

If his books don't address exactly what you're after, there's a good chance they'll point you to proper sources.

Also Umberto Eco's early book "Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages" was helpful for me. Mostly he gleans the various things that Aquinas has to say about aesthetics and puts them together for us.

And, you probably know this already, but Plato's Symposium and its many commentaries are kind of indispensable.

 

8/30/2015 8:27 pm  #5


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

I figured out something useful from reading Eco's book about beauty.

A lot of modern art since Duchamp is about messing up one of Aristotle's Four Causes.

For example, putting a urinal on its side in a gallery plays with its Final Cause.

Making a saw out of glass is a common example of an inappropriate Material Cause, but would probably get you into the local art show.

It makes a lot of contemporary art look easy.

 

8/30/2015 9:47 pm  #6


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

Roger Scruton is a good recommendation, even though (in my opinion) he doesn't explain or clarify the fundamentals. He delivers well from his own point of view though. Here's a documentary by him https://vimeo.com/112655231

 

8/31/2015 5:21 am  #7


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

Aesthetic Arguments for the Existence of God

Dennis wrote:

Modern theists, for the most part, seem to think that mystery of consciousness is key to God, I feel somewhat the same when it comes to Beauty. Whether I'm right or wrong, is a totally different matter which concerns rigoros investigations. Whether beauty should  be recognized purely as a theological category? Whether it is to be looked at from a more natural perspective?

I share some of your feelings here Dennis though strangely have never dedicated much time to studying philosophical aesthetics (despite having done work as a publisher and editor). I'll throw in a couple of well-known texts in case there of any help.
 
The Polish phenomenologist Roman Ingarden wrote a serious of important books on the aesthetics and metaphysics of the fine arts. I have no idea whether Ingarden was a theist or not but his work certainly focuses heavily on intuition of universals and different forms of intentionality.
 
The Literary Work of Art: An Investigation of the Borderlines of Ontology, Logic, and Theory of Language
 
Cognition of the Literary Work of Art
 
Roman Ingarden's Ontology and Aesthetics

(This last book is an overview of Ingarden’s metaphysics as a whole and contains much of interest for the Scholasticaly minded. Unfortunately getting a cheap copy requires patience.)

Finally if you can stand German Idealism Schelling’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Art present an interesting quasi-Platonic account of how artistic creations form a kind of symbolic representation pointing to the Divine Exemplars. Samuel Taylor Coleridge took much of his philosophical aesthetics directly from Schelling, so if one’s read Biographia Literaria then I suspect some of it will be hauntingly familiar.
 

Last edited by DanielCC (8/31/2015 5:26 am)

 

8/31/2015 11:00 am  #8


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

Thanks for the recommendations John. Eric from Feser's blog, right? Nice to see that you're still active, with that said, Eric & seignur, thanks for recommending Umberto Eco and Scruton to me, I've purchased Roger Scruton's, Beauty: A Very Short Introduction, I was already aware of Scruton and have seen the video you refer to, seignur, but I'm only beginning to take interest in him now. I'll be getting 3 more books by monday,

Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Selected readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger
Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages

Now, Daniel, thank you for the article and making me aware of Roman Ingarden. The article you've posted is exactly what I've been looking at and been in wonderment of, I'm glad that you and other people have their interests piqued in this area of argument for God's existence, which is one of my main motivations to discover the mystery that surrounds the very nature of beauty. I'll be finishing the two books above before I hit Roman Ingarden's work and then move to David Bentley Hart while I'm reading him as well as my other usual metaphysical interests. I cannot believe how close to home the article you sent hit, I never knew that Peter S. Williams was interested in this sort of thing, but I'm happy to know that he is.

"If one accepts that naturalism involves a denial of the `mannishness of man' then one ought to look favorably upon theism as a world-view capable of giving art, and aesthetic appreciation in general, a welcoming home. [65]"

This is one of the main reasons for me in accepting theism over any form of naturalism, prior to getting to know Aristotle and Aquinas and the other Scholastics.

"I suggest that the four categories of aesthetic arguments for the existence of God deserve greater attention than has traditionally been the case. Secular philosophers, like Anthony O'Hear and Roger Scruton, recognize that aesthetics lends itself to religious treatment, and it is noteable how strong a pull towards God they feel when considering aesthetic phenomena."

This is something I hope that in the course of my exploration, I be able to find. The adequate bridge and arguments that lead to the existence of God, starting from aesthetic phenomena. This was a truly refreshing article, and it really has almost all the reasons I can think of, in towards my inclination to the Philosophy of Beauty, I'll see if I can write more about things as I progress, it would be very interesting to see how specific ontology of aesthetics would deal with experiences of disgust as well.

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9/01/2015 1:43 am  #9


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

Dennis,

The book that made me interested in questions of beauty and theology, lo these many years ago, was none other than The Divine Comedy. Not exactly a beginner's guide -- more like being thrown in the deep end.

I am so fond of Dante's explanation, though, that I am going to risk looking foolish by attempting a summary:

Dante says that all of the good qualities in this world have their source in God. The contingencies of the material world, though, mean that no object here can reflect or embody more than a tiny aspect of the goodness of God himself. When we see good in the world, though, we are seeing an aspect of God.

There are two important results from the fact that each object and each perceiver in the world is slightly different: 1) each object reflects or embodies a different aspect and portion of goodness, and 2) each perceiver is sensitive to and affected by a different portion of goodness. Some of us are affected by the beauty of art or the different beauty of music. Some are indifferent to art but attracted more naturally to, say, mercy or justice. Famously, Beatrice had exactly the combination of virtues that appealed to Dante. It was through her goodness that he had inklings of God's goodness.

This will all sound pretty familiar if you've read Plato's Symposium. And as Plato points out, beauty is, of all goods, the one that presents itself to us first, just because we are visual creatures and attracted to what we see. If mercy were as easily perceived as beauty is, we would find it just as obviously appealing.

From what I understand, this was a significant change from some earlier Christian thought, which had been wary of the beauty of the material world. Dante thought that since only the rare mystic or saint could have direct vision of the divine, the best that most of us could do was to let the infinite goodness of God appeal to us -- get us hooked -- through that which we *are* able to know.

I can't quite say that I believe this. Still, it's a kind of background to a lot of other things you might read. Even Scruton's documentary, for example, where he's talking about how the beauty of a town points to other virtues that the town can have, seems to me to have this Platonic idea lurking nearby.

Anyway, Dante's explanation itself is to me so beautiful that I love to think about it.

 

9/04/2015 7:25 am  #10


Re: The Metaphysics of Beauty

Very quickly, the book recommended by John West, Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger, is available for less than $3 for kindle, for anyone else interested, this should be a welcome steal, as was for me.

Eric in Hiroshima wrote:

There are two important results from the fact that each object and each perceiver in the world is slightly different: 1) each object reflects or embodies a different aspect and portion of goodness, and 2) each perceiver is sensitive to and affected by a different portion of goodness. Some of us are affected by the beauty of art or the different beauty of music. Some are indifferent to art but attracted more naturally to, say, mercy or justice. Famously, Beatrice had exactly the combination of virtues that appealed to Dante. It was through her goodness that he had inklings of God's goodness.


Yes, that much is pretty clear. I've more questions on this, more specifically how we can objectively predicate more or less beauty to someone or something, there should be some real concord for doing this. Those two points you mention raise a few more questions, can beauty be exhausted? If so, how, and why? I think the answer has to do with the notion of possession tied in with the fact that beauty is never wholly possessed by someone or something, another important point is the affection of the senses that invoke desire, I wonder why this has to be, if beauty really is an objective trait that can be objectively predicated to something(i.e. to say that we can say this is more beautiful than that). Needless to say, I'm so happy with the replies here and excited to read all the material that has been recommended. 

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