On Synchronicity

On Synchronicity

There are invisible ties between us.

 

Click to access Synchronicity2010.pdf

Causality has to do with events that happen in sequence, a cause producing an effect, whereas synchronicity has to do with events that happen together.

Synchronicism is the prejudice of the East, causality is the modern prejudice of the West.  – Carl Jung, 1929

 

 

Key Terms

  • Synchronicity
  • Serendipity
  • Interconnected Universe
  • Quantum Entanglements
  • Fractal Universe
  • Recursive Universe
  • Platonic Solids
  • Carl G Jung
  • Events in Sequence
  • Events in Parallel
  • Space Structure
  • Ether
  • Geometry of space
  • Complex Numbers
  • Shri Yantra Geometry
  • Mind and Matter
  • Brain and Mind
  • Parapsychology
  • Occult
  • Esoteric

 

https://coincider.com/about-coincidences/history/ 

History

The history of coincidence studies can be told through the stories of thefour people who coined words for the types of coincidences they noticed in their lives. The most famous is Carl Jung and synchronicity, but he was not the first.

Serendipity: Horace Walpole (1717-1797)

Horace_Walpole_by_John_Giles_Eccardt

Horace Walpole, a member of the British House of Commons in the 18th century, recognized in himself a talent for finding what he needed just when he needed it.A gift in the form of a portrait of a Grand Duchess whom Walpole had long admired arrived from his distant cousin in Florence, Italy. Walpole needed a coat of arms to decorate the new picture frame and just happened to find it an old book. On January 28, 1754, Walpole, thrilled with this coincidence, wrote to his cousin Horace, giving a name to his ability to find things unexpectedly—serendipity.

He got the name from a fairy tale called “The Travels and Adventures of Three Princes of Sarendip.” Sarendip (or Serendib) is an ancient name for the island nation Sri Lanka off India’s southern coast. The king of the fable recognized that education requires more than learning from books, so he sent his sons out of the country to broaden their experience. Throughout the story, the clever princes carefully observed their surroundings, and then used their observations in ways that saved them from danger and death.

For Walpole, serendipity meant finding something by informed observation (sagacity as he called it) and by accident. The main ingredients of serendipity include luck, chance, active searching, and informed observation.

Seriality: Paul Kammerer (1880-1926)

PaulKammerer

Biologist Paul Kammerer spent hours sitting on benches in various public parks in Vienna noting repetitions among the people who passed by. He classified them by sex, age, dress, whether they carried umbrellas or parcels, and by many other details. He did the same during the long train rides from his home to his office in Vienna. Kammerer was not particularly interested in meaning—only repeated sequences of numbers, names, words, and letters. Two examples can illustrate his thinking: His wife was in a waiting room reading about a painter named Schwalbach when a patient named Mrs. Schwalbach was called into the consultation room.A second example involved his friend Prince Rohan. On the train his wife was reading a novel with a character “Mrs. Rohan.” She then saw a man get on the train who looked like Prince Rohan. Later that night the Prince himself unexpectedly dropped by their house for a visit.

He defined “seriality” as “a recurrence of the same or similar things or events in time and space” which, “are not connected by the same acting cause.”  To him these repetitions were simply natural phenomena.

Kammerer thought these similarities were part of the structure of natural law, and in his 1919 book Das Gesetz Der Serie outlined what he thought these laws to be along with a broad set of classifications of their types and qualities.

Synchronicity: Carl Jung (1875-1961)

Psychologist Carl G. Jung

Carl Jung grew up in Swiss family that, on his mother’s side, embraced the paranormal. His personal experiences included apparitions (the disembodied figure of another person) and poltergeists (troublesome ghosts), spiritualistic communications (communication with people after their deaths), and materializations (creation of matter from unknown sources). His experiences also included telepathic, clairvoyant, and precognitive dreams, prophetic visions, psychokinetic events, and out-of-body and near-death experiences.

He invented the word synchronicity from the Greek syn—with, together—andchronos—time. Synchronicity means moving-together-in-time. Its fundamental characteristic is the surprise that occurs when a thought in the mind is mirrored by an external event to which it has no apparent causal connection. He also used the word synchronicity to refer to “an acausal connecting principle” that he placed on equal status with causation.

He included many strange events under the synchronicity umbrella including telepathy, precognition, and clairvoyance, along with poltergeists, apparitions, divination (e.g. the I Ching), and astrology. The definition of synchronicity has been stretched in many different directions.

Simulpathity: Bernard Beitman (1942–) Founder of Coincidence Studies

BernardBeitman

The term “simulpathity” defines a specific subclass of meaningful coincidences: the simultaneous experience at a distance by one person of another person’s distress. The experience occurs without the two people being together in the same place and sometimes without conscious awareness of its source. One person is in pain and another person feels distress for no apparent reason. Sometimes the distress is very similar to the other person’s pain. Often, the two people share a strong emotional bond. The largest number of simulpathity reports comes from twins, although reports involving mothers and their children are also prominent.

Simulpathity suggests that the individuals are more closely bonded than current scientific thought holds possible.

Simulpathity — from the Latin simul (simultaneous) and the Greek pathos (suffering) — differs from “sympathy.” The sympathetic person is aware of the suffering of the other but does not usually feel it. In the experience of simulpathity, one person suffers along with the other person and can experiences some form of that suffering. Only later is the simultaneity of the distress recognized, although some twins know just why they are feeling pain—the other twin is now feeling it.

Please see my related posts:

Interconnected Pythagorean Triples using Central Squares Theory

Indra’s Net: On Interconnectedness

The Great Chain of Being

On Holons and Holarchy

Mind, Consciousness and Quantum Entanglement

Geometry of Consciousness

Systems View of Life: A Synthesis by Fritjof Capra

Consciousness of Cosmos: A Fractal, Recursive, Holographic Universe

Myth of Invariance: Sound, Music, and Recurrent Events and Structures

Shape of the Universe

Reflexivity, Recursion, and Self Reference

Key Sources of Research

 

Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe

·
Joseph Cambray

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26905461_Synchronicity_Nature_and_Psyche_in_an_Interconnected_Universe

 

 

Synchronicity and Healing

BERNARD D. BEITMAN, ELIF CELEBI, AND STEPHANIE L. COLEMAN

 

Click to access 18-Beitman-Chap18.pdf

 

 

 

SYNCHRONICITY
An Acausal Connecting Principle

CG Jung

https://archive.org/details/223463118SYNCHRONICITYAnAcausalConnectingPrincipleJung

 

 

 

CHANGING VIEWS OF SYNCHRONICITY-
FROM CARL JUNG TO ROBERT PERRY

Christopher Jargodzki

 

Click to access Synchronicity2010.pdf

Synchronicity, Mind, and Matter

Wlodzislaw Duch

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.79.8651&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

 

Synchronicity: did Jung have it right?

Kurt Forrer

 

Click to access bb26804cdc465b355e2f2e09c574d50dc4bb.pdf

 

 

 

C.G. Jung’s Synchronicity and Quantum Entanglement:  Schrodinger’s Cat ‘Wanders’ Between Chromosomes

 

Click to access Limar.Synchronicity.pdf

Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind

F. David Peat
Bantam Books (1987)

Emotions Over Time: Synchronicity and Development of Subjective, Physiological, and Facial Affective Reactions to Music

C. G. Jung’s Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity

By Robert Aziz

Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal

By Carl Gustav Jung

 

 

Synchronicity and Emergence

JOSEPH CAMBRAY

Click to access Cambray.pdf

Jung, synchronicity, & human destiny: Noncausal dimensions of human experience.

Synchronicity: Science, Myth, and the Trickster

Allan Combs
Marlowe & Co. (1996)

Synchronicity, Science and Soul-Making: Understanding Jungian Synchronicity …

By Victor Mansfield

Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe

By Joseph Cambray

Human Rights and Human Development

Human Rights and Human Development

 

 

Key Terms

  • Human Rights
  • Human Needs
  • Human Development
  • Human Capabilities
  • Human Security
  • Human Capital
  • Capabilities Approach
  • Martha Nussbaum
  • Amartya Sen
  • UN Development Goals
  • UNDP
  • Human Development Reports
  • Millennium Development Goals

 

 

UNDP Human Development Report 2019

Click to access hdr2019.pdf

 

Human Rights in UNDP

 

Click to access HRPN_English.pdf

 

Human Rights and Human Development – UNDP Human Development Report Year 2000

http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-2000

 

 

List of Annual Human Development Reports published by UNDP

Screen Shot 2019-12-26 at 3.40.07 PM

 

 

 

Click to access nussbaum.pdf

Human Rights and Human Capabilities

Martha Nussbaum*

I am a theorist, not a practitioner, and I believe that good theory is important for good practice. The most important theoretical development in human rights during the past two decades has been the elaboration of the “Human Development Approach,” otherwise known as the “Capability Approach,” embodied in the Human Development Reports of the United Nations Development Programme annually since 1990, and in theoretical work by Amartya Sen, myself, and, by now, hundreds of young scholars in various nations. The Human Development and Capability Association, four years old, of which Sen was the first President and I am currently the second, now has 700 members from around forty-nine nations, dedicated to pushing this intellectual work further. The Capability Approach, as I have developed it, is a species of a human rights approach. It makes clear, however, that the pertinent goal is to make people able to function in a variety of areas of central importance. Some who use the approach use it simply comparatively; I myself have attempted to defend the use, for political purposes, and as a basis for constitutional thought, of a list of ten “Central Human Capabilities,” including Life, Bodily Health, Bodily Integrity, the Development and Expression of Senses, Imagination and Thought, Emotional Health, Practical Reason, Affiliation (both personal and political), Relationships with Other Species and the World of Nature, Play, and Control over One’s Environment (both material and social). I specify each of these more concretely in Appendix A, but I also leave a good deal of room for countries with different histories and traditions to do this specification somewhat differently.

Producing capabilities requires material and institutional support, and the approach thus takes issue with the facile distinction of rights as “first- generation” (political and civil) and “second-generation” (economic and social). All rights, understood as entitlements to capabilities, have material and social preconditions, and all require government action. The Capability Approach has pushed forward the analysis of women’s human rights, the rights of the poor, and, more recently, the rights of people with disabilities. At the same time, we have been arguing for the crucial importance of material redistribution across national boundaries. The Human Development and Capability Association is working on further theoretical development of the approach, and also on practical implementation. The United Nations Development Programme produces a Human Development Report each year that ranks nations in accordance with capabilities, not GNP, and this has led to a new attentiveness to health and education, for example, as keys to a truly flourishing human life. Almost all nations now publish their own internal Human Development Report. Even the United States, which typically lags behind, has recently done so. The Capability Approach has raised awareness that you do not secure the necessary ingredients of democracy without at the same time focusing on material issues such as health care and the provision of universal primary and secondary education.

The approach was initially developed as a way of looking at nations one by one and comparing them with one another. But, used in my version, with a list of specific capabilities as a benchmark for a minimally decent human life, it is well suited to address inequalities between nations. I have done so in my recent book Frontiers of Justice,1 where I argue that the Capability Approach gives better guidance on that issue than is supplied by utilitarian approaches or approaches in the classical social contract tradition. If we begin with the idea that all world citizens are entitled to a decent minimum level of the capabilities on my list, we can work back from that starting point to think about how nations, international organizations and agreements, multinational corporations, NGOs, and individuals can share the duties corresponding to those entitlements.

As we leave behind twenty years that yielded a theoretically fortified Capability Approach, we head into the next two decades facing a number of critical human rights challenges. Chief among them are producing a world in which all children grow up with a decent set of opportunities for education, health care, bodily integrity, political participation, choice, and practical reason. At the same time, we must produce a world that treats nonhuman animals decently and protects their habitats. For those who are ready to begin the work of producing such a world, the Capability Approach holds great promise for framing the way we approach, and ultimately overcome, these challenges.

1. MARTHA NUSSBAUM, FRONTIERS OF JUSTICE: DISABILITY, NATIONALITY, SPECIES MEMBERSHIP (2006). 2007 / Twentieth Anniversary Reflections 23

APPENDIX A: THE CENTRAL HUMAN CAPABILITIES

  1. Life. Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length; not dying prematurely, or before one’s life is so reduced as to be not worth living.
  2. Bodily Health. Being able to have good health, including reproductive health; to be adequately nourished; to have adequate shelter.
  3. Bodily Integrity. Being able to move freely from place to place; to be secure against violent assault, including sexual assault and domestic violence; having opportunities for sexual satisfaction and for choice in matters of reproduction.
  4. Senses, Imagination, and Thought. Being able to use the senses, to imagine, think, and to reason—and to do these things in a “truly human” way, a way informed and cultivated by an adequate education, including, but by no means limited to, literacy and basic mathematical and scientific training. Being able to use imagination and thought in connection with experiencing and producing works and events of one’s own choice, religious, literary, musical, and so forth. Being able to use one’s mind in ways protected by guarantees of freedom of expression with respect to both political and artistic speech, and freedom of religious exercise. Being able to have pleasurable experiences and to avoid non-beneficial pain.
  5. Emotions. Being able to have attachments to things and people outside ourselves; to love those who love and care for us, to grieve at their absence; in general, to love, to grieve, to experience longing, gratitude, and justified anger. Not having one’s emotional development blighted by fear and anxiety. (Supporting this capability means supporting forms of human association that can be shown to be crucial in their development.)
  6. Practical Reason. Being able to form a conception of the good and to engage in critical reflection about the planning of one’s life. (This entails protection for the liberty of conscience and religious observance.)
  7. Affiliation.
    1. Being able to live with and toward others, to recognize and show concern for other human beings, to engage in various forms of social interaction; to be able to imagine the situation of another. (Protecting this capability means protecting institutions that constitute and nourish such forms of affiliation, and also protecting the freedom of assembly and political speech.)
    2. Having the social bases of self-respect and non-humiliation; being able to be treated as a dignified being whose worth is equal to that of others. This entails provisions of non-discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, caste, religion, national origin.
  1. Other Species. Being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants, and the world of nature.
  2. Play. Being able to laugh, to play, to enjoy recreational activities.
  3. Control over One’s Environment.
    1. Political. Being able to participate effectively in political choices that govern one’s life; having the right of political participation and protections of free speech and association.
    2. Material. Being able to hold property (both land and movable goods), and having property rights on an equal basis with others; having the right to seek employment on an equal basis with others; having the freedom from unwarranted search and seizure. In work, being able to work as a human being, exercising practical reason and entering into meaningful relationships of mutual recognition with other workers.

Key Sources of Research

Capabilities and Human Rights

Martha C. Nussbaum

 

https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3391&context=flr

Click to access nussbaum.pdf

 

Human Rights and Capabilities

AMARTYA SEN

 

Click to access Human_Rights_and_Capabilities.pdf

Women, Culture, and Development: A Study of Human Capabilities

edited by Martha C. Nussbaum, Jonathan Glover

 

 

 

CAPABILITIES AS FUNDAMENTAL ENTITLEMENTS: SEN AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

Martha Nussbaum

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1354570022000077926

 

Women’s Capabilities and Social Justice

  • Martha Craven Nussbaum

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Women’s-Capabilities-and-Social-Justice-Nussbaum/54fe81caecc14bb20e69242bd7123b6f796c25b4

 

 

 

WOMEN AND EQUALITY: 4 THE CAPABILITIES APPROACH

Martha NUSSBAUM*

 

http://cite.gov.pt/pt/destaques/complementosDestqs2/Women_gender_and_work_2001.pdf#page=54

Women’s Bodies: Violence, Security, Capabilities

  • Martha Craven Nussbaum

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Women’s-Bodies%3A-Violence%2C-Security%2C-Capabilities-Nussbaum/1edf2519d2691242b0a8514644d597ef1e00f107

 

Compassion: The Basic Social Emotion*

  • Martha Nussbaum

social Philosophy and Policy

 

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy/article/compassion-the-basic-social-emotion/A1D501ADE7B92CA7427273FFBB449B03

 

 

Dimensions of Human Development

SABINA ALKIRE

The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.189.1366&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

The Capability Approach: Its Development, Critiques and Recent Advances

David A. Clark

 

https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:5b8a1858-c28f-47c0-9a6e-465358893a01/download_file?file_format=pdf&safe_filename=gprg-wps-032.pdf&type_of_work=Working+paper

 

 

 

Poverty and Human Functioning: Capabilities as Fundamental Entitlements

Martha C. Nussbaum

Click to access Nussbaum-Martha-Poverty-and-Human-Functioning-Capabilities-as-Fundamental-Entitlements.pdf

 

 

 

Cultivating Humanity in Legal Education

MarthaC. Nussbaumt

http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5169&context=uclrev

Human Rights, Human Needs, Human Development, Human Security

Dan Gasper

Click to access 19790439.pdf

Martha Nussbaum on Capabilities and Human Rights

Dr. Jan Garrett

https://people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/ethics/nussbaum.htm

 

 

 

The Capability Approach: Comparing Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum

 

Nithiya Guna Saigarana,*, Premalatha Karupiahb, Parthiban S. Gopalc

http://www.soc.usm.my/images/stories/pdf/ICOSS2015-Proceedings-CPCI.pdf#page=9

 

 

 

Reflection on Martha Nussbaum’s Work on Compassion from a Buddhist Perspective

Maria Vanden Eynde

Click to access c1faf0e1a16d002a384a4091f8c75ce9e303.pdf

 

 

 

The Capability Approach and Human Development

Sabina Alkire (OPHI)

 

Click to access SS12-CA-Intro.pdf

 

 

 

Three models of education: rights, capabilities and human capital

Ingrid Robeyns

Click to access Three-models-of-education.-Robeyns1.pdf

 

 

 

Education and Democratic Citizenship: Capabilities and Quality Education

MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM

Click to access nussbaum-on-education.pdf

Philosophy and Economics in the Capabilities Approach: An Essential Dialogue

Design for Development: A Capability Approach

Ilse Oosterlaken1

 

 

 

The Concept of Human Development:

A Comparative Study of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum

– CHRISTOPHER RYAN B. MABOLOC

Click to access FULLTEXT01.pdf

 

 

 

HUMAN FUNCTIONING AND  SOCIAL JUSTICE In Defense of Aristotelian Essentialism’

MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM

BrownUniversity

 

Click to access Nussbaum_-_Human_Functioning.pdf

 

 

 

Social justice revisited

David M Smith

 

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1068/a3258?id=a3258

 

 

 

Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach

Martha C. Nussbaum

Click to access 2012_12_10_Martha_Nussbaum_UFS_December_2012.pdf

 

 

Beyond the Social Contract: Capabilities and Global Justice

Martha C. Nussbaum

Click to access Nussbaum.pdf

 

 

 

Women’s Education: A Global Challenge

Martha Nussbaum

 

Click to access Womens%20Education_A%20Global%20Challenge(2003).pdf

Capabilities and Well-Being: Evidence Based on the Sen–Nussbaum Approach to Welfare

  • Paul Anand, Graham Alexander Hunter, Ronald Smith

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Capabilities-and-Well-Being%3A-Evidence-Based-on-the-Anand-Hunter/3c7a11e3d5918274d80a902b065b1fb1b8c25b6f

 

 

Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach: In Need of a Moral Epistemology? ·

Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy · Eleven Journals

https://www.elevenjournals.com/tijdschrift/rechtsfilosofieentheorie/2009/3/RenR_1875-2306_2009_038_003_002

Political Emotions: Why Love matters for Justice

Political Emotions: Why Love matters for Justice

 

What are the values and beliefs of citizens to make a democratic society a just society?

 

Key Terms

  • Social Justice
  • Social Injustice
  • Social Ills
  • Emotions
  • Inter -Personal
  • Cross National
  • Inter Regional
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Political Philosophy
  • Legal Philosophy
  • Human Development
  • Human Rights
  • Human Capabilities
  • Political Emotions
  • Love
  • Love of Humanity
  • Compassion
  • Narrative Imagination
  • Higher Education
  • Theory of Justice – John Rawls
  • Capabilities Approach — CA
  • Amartya Sen
  • Martha Nussbaum
  • Ravindra Nath Tagore
  • Religion of Men
  • Phenomenological Sociology
  • I and We

 

 

Screen Shot 2019-12-24 at 4.26.49 PM

 

https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674503809&content=reviews

Political Emotions

Why Love Matters for Justice

“[Nussbaum] maps out the routes by which men and women who begin in self-interest and ingrained prejudice can build a society in which what she calls ‘public emotions’ operate to enlarge the individual’s ‘circle of concern’… Those who would extend the sympathy individuals feel to include fellow citizens of whatever views, ethnicity, ability or disability must ‘create stable structures of concern that extend compassion broadly.’ Those structures cannot be exclusively rational and philosophical—as they tend to be in the work of John Rawls and other Kantian liberals—but must, says Nussbaum, be political in the sense that they find expression in the visible machinery of public life… It is one of the virtues of Nussbaum’s book that she neither shrinks from sentimentality (how could she, given her title and subtitle?) nor fears being judged philosophically unsophisticated.”—Stanley Fish, The New York Times

“Continuing her philosophical inquiry into both emotions and social justice, Nussbaum now makes the case for love, arguing that emotions rooted in love can foster commitment to shared goals and keep fear, envy and disgust at bay…To sustain democratic institutions, Nussbaum claims, a liberal society should cultivate the emotions that underpin imagination and sympathy for others, and the way to do this is through education and the arts. Imaginative capacities will be developed very early in the family, and should be furthered via art, poetry, music and literature. These skills enable us to see each person’s fate in every other’s, and to picture it vividly as an aspect of our own. For Nussbaum, the liberal tradition should not cede emotion to anti-liberal forces (fascism, for example, was particularly good at using emotions for political ends). But all political principles need a proper emotional basis to ensure their stability over time, and all decent societies need to guard against division by cultivating appropriate sentiments of sympathy and love. This is why political emotions, narrative imagination, and love matter for justice.”—Marina Gerner, The Times Literary Supplement

“Martha Nussbaum has been a productive and creative commentator on the questions raised by A Theory of Justice, and her book Political Emotions is a long and thoughtful discussion of one of them: How can we engage the citizens’ emotions…on behalf of a more just, more inclusive, gentler, and more imaginative society? …Nussbaum takes Rawls’s account of justice as her starting point, but she greatly extends its range. She wants to turn away from hypothetical and bloodless contractors behind the veil of ignorance to focus on our actual flesh-and-blood selves.”—Alan Ryan, The New York Review of Books

“Impressively erudite.”—Julian Baggini, Financial Times

“There’s no more interesting or persuasive writer on the wider and connected subjects of emotions and social justice than Martha Nussbaum… Here she brings together strands that go back to her own The Fragility of Goodness (1986), and in the process delivers a book as important in its way as John Rawls’s definitive but slightly bloodless A Theory of Justice. Here, she draws on aesthetics as well as philosophy to make her point… It’s a great book, though, and goes straight on the shelf beside John Rawls. Political morality for the new age.”—Brian Morton, The Glasgow Herald

“Martha Nussbaum’s is one of the most influential and innovative voices in modern philosophy. Over the past four decades, a steady stream of books and articles has issued from her prodigious mind. She stands out among her contemporaries for insisting that philosophy must be rigorous and, above all, useful… The book demonstrates how people of different identities can be brought together around a common set of values and political principles through the power of art and symbol… As a culmination of her monumental contribution to academia, in Political Emotions she has produced an incandescent work that will not only be an inspiration to scholars and lay readers alike, but be a beacon for societies that aspire to justice and goodness.”—Govindan Nair, The Hindu

“Nussbaum [is] one of the finest theorists on law and ethics… Her journey is a tour de force that travels through Greek and Indian epics, the music of Mozart in ‘The marriage of Figaro,’ the poems of Rabindranath Tagore and Walt Whitman, the rhetorical speeches of Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., the writings of John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, B.R. Ambedkar, Auguste Comte and John Rawls to make a case for establishing just societies by foregrounding emotions that can be developed through critical reasoning… Then she, with incisive brilliance, investigates three emotions that pose special problems for compassionate citizenship: fear, envy and shame and also explain that some societies instead of combating them make the situation worse… Her magnum opus.”—A. S. Panneerselvan, The Hindu

“This volume is impressive for its breadth of references in liberal political philosophy to literature and art theory, but all the more impressive for the care and enthusiasm expressed for the subject matter. The heart of the book, and what makes it a rather novel contribution, is Nussbaum’s attention to the psychology of emotions, particularly in how she draws upon the lessons of attachment theory to inspire lessons for building a caring, loving society and a rich notion of political justice… Political Emotions is an exciting contribution to liberal political theory. Nussbaum’s recent forays in bridging political philosophy with attention to aesthetic affect, emotion and attachment have genuinely enriched the terrain of liberal theory. Hopefully the discussions Nussbaum introduces here will help to enrich our collective public life as well.”—Michael Larson, Metapsychology

“[Nussbaum] reinstates the role of emotion in politics and draws attention to and rejects any kind of false emotionalism vis-à-vis nationalism. She examines how figures like Rabindranath Tagore and B. R. Ambedkar, through their emotional appeal on relevant issues, were able to build the right kind of nationalism. In the very contemporary context of Hindutva and its very particular link to patriotism, I would recommend this book to everyone.”—Indira Jaising, Outlook India

“Genuinely bracing.”—Brian Morton, The Tablet

Political Emotions is an important work, and Nussbaum has created valuable space for love and human imperfection to be weighed more heavily in the search for justice.”—Geraldine Van Bueren, Times Higher Education

“Reading [Political Emotions] has reinforced, but more importantly broadened, my understanding of love’s significance in political life and how it can be fostered there… I find much political wisdom in Nussbaum’s book.”—Walter Moss, LA Progressive

“Nussbaum stimulates readers with challenging insights on the role of emotion in political life. Her provocative theory of social change shows how a truly just society might be realized through the cultivation and studied liberation of emotions, specifically love. To that end, the book sparkles with Nussbaum’s characteristic literary analysis, drawing from both Western and South Asian sources, including a deep reading of public monuments. In one especially notable passage, Nussbaum artfully interprets Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, revealing it as a musical meditation on the emotionality of revolutionary politics and feminism. Such chapters are a culmination of her passion for seeing art and literature as philosophical texts, a theme in her writing that she profitably continues here. The elegance with which she negotiates this diverse material deserves special praise, as she expertly takes the reader through analyses of philosophy, opera, primatology, psychology, and poetry. In contrast to thinkers like John Rawls, who imagined an already just world, Nussbaum addresses how to order our society to reach such a world. A plea for recognizing the power of art, symbolism, and enchantment in public life, Nussbaum’s cornucopia of ideas effortlessly commands attention and debate.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Justice is hard. It demands our devotion as well as our understanding. For that reason, it must grip our emotions. We must feel its absence and its presence with the depth of feeling that we associate with love. That is the compelling message in Martha Nussbaum’s remarkable—and remarkably original—account of political emotions. She explores the place of love in a decent society that aspires to be just. And she explains—with great intellectual and emotional force—how we can cultivate a political love with the kind of complexity that does justice to our humanity.”—Joshua Cohen, author of The Arc of the Moral Universe and Other Essays

“In her sweeping panorama of society and culture, Nussbaum skillfully and flexibly uses her understanding of public emotions to produce a book of considerable wisdom and merit. Her study is anchored in a well-rounded view of a complex but largely unexplored theme in the West as well as in South Asia.”—Mushirul Hasan, author of Faith and Freedom: Gandhi in History

Political Emotions is a remarkable synthesis of two of the most distinctive strands of Martha Nussbaum’s thought—a conception of the emotions as essential to our understanding of the world and a political liberalism attuned to the fostering of human capacities. Readers will not fail to be enlightened and moved.”—Charles Larmore, author of The Autonomy of Morality

“Martha Nussbaum rises above all the disciplinary boundaries. This wise and engaging study of what patriotism is and how to cultivate it is written by a philosopher, a political theorist, a psychologist, a literary critic, and a historian—all of them at their best and all of them one amazing person.”—Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study

https://www.law.uchicago.edu/news/professor-martha-nussbaum-saving-liberal-arts

Professor Martha Nussbaum on Saving the Liberal Arts

Saving the Liberal Arts

CHICAGO — It’s a familiar question: Do the liberal arts need saving? The answer here Thursday at a conference on the topic — yes — was familiar, too. But keynote speakers at the opening of the conference at the University of Chicago focused less on the question itself than on from what and whom a broad education needs rescuing.

[…]

Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at Chicago, also described challenges to quantifying the value of the liberal arts. It’s good news, she said, that the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and other bodies have begun collecting better data on who’s studying the humanities — and the finding that community colleges awarded some 40 percent of their degrees to humanities students in 2014 is especially heartening.

It “would be all too easy for such community college programs to slide toward narrow vocational education, thus creating a class-based two-tier system, where liberal education is increasingly an opportunity for elites,” she said. “This has not happened, and it’s very important to prevent it from happening.”

Yet available data focus primarily students who major in the humanities, Nussbaum said, missing the real point.

“We should not measure the impact of the humanities simply by counting numbers of majors,” she said. “The whole design of the liberal arts system is that courses in the humanities are required of all students, no matter what their major. … Students can major in computer science or engineering, but in such a system they are also required to take general liberal arts courses in history, philosophy and literature. This system has striking advantages, preparing students for their multiple future roles in much more adequate way than a narrow single-subject system.”

Nussbaum adapted her remarks from the introduction to the second edition of her book, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton University Press). It’s seen a surprising amount of interest abroad, she said, including in countries with no liberal arts tradition and in which students are single-tracked into studying only their major. So opportunities to simply study the liberal arts — not necessarily major in them — are important, too, she said.

For Nussbaum, there are three main arguments for a liberal education: its ability to shape citizenry in a democracy — ever more important in an increasingly global society — along with its ability to foster innovation in business and help us understand our lives.

To the last point, she said, “We all seek a deeper understanding of love, death, anger, pain and many other themes treated in great works of art, literature and philosophy. No matter how we earn our living, we all need to confront ourselves, our own life and death.” While it’s easy to forget about these deeper themes when one is young, she added, “it’s then that an initial acquaintance plants seeds for fruitful later rumination.” It’s no surprise that one major growth area for the humanities is in continuing education for adults, for example, she said.

Conversations about the liberal arts sometimes center on “unprecedented” threats, and indeed there have been a host of attacks on these disciplines from politicians in particular in recent years. While both Brewer and Nussbaum expressed concerns about negative influence on the humanities and other fields from skeptical lawmakers and metrics-driven administrators, they avoided claims of urgency. Instead, both scholars said the humanities have always been under threat because they are by nature threatening to institutions. What’s important is recognizing current threats, or at least their “contours,” as Brewer put it, so they may be combated effectively.

“Socratic questioning is unsettling, and people in power often prefer docile followers to independent citizens able to think for themselves,” Nussbaum said. “Furthermore, a lively imagination, alert to the situations, desires and sufferings of others, is a taxing achievement; moral obtuseness is so much easier. So we should not be surprised that the humanities are under assault, now as ever. The battle for responsible democracy and alert citizenship is always difficult and uncertain. But it is both urgent and winnable, and the humanities are a large part of winning it.”

Read more at Inside Higher Ed

Please see my related posts:

Levels of Human Psychological Development in Integral Spiral Dynamics

Key Sources of Research:

 

Why Love Matters for Justice: Martha Nussbaum’s Political Emotions // Workshop Session 1

 

Newman and Nussbaum on the Purpose of Higher Education

Rik Peels, Jeroen de Ridder, and René van Woudenberg Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Click to access Newman_and_Nussbaum_on_the_Purpose_of_Hi.pdf

Martha Nussbaum on Capabilities and Human Rights

by Dr. Jan Garrett

 

https://people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/ethics/nussbaum.htm

Political Emotions
Why Love Matters for Justice page1image935565248 page1image935565808 page1image935566192 page1image935566448 page1image935567328

Dr. Leemamol Mathew

http://www.stic.ac.th/ojs/index.php/sjhs/article/viewFile/136/78

Book Review: Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice

Click to access Book_Review_Political_Emotions_Why_Love_Matters_for_Justice_LSE%20Review%20of%20Books.pdf

On Making Moral Citizens

Victor L Worsfold

 

https://tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.2202/1940-1639.1281

 

 

 

an inteRVieW With MaRtha CRaVen nussBauM: PolitiCal eMotions. Why loVe MatteRs foR JustiCe

e. caminada universität zu Köln, B. malVestiti università degli Studi di milano

 

Click to access 15_Intervista-NUSSBAUM.pdf

Arts and Moral Philosophy

Arts and Moral Philosophy

This post is an extension of my last post on Aesthetics and Ethics.  How narrative arts such as Literature, Novels, Poetry, Films and Dramas interact with moral ethical concerns and emotions of human beings.

Key People/Terms

  • Martha Nussbaum – Aristotle
  • Iris Murdoch – Plato
  • Noel Carroll
  • Hall of Mirrors
  • Hall of Reflection
  • Literature
  • Novels
  • Films and Dramas
  • Narrative Arts
  • Aesthetics
  • Ethics
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Ethical Criticism of Arts
  • Virtue Ethics

Martha Nussbaum on Emotions, Ethics, and Literature

Martha Nussbaum on Emotions, Ethics, and Literature

Martha Nussbaum has been recently described as a “philosopher of feelings” and indeed, throughout her career, she has written on disgust, shame, desire, sex, patriotism, love, empathy, and most recently, anger. According to Nussbaum, there is ethical value in emotions, and we are wrong to ostracize them outside the sphere of philosophical relevance. Understanding our emotions helps us build a morally just society and relate to one another in a way that is deeply respectful and moral. It helps us extend our humanity toward people we have previously rejected as “the other,” and is a crucial part of building a healthy democracy.

Emotions are extremely significant to our efforts of living a good life. In Love’s Knowledge (1990), Nussbaum maintains that feelings have unrightfully been banished from philosophy under two equally false pretexts. Critics have either portrayed them as these blind, irrational impulses that have nothing to do with cognition and have to be strictly controlled by the reins of rationality, or maintained that if they do have any cognitive value and can indeed tell us something about the world, what they tell us is simply false. The first objection equates an emotion with an instinctual appetite, an animal need, a mere bodily function. Yet, Nussbaum argues, we can agree that grief, for instance, is very much different from hunger, and in fact due to developments in anthropology, cognitive science, and psychology, this view has become antiquated. Besides, we don’t need scientific evidence to acknowledge that grief cannot be compared to hunger, as grief is sustained by a variety of assumptions with epistemic value. Which leads us to the second set of objections.

Emotions do have cognitive value, so it should only follow logically that they must have some ethical value as well. To continue with the example of grief, the experience of the feeling presupposes the belief that someone has been lost, that the loss is irrevocable, that the person lost had tremendous and irreplaceable value, etc. To give another example, Nussbaum’s account of anger unfolds the various assumptions that underlie this emotion, amongst which the idea that there is some kind of cosmic balance that has been upset when a person has been wronged, and that directing his or her fury at the wrongdoer will somehow restore that balance.

Some emotions encompass beliefs about the world that upon scrutiny do indeed turn out to be wrong, but this is precisely why we need to take them seriously and subject them to careful investigation. It can be expected that upon discovering that certain emotions are unwarranted or unfounded, we will discard them, just as we do with beliefs when we discover they are false. Some emotions are indeed irrational, but so are a vast number of beliefs, yet it has never occurred to philosophers to banish beliefs from philosophy altogether. Furthermore, it is inconsistent, Nussbaum argues, to discredit emotions as insignificant and untrustworthy, while simultaneously recognizing that a change in one’s feelings also brings with it a change in one’s beliefs (see, for instance, the role emotions play in advertising or politics). We are wary of a political discourse suffused with emotions, as it can be much more effective than one that fully ignores our feelings. The Sophists, masters of rhetoric that they were, knew and fully embraced this, but Nussbaum points out that they weren’t the only ones. Pre-Socratic philosophers and poets were much more supportive of an entanglement between art, emotions, and philosophy, before Socrates/Plato came along and drew a dichotomy between them (pp. 14–15).

“Belief,” Nussbaum writes, “is sufficient for emotion, and emotion necessary for full belief” (p. 41). If a person believes that X was the most important person in her life, and X died, then that person will be affected by grief. If she doesn’tbelieve in the significance of X, she will not experience grief. Conversely, if a person maintains that she is a feminist, for instance, and witnesses an act of abuse against women and yet has no reaction (i.e., outrage), this would make us question the sincerity of that person’s convictions. We should admit, along with Aristotle—a philosopher Nussbaum reveres and draws significantly from—that emotions are “discriminating responses closely connected with beliefs about how things are and what is important” (ibid.). Sometimes, they might be even more reliable as our moral compasses than detached intellectual judgements, since they embody our most deeply rooted views about the world.

If emotions indeed have cognitive value, why do we still reject them? Nussbaum suggests that the main objection brought to emotions is that “they involve value judgements that attach great worth to uncontrolled things outside the agent; they are … acknowledgements of the finite and imperfectly controlled character of human life” (p. 42). To counter this vulnerability, Western philosophy has aspired to a kind of self-sufficiency, a belief that nothing bad will ever happen to those who do everything right.

In the uncertain world of ancient Greece, being human was seen as both supremely beautiful and fatally doomed. In a world governed by capricious gods, man felt subjected to tuche (fate or luck, or as Nussbaum explains it, that which just happens to a person as opposed to that which is her own doing). Many thus aspired to regain some form of control, some way to escape being at the mercy of tuche. This control came in the form of Platonic, rational self-sufficiency. Use your reason and you will be in touch with the divine forms. Nothing bad can happen to a good person. This rational self-sufficiency aspires to make “the goodness of a good human life safe from luck through the controlling power of reason” ([1986] 2001, p. 3). At its roots lies Socrates’s claim that a good person cannot be harmed, as expressed by Plato in the Apology (41c-d).

Nussbaum urges us to recognize, along with the Greek tragic poets, that mankind is fragile.  In The Fragility of Goodness (id., p. 5), she writes that her position acknowledges

That I am an agent, but also a plant; that much that I did not make goes towards making me whatever I shall be praised or blamed for being; that I must constantly choose among competing and apparently incommensurable goods and that circumstances may force me to a position in which I cannot help being false to something or doing some wrong; that an event that simply happens to me may, without my consent, alter my life; that it is equally problematic to entrust one’s good to friends, lovers, or country and to try to have a good life without them—all these I take to be not just the material of tragedy, but everyday facts of lived practical reason.

These “everyday facts of lived practical reason” may be central to morality, but unfortunately, our lives are limited. Building on Aristotle’s views in his Rhetoric and Poetics, Nussbaum reminds us that “we have never lived enough” and that our experience is “too confined and too parochial” (1990, p. 47). Fortunately, however, there is something that can compensate for the inevitable shortness of our lifespan and the limited breadth of human experience: literature.

Literature extends our life and our experience, “making us reflect and feel about what might otherwise be too distant for feeling” (ibid.) One of the main points of literary art is to present us with moments where “habit is cut through by the unexpected” (p. 43), testing our aspirations to live a good life through events outside of our control. This way of reading becomes a way of moral learning, a way of training ourselves to recognize the important features in a moral situation. No prefabricated principle can help us here, but we can only learn experientially, step by step, guided by the novel.

Nussbaum describes moralities that are exclusively based on general and universal principles as “ethically crude” (p. 37) and instead proposes the view influenced by Aristotle, which focuses on practical wisdom. General principles can only help us so much, and, following Aristotle’s analogy between ethical judgement and the arts of a navigator, there will always be the “unexpected” to face, our version of the Greek tuche, and inevitably, principles will prove insufficient. Here is where perception will prove more useful, defined as the ethical ability to discern the important features of one’s particular situation. Perceptions, in combination with a healthy dose of moral responsibility, are the ethical antidote to principles. We should bear in mind that “perception without responsibility is dangerously free-floating, even as duty without perception is blunt and blind” (p. 155).

Literature widens our experience and expands our moral imagination. It gives us the opportunity to vicariously explore seemingly infinite instances of lived practical reason. In her essay “Finely Aware and Richly Responsible,” Nussbaum makes the case for the novel as a “paradigm of moral activity” (p. 148). It gives us the uniquely privileged position from which we can explore situations deeply, but from afar. It allows us to be emotionally involved while also maintaining neutrality. In this sense, we inhabit a place that is “both like and unlike the position we occupy in life” (p. 48), perfect for awakening ourselves to moral perceptions. Much like a rehearsal before the live show, novels give their readers the opportunity to explore ethically demanding situations from a place of safety.

James’s novel The Golden Bowl serves as an example of a literary piece that provides the reader with moral perceptions, those nuanced insights into some of the infinitely varied instances of human existence. Because of the privileged position that the literary form of the novel offers, “Most of us can read James better than we can read ourselves’’ (p. 162). It is only once we’re aware of these fine complexities and reach a state of “perceptive equilibrium” that we can hope to act morally. To ignore the particularities, the contingencies and the “context-embeddedness” (1990, p. 38) of human experience is to be morally blind. “By themselves, trusted for and in themselves, the standing terms are a recipe for obtuseness” (p. 156). Instead, to respond with the right emotions “at the right times, with reference to the right objects, toward the right people, with the right aim, and in the right way, is what is appropriate and best, and this is characteristic of excellence” (Aristotle EN 1106b21-23, quoted in Nussbaum, 1990, 156). Analyzing The Golden Bowl, Nussbaum puts forth the two main characters of the novel as two moral agents, two people who managed to act altruistically toward each other without relying on rules and concepts of duty, but instead “improvised” with the particulars given to them. Perceptions assume priority over rules, and the particulars of a situation over general principles.

Artistic narratives are sometimes the only possible way of rendering life in an accurate fashion:

Certain truths about human life can only be fittingly and accurately stated in the language and forms characteristic of the narrative artist. With respect to certain elements of human life, the terms of the novelist’s art are alert winged creatures, perceiving where the blunt terms of ordinary speech, or of abstract theoretical discourse are blind, acute where they are obtuse, winged where they are dull and heavy. (1990, p. 5)

Nussbaum invites us to suppose, along with Proust, that ‘The most important truths about human psychology cannot be communicated or grasped by intellectual activity alone: powerful emotions have an irreducibly important cognitive role to play” (p. 7). If we combine this with the assumption that there is an organic connection between form and content, then novels emerge as a unique medium for truth-telling. Style is not incidental to the content it aims to convey, Nussbaum suggests, but rather the adequate fit between form and content is almost absolute, in the sense that once something is appropriately conveyed in a rich artistic form, it cannot be expressed equally well in, for instance, rigid academic terms. Paraphrasing in a completely different style will fail.

If we accept all of the above, is there anything left for the philosopher to do? Should Nussbaum herself not have written the 400-page Love’s Knowledge because the novels she writes about speak for themselves?

Firstly, it was necessary to explain—philosophically—why not taking novels seriously would be a great loss to philosophy. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, once again inspired by Aristotle, Nussbaum does advocate a philosophical style that, while different from the expressiveness typical of literary texts, can also be “their natural ally” (p. 18). While the critical skills proper to philosophy can be substantially helpful, it is imperative that philosophy assumes a much more modest role.

Philosophical commentary should only gesture toward concrete particulars, nudging us toward responsible perceptions, providing a mere “sketch” or “outline” of the “salient features of our moral life” (p. 161). The awareness that such an outline does not contain life itself, but can only “quote life” as it were from the literary text, places philosophical commentary in a “posture of sufficient humility” (ibid.).

It will be interesting to see if more philosophers embrace this newly defined role. Given the reaffirmed importance of emotions in our ethical lives, and the significance of artistic narratives, the philosophical style, as reimagined by Nussbaum, is presented with new requirements. It must clarify in a way that is enriching, explain without being oppressive, and illuminate the fineness of human experience while still protecting its fascinating multiplicity. The readers of Love’s Knowledge will hopefully agree that in terms of style and philosophical commentary, Nussbaum herself has managed to live up to the standard that she so graciously elevated.

Ana Sandoiu is a writer, researcher & philosophy lover living in Brighton, UK. She also writes on her personal blog, On a Saturday Morning.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/martha-nussbaums-moral-philosophies?verso=true

The Philosopher of Feelings

Martha Nussbaum’s far-reaching ideas illuminate the often ignored elements of human life—aging, inequality, and emotion.

What I am calling for Nussbaum writes is a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable.
“What I am calling for,” Nussbaum writes, is “a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable.”Photograph by Jeff Brown for The New Yorker

Martha Nussbaum was preparing to give a lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, in April, 1992, when she learned that her mother was dying in a hospital in Philadelphia. She couldn’t get a flight until the next day. That evening, Nussbaum, one of the foremost philosophers in America, gave her scheduled lecture, on the nature of emotions. “I thought, It’s inhuman—I shouldn’t be able to do this,” she said later. Then she thought, Well, of course I should do this. I mean, here I am. Why should I not do it? The audience is there, and they want to have the lecture.

When she returned to her room, she opened her laptop and began writing her next lecture, which she would deliver in two weeks, at the law school of the University of Chicago. On the plane the next morning, her hands trembling, she continued to type. She wondered if there was something cruel about her capacity to be so productive. The lecture was about the nature of mercy. As she often does, she argued that certain moral truths are best expressed in the form of a story. We become merciful, she wrote, when we behave as the “concerned reader of a novel,” understanding each person’s life as a “complex narrative of human effort in a world full of obstacles.”

In the lecture, she described how the Roman philosopher Seneca, at the end of each day, reflected on his misdeeds before saying to himself, “This time I pardon you.” The sentence brought Nussbaum to tears. She worried that her ability to work was an act of subconscious aggression, a sign that she didn’t love her mother enough. I shouldn’t be away lecturing, she thought. I shouldn’t have been a philosopher. Nussbaum sensed that her mother saw her work as cold and detached, a posture of invulnerability. “We aren’t very loving creatures, apparently, when we philosophize,” Nussbaum has written.

When her plane landed in Philadelphia, Nussbaum learned that her mother had just died. Her younger sister, Gail Craven Busch, a choir director at a church, had told their mother that Nussbaum was on the way. “She just couldn’t hold on any longer,” Busch said. When Nussbaum arrived at the hospital, she found her mother still in the bed, wearing lipstick. A breathing tube, now detached from an oxygen machine, was laced through her nostrils. The nurses brought Nussbaum cups of water as she wept. Then she gathered her mother’s belongings, including a book called “A Glass of Blessings,” which Nussbaum couldn’t help noticing looked too precious, the kind of thing that she would never want to read. She left the hospital, went to the track at the University of Pennsylvania, and ran four miles.

She admired the Stoic philosophers, who believed that ungoverned emotions destroyed one’s moral character, and she felt that, in the face of a loved one’s death, their instruction would be “Everyone is mortal, and you will get over this pretty soon.” But she disagreed with the way they trained themselves not to depend on anything beyond their control. For the next several days, she felt as if nails were being pounded into her stomach and her limbs were being torn off. “Do we imagine the thought causing a fluttering in my hands, or a trembling in my stomach?” she wrote, in “Upheavals of Thought,” a book on the structure of emotions. “And if we do, do we really want to say that this fluttering or trembling is my grief about my mother’s death?”

Nussbaum gave her lecture on mercy shortly after her mother’s funeral. She felt that her mother would have preferred that she forgo work for a few weeks, but when Nussbaum isn’t working she feels guilty and lazy, so she revised the lecture until she thought that it was one of the best she had ever written. She imagined her talk as a kind of reparation: the lecture was about the need to recognize how hard it is, even with the best intentions, to live a virtuous life. Like much of her work, the lecture represented what she calls a therapeutic philosophy, a “science of life,” which addresses persistent human needs. She told me, “I like the idea that the very thing that my mother found cold and unloving could actually be a form of love. It’s a form of human love to accept our complicated, messy humanity and not run away from it.”

A few years later, Nussbaum returned to her relationship with her mother in a dramatic dialogue that she wrote for Oxford University’s Philosophical Dialogues Competition, which she won. In the dialogue, a mother accuses her daughter, a renowned moral philosopher, of being ruthless. “You just don’t know what emotions are,” the mother says. Her father tells her, “Aren’t you a philosopher because you want, really, to live inside your own mind most of all? And not to need, not to love, anyone?” Her mother asks, “Isn’t it just because you don’t want to admit that thinking doesn’t control everything?”

The philosopher begs for forgiveness. “Why do you hate my thinking so much, Mommy?” she asks. “What can I say or write that will make you stop looking at me that way?”

Nussbaum is drawn to the idea that creative urgency—and the commitment to be good—derives from the awareness that we harbor aggression toward the people we love. A sixty-nine-year-old professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago (with appointments in classics, political science, Southern Asian studies, and the divinity school), Nussbaum has published twenty-four books and five hundred and nine papers and received fifty-seven honorary degrees. In 2014, she became the second woman to give the John Locke Lectures, at Oxford, the most eminent lecture series in philosophy. Last year, she received the Inamori Ethics Prize, an award for ethical leaders who improve the condition of mankind. A few weeks ago, she won five hundred thousand dollars as the recipient of the Kyoto Prize, the most prestigious award offered in fields not eligible for a Nobel, joining a small group of philosophers that includes Karl Popper and Jürgen Habermas. Honors and prizes remind her of potato chips; she enjoys them but is wary of becoming sated, like one of Aristotle’s “dumb grazing animals.” Her conception of a good life requires striving for a difficult goal, and, if she notices herself feeling too satisfied, she begins to feel discontent.

Nussbaum is monumentally confident, intellectually and physically. She is beautiful, in a taut, flinty way, and carries herself like a queen. Her voice is high-pitched and dramatic, and she often seems delighted by the performance of being herself. Her work, which draws on her training in classics but also on anthropology, psychoanalysis, sociology, and a number of other fields, searches for the conditions for eudaimonia, a Greek word that describes a complete and flourishing life. At a time of insecurity for the humanities, Nussbaum’s work champions—and embodies—the reach of the humanistic endeavor. Nancy Sherman, a moral philosopher at Georgetown, told me, “Martha changed the face of philosophy by using literary skills to describe the very minutiae of a lived experience.”

Of course you still make me laugh just not out loud.
“Of course you still make me laugh, just not out loud.”

Unlike many philosophers, Nussbaum is an elegant and lyrical writer, and she movingly describes the pain of recognizing one’s vulnerability, a precondition, she believes, for an ethical life. “To be a good human being,” she has said, “is to have a kind of openness to the world, the ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control that can lead you to be shattered.” She searches for a “non-denying style of writing,” a way to describe emotional experiences without wringing the feeling from them. She disapproves of the conventional style of philosophical prose, which she describes as “scientific, abstract, hygienically pallid,” and disengaged with the problems of its time. Like Narcissus, she says, philosophy falls in love with its own image and drowns.

In several books and papers, Nussbaum quotes a sentence by the sociologist Erving Goffman, who wrote, “In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports.” This sentence more or less characterizes Nussbaum’s father, whom she describes as an inspiration and a role model, and also as a racist. He was prejudiced in a “very gut-level way,” Nussbaum told me. “It was about shrinking and disgust.”

For the past thirty years, Nussbaum has been drawn to those who blush, writing about the kinds of populations that her father might have deemed subhuman. She argues that unblushing males, or “normals,” repudiate their own animal nature by projecting their disgust onto vulnerable groups and creating a “buffer zone.” Nussbaum thinks that disgust is an unreasonable emotion, which should be distrusted as a basis for law; it is at the root, she argues, of opposition to gay and transgender rights. Her work includes lovely descriptions of the physical realities of being a person, of having a body “soft and porous, receptive of fluid and sticky, womanlike in its oozy sliminess.” She believes that dread of these phenomena creates a threat to civic life. “What I am calling for,” she writes, is “a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable.”

Nussbaum once wrote, citing Nietzsche, that “when a philosopher harps very insistently on a theme, that shows us that there is a danger that something else is about to ‘play the master’ ”: something personal is driving the preoccupation. In Nussbaum’s case, I wondered if she approaches her theme of vulnerability with such success because she peers at it from afar, as if it were unfamiliar and exotic. She celebrates the ability to be fragile and exposed, but in her own life she seems to control every interaction. She divides her day into a series of productive, life-affirming activities, beginning with a ninety-minute run or workout, during which, for years, she “played” operas in her head, usually works by Mozart. She memorized the operas and ran to each one for three to four months, shifting the tempo to match her speed and her mood. For two decades, she has kept a chart that documents her daily exercises. After her workout, she stands beside her piano and sings for an hour; she told me that her voice has never been better. (When a conductor recently invited her to join a repertory group for older singers, she told him that the concept was “stigmatizing.”) Her self-discipline inspired a story called “My Ex, the Moral Philosopher,” by the late Richard Stern, a professor at the University of Chicago. The story describes the contradiction of the philosopher’s “paean to spontaneity and her own nature, the least spontaneous, most doggedly, nervously, even fanatically unspontaneous I know.”

Nussbaum is currently writing a book on aging, and when I first proposed the idea of a Profile I told her that I’d like to make her book the center of the piece. She responded skeptically, writing in an e-mail that she’d had a long, varied career, adding, “I’d really like to feel that you had considered various aspects of it and that we had a plan that had a focus.” She typically responded within an hour of my sending an e-mail. “Do you feel that you have such a plan?” she asked me. “I’d like to hear the pros and cons in your view of different emphases.” She wasn’t sure how I could encompass her œuvre, since it covered so many subjects: animal rights, emotions in criminal law, Indian politics, disability, religious intolerance, political liberalism, the role of humanities in the academy, sexual harassment, transnational transfers of wealth. “The challenge for you would be to give readers a road map through the work that would be illuminating rather than confusing,” she wrote, adding, “It will all fall to bits without a plan.” She described three interviews that she’d done, and the ways in which they were flawed. Among other things, they hadn’t captured her devotion to teaching and to her students. One of the interviews, she said, had made her “look like a person who has contempt for the contributions of others, which is one of the biggest insults that one could direct my way.”

For our first meeting, she suggested that I watch her sing: “It’s the actual singing that would give you insight into my personality and my emotional life, though of course I am very imperfect in my ability to express what I want to express.” She wrote that music allowed her to access a part of her personality that is “less defended, more receptive.” Last summer, we drove to the house of her singing teacher, Tambra Black, who lives in a gentrifying neighborhood with a view of the churches of the University of Chicago. It was ninety degrees and sunny, and although we were ten minutes early, Nussbaum pounded on the door until Black, her hair wet from the shower, let us inside.

Nussbaum wore nylon athletic shorts and a T-shirt, and carried her sheet music in a hippie-style embroidered sack. Her fingernails and toenails were polished turquoise, and her legs and arms were exquisitely toned and tan. She stood beside Black’s piano with her feet in a ski-plow pose and did scales by letting her mouth go completely loose and blowing through closed lips.

The first aria she practiced was “Or sai chi l’onore,” from “Don Giovanni,” one of the few Mozart operas that she has never run to, because she finds the rape scene reprehensible. As she ascended in pitch, she tilted her chin upward, until Black told her to stop. She excelled at clarion high notes, but Black thought that a passage about the murder of the heroine’s father should be more tender. “Can you make it a little more pleasant?” Black asked.

The next aria was from the final act of Verdi’s “Don Carlos,” which Nussbaum found more challenging. She had to embody the hopelessness of a woman who, knowing that she can never be with the man she loves, yearns for death.

“Put a little longing and sadness in there,” Black said. “Don’t give too much too early.”

Nussbaum softened her tone for a few passages, but her voice quickly gathered force.

“You have too much power,” Black told her. “Save a little for the end.”

“I’ll have to work on that,” Nussbaum said, her eyes fixed on the sheet music in front of her. “It’s difficult to get all the emotions in there.”

Hours later, as we drove home from a concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Nussbaum said that she was struggling to capture the resignation required for the Verdi piece. She couldn’t identify with the role. “I feel that this character is basically saying, ‘Life is treating me badly, so I’m going to give up,’ ” she told me. “And I find that totally unintelligible.”

 The Walking Dead American Horror Story Bates Motel or the Convention
“ ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘American Horror Story,’ ‘Bates Motel,’ or the Convention?”

When Nussbaum was three or four years old, she told her mother, “Well, I think I know just about everything.” Her mother, Betty Craven, whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, responded sternly, “No, Martha. You are just one person among many.” Nussbaum was so frustrated by this response that she banged her head on the floor.

Her father, George Craven, a successful tax lawyer who worked all the time, applauded her youthful arrogance. He thought that it was excellent to be superior to others. He liked to joke that he had been wrong only once in his life and that was the time that he thought he was wrong. The Craven family lived in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in an atmosphere that Nussbaum describes as “chilly clear opulence.” Betty was bored and unfulfilled, and she began drinking for much of the day, hiding bourbon in the kitchen. Nussbaum’s younger sister, Gail, said that once, after her mother passed out on the floor, she called an ambulance, but her father sent it away. Nussbaum’s half-brother, Robert (the child of George Craven’s first marriage), said that their father didn’t understand when people weren’t rational. “It was an emotionally barren environment,” he told me. “You were supposed to just soldier on.”

Nussbaum spent her free time alone in the attic, reading books, including many by Dickens. Through literature, she said, she found an “escape from an amoral life into a universe where morality matters.” At night, she went to her father’s study in her long bathrobe, and they read together. Her father loved the poem “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley, and he often recited it to her: “I have not winced nor cried aloud. / Under the bludgeonings of chance / My head is bloody, but unbowed. . . . I am the master of my fate: / I am the captain of my soul.”

Her father’s ethos may have fostered Nussbaum’s interest in Stoicism. Her relationship with him was so captivating that it felt romantic. “He really set me on a path of being happy and delighted with life,” she said. “He symbolized beauty and wonder.” Gail Busch found her father’s temperament less congenial. “I believe he was probably a sociopath,” she told me. “He was certainly very narcissistic. He was extremely domineering and very controlling. Our mother was petrified for most of their marriage.” Busch said that when she was a young child her father insisted that she be in bed before he got home from work.

Nussbaum once wrote of Iris Murdoch that she “won the Oedipal struggle too easily.” The same could be said of Nussbaum herself. Busch told me, “There were very few people that my father touched that he didn’t hurt. But one of them was Martha, because they were just two peas in a pod. I know that he saw her as a reflection of him, and that was probably just perfect for him.”

Nussbaum excelled at her private girls’ school, while Busch floundered and became rebellious. In an interview with a Dutch television station, Nussbaum said that she worked so hard because she thought, This is what Daddy’s doing—we take charge of our lives. Of her mother and sister, she said, “I just was furious at them, because I thought that they could take charge of their lives by will, and they weren’t doing it.”

Nussbaum attended Wellesley College, but she dropped out in her sophomore year, because she wanted to be an actress. Playing other people gave her access to emotions that she hadn’t been able to express on her own, but, after half a year with a repertory company that performed Greek tragedies, she left that, too. “I hadn’t lived enough,” she said. She began studying classics at New York University, still focussing on Greek tragedies. She came to believe that reading about suffering functions as a kind of “transitional object,” the term used by the English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, one of her favorite thinkers, to describe toys that allow infants to move away from their mothers and to explore the world on their own. “When we have emotions of fear and pity toward the hero of a tragedy,” she has written, “we explore aspects of our own vulnerability in a safe and pleasing setting.”

Nussbaum felt increasingly uncomfortable with what she called the “smug bastion of hypocrisy and unearned privilege” in which she’d been raised. She had spent her childhood “coasting along with assured invulnerability,” she said. In a class on Greek composition, she fell in love with Alan Nussbaum, another N.Y.U. student, who was Jewish, a religion she was attracted to for the same reason that she was drawn to theatre: “more emotional expressiveness,” she said. She associated the religion with the social consciousness of I. F. Stone and The Nation. Her father, who thought that Jews were vulgar, disapproved of the marriage and refused to attend their wedding party. Robert Craven told me, “Martha was the apple of our father’s eye, until she embraced Judaism and fell from grace.”

Four years into the marriage, Nussbaum read “The Golden Bowl,” by Henry James. She kept thinking about Maggie Verver’s “wish to remain, intensely, the same passionate little daughter she had always been.” She was so captivated by the novel that she later wrote three essays about the ways in which James articulates a kind of moral philosophy, revealing the childishness of aspiring to moral perfection, a life of “never doing a wrong, never breaking a rule, never hurting.” Nussbaum told me, “What drew me to Maggie is the sense that she is a peculiarly American kind of person who really, really wants to be good. And of course that’s impossible. She has a particularly demanding father, and, in order to be fully herself with her husband, she has to leave her father and hurt him, and she just had no way to deal with that. She was not prepared.”

Nussbaum entered the graduate program in classics at Harvard, in 1969, and realized that for years she had been smiling all the time, for no particular reason. When her thesis adviser, G. E. L. Owen, invited her to his office, served sherry, spoke about life’s sadness, recited Auden, and reached over to touch her breasts, she says, she gently pushed him away, careful not to embarrass him. “Just as I never accused my mother of being drunk, even though she was always drunk,” she wrote, “so I managed to keep my control with Owen, and I never said a hostile word.” She didn’t experience the imbalance of power that makes sexual harassment so destructive, she said, because she felt “much healthier and more powerful than he was.”

She soon drifted toward ancient philosophy, where she could follow Aristotle, who asked the basic question “How should a human live?” She realized that philosophy attracted a “logic-chopping type of person,” nearly always male. She came to believe that she understood Nietzsche’s thinking when he wrote that no great philosopher had ever been married. “I think what he was saying is that most philosophers have been in flight from human existence,” she said. “They just haven’t wanted to be entangled.” She rejected the idea, dominant in contemporary philosophy, that emotions were “unthinking energies that simply push the person around.” Instead, she resurrected a version of the Stoic theory that makes no division between thought and feeling. She gave emotions a central role in moral philosophy, arguing that they are cognitive in nature: they embody judgments about the world.

Ugh stop it Dadeveryone knows youre not making that happen
“Ugh, stop it, Dad—everyone knows you’re not making that happen!”

One of her mentors was John Rawls, the most influential political philosopher of the last century. He stuttered and was extremely shy. She said that one day, when they were eating hamburgers for lunch (this was before she stopped eating meat), he instructed her that if she had the capacity to be a public intellectual then it was her duty to become one.

Utilitarian and Kantian theories were dominant at the time, and Nussbaum felt that the field had become too insular and professionalized. She was frustrated that her colleagues were more interested in conceptual analyses than in attending to the details of people’s lives. While writing an austere dissertation on a neglected treatise by Aristotle, she began a second book, about the urge to deny one’s human needs. In “The Fragility of Goodness,” one of the best-selling contemporary philosophy books, she rejected Plato’s argument that a good life is one of total self-sufficiency. She argued that tragedy occurs because people are living well: they have formed passionate commitments that leave them exposed. She began the book by acknowledging:

I must constantly choose among competing and apparently incommensurable goods and that circumstances may force me to a position in which I cannot help being false to something or doing something wrong; that an event that simply happens to me may, without my consent, alter my life; that it is equally problematic to entrust one’s good to friends, lovers, or country and to try to have a good life without them—all these I take to be not just the material of tragedy, but everyday facts of practical wisdom.

Nussbaum describes motherhood as her first profound experience of moral conflict. Her pregnancy, in 1972, was a mistake; her I.U.D. fell out. She had just become the first woman elected to Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and she imagined that the other scholars must be thinking, We let in a woman, and what does she do? She goes off and has a baby. Nussbaum carried on for nine months as if she weren’t pregnant. She ran several miles a day; she remained so thin that her adviser told her she must be carrying a “wind egg”; she had such a rapid delivery—with no anesthesia—that doctors interviewed her about how she had prepared for birth. She told them that “Lamaze was for wimps and running was the key.” She brought Aristotle’s Politics to the hospital. Her husband took a picture of her reading. She was at a Society of Fellows dinner the next week. “I wanted everyone to understand that I was still working,” she said.

Alan Nussbaum taught linguistics at Yale, and during the week Martha took care of their daughter, Rachel, alone. “Among the good and decent men, some are unprepared for the surprises of life, and their good intentions run aground when confronted with issues like child care,” she later wrote. They divorced when Rachel was a teen-ager. When Nussbaum joined a society for female philosophers, she proposed that women had a unique contribution to make, because “we had an experience of moral conflicts—we are torn between children on the one hand, and work on the other—that the male philosophers didn’t have, or wouldn’t face up to.” She rejected the idea, suggested by Kant, that people who are morally good are immune to the kind of bad luck that would force them into ethically compromised positions. She told me, “A lot of the great philosophers have said there are no real moral dilemmas. Well, we were saying, ‘No woman would make that stupid mistake!’ ”

Nussbaum left Harvard in 1983, after she was denied tenure, a decision she attributes, in part, to a “venomous dislike of me as a very outspoken woman” and the machinations of a colleague who could “show a good actor how the role of Iago ought to be played.” Glen Bowersock, who was the head of the classics department when Nussbaum was a student, said, “I think she scared people. They couldn’t wrap their minds around this formidably good, extraordinarily articulate woman who was very tall and attractive, openly feminine and stylish, and walked very erect and wore miniskirts—all in one package. They were just frightened.”

This was the only time that Nussbaum had anything resembling a crisis in her career. I was eager to hear about her moment of doubt, since she always seemed so steely. Projecting a little, I asked if she ever felt guilty when she was successful, as if she didn’t deserve it. “No—none of that,” she said briskly. “I think women and philosophers are under-rewarded for what they do.” After she was denied tenure, she thought about going to law school. “The doubt was very brief,” she added. “I thought about law school for about a day, or something like that.”

Instead, she began considering a more public role for philosophy. One of her mentors, the English philosopher Bernard Williams, accused moral philosophers of “refusing to write about anything of importance.” Nussbaum began examining quality of life in the developing world. She was steered toward the issue by Amartya Sen, the Indian economist, who later won the Nobel Prize. In 1986, they became romantically involved and worked together at the World Institute of Development Economics Research, in Helsinki. At the institute, she told me, she came to the realization that “I knew nothing about the rest of the world.” She taught herself about Indian politics and developed her own version of Sen’s capabilities approach, a theoretical framework for measuring and comparing the well-being of nations. Her earlier work had celebrated vulnerability, but now she identified the sorts of vulnerabilities (poverty, hunger, sexual violence) that no human should have to endure. In an Aristotelian spirit, Nussbaum devised a list of ten essential capabilities that all societies should nourish, including the freedom to play, to engage in critical reflection, and to love. The capabilities theory is now a staple of human-rights advocacy, and Sen told me that Nussbaum has become more of a “purist” than he is. When it comes to judging the quality of human life, he said, “I am often defeated by that in a way that Martha is not.”

Nussbaum went on to extend the work of John Rawls, who developed the most influential contemporary version of the social-contract theory: the idea that rational citizens agree to govern themselves, because they recognize that everyone’s needs are met more effectively through coöperation. Nussbaum argued that Rawls gave an unsatisfactory account of justice for people dependent on others—the disabled, the elderly, and women subservient in their homes. For a society to remain stable and committed to democratic principles, she argued, it needs more than detached moral principles: it has to cultivate certain emotions and teach people to enter empathetically into others’ lives. She believes that the humanities are not just important to a healthy democratic society but decisive, shaping its fate. She proposed an enhanced version of John Stuart Mill’s “aesthetic education”—emotional refinement for all citizens through poetry and music and art. “Respect on its own is cold and inert, insufficient to overcome the bad tendencies that lead human beings to tyrannize over one another,” she wrote. “Public culture cannot be tepid and passionless.”

By the late nineties, India had become so integral to Nussbaum’s thinking that she later warned a reporter from The Chronicle of Higher Education that her work there was at the “core of my heart and my sense of the meaning of life, so if you downplay that, you don’t get me.” She travelled to developing countries during school vacations—she never misses a class—and met with impoverished women. She said she felt as if she were “a lawyer who has been retained by poor people in developing nations.”

In the sixties, Nussbaum had been too busy for feminist consciousness-raising—she said that she cultivated an image of “Doris Day respectability”—and she was suspicious of left-wing groupthink. Once she began studying the lives of women in non-Western countries, she identified as a feminist but of the unfashionable kind: a traditional liberal who believed in the power of reason at a time when postmodern scholars viewed it as an instrument or a disguise for oppression. She argued that the well-being of women around the world could be improved through universal norms—an international system of distributive justice. She was impatient with feminist theory that was so relativistic that it assumed that, in the name of respecting other cultures, women should stand by while other women were beaten or genitally mutilated. In “Sex and Social Justice,” published in 1999, she wrote that the approach resembles the “sort of moral collapse depicted by Dante, when he describes the crowd of souls who mill around in the vestibule of hell, dragging their banner now one way now another, never willing to set it down and take a definite stand on any moral or political question. Such people, he implies, are the most despicable of all. They can’t even get into hell because they have not been willing to stand for anything in life.”

In 1999, in a now canonical essay for The New Republic, she wrote that academic feminism spoke only to the élite. It had become untethered from the practical struggle to achieve equality for women. She scolded Judith Butler and postmodern feminists for “turning away from the material side of life, towards a type of verbal and symbolic politics that makes only the flimsiest connections with the real situations of real women.” These radical thinkers, she felt, were focussing more on problems of representation than on the immediate needs of women in other classes and cultures. The stance, she wrote, “looks very much like quietism,” a word she often uses when she disapproves of projects and ideas.

In letters responding to the essay, the feminist critic Gayatri Spivak denounced Nussbaum’s “civilizing mission.” Joan Scott, a historian of gender, wrote that Nussbaum had “constructed a self-serving morality tale.”

When Nussbaum is at her computer writing, she feels as if she had entered a “holding environment”—the phrase used by Donald Winnicott to describe conditions that allow a baby to feel secure and loved. Like the baby, she is “playing with an object,” she said. “It’s my manuscript, but I feel that something of both of my parents is with me. The sense of concern and being held is what I associate with my mother, and the sense of surging and delight is what I associate with my father.”

She said that she looks to replicate the experience of “surging” in romantic partners as well. She has always been drawn to intellectually distinguished men. “I suppose it’s because of the imprint of my father,” she told me one afternoon, while eating a small bowl of yogurt, blueberries, raisins, and pine nuts, a variation on the lunch she has most days. Her spacious tenth-floor apartment, which has twelve windows overlooking Lake Michigan and an elevator that delivers visitors directly into her foyer, is decorated with dozens of porcelain, metal, and glass elephants—her favorite animal, because of its emotional intelligence. “I used to observe that my close female friends would choose—very reasonably—men whose aspirations were rather modest,” she told me. “That works out nicely, because these men are really supportive of them. I’ve thought, Wouldn’t it be nice to have romantic and sexual tastes like that? But I certainly don’t.”

After moving to the University of Chicago, in 1995 (following seven years at Brown), Nussbaum was in a long relationship with Cass Sunstein, the former administrator for President Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and one of the few scholars as prolific as she is. Nussbaum said that she discovered her paradigm for romance as an adolescent, when she read about the relationship between two men in Plato’s Phaedrus and the way in which they combined “intense mutual erotic passion with a shared pursuit of truth and justice.” She and Sunstein (who is now married to Samantha Power, the Ambassador to the United Nations) lived in separate apartments, and each one’s work informed the other’s. In an influential essay, titled “Objectification,” Nussbaum builds on a passage written by Sunstein, in which he suggests that some forms of sexual objectification can be both ineradicable and wonderful. Straying from the standard line of feminist thought, Nussbaum defends Sunstein’s idea, arguing that there are circumstances in which being treated as a sex object, a “mysterious thinglike presence,” can be humanizing, rather than morally harmful. It allows us to achieve a state that her writing often elevates: the “abnegation of self-containment and self-sufficiency.”

Nussbaum is preoccupied by the ways that philosophical thinking can seem at odds with passion and love. She recognizes that writing can be “a way of distancing oneself from human life and maybe even a way of controlling human life,” she said. In a semi-autobiographical essay in her book “Love’s Knowledge,” from 1990, she offers a portrait of a female philosopher who approaches her own heartbreak with a notepad and a pen; she sorts and classifies the experience, listing the properties of an ideal lover and comparing it to the men she has loved. “You now begin to see how this lady is,” she wrote. “She goes on thinking at all times. She won’t simply cry, she will ask what crying consists in. One tear, one argument.”

Nussbaum isn’t sure if her capacity for rational detachment is innate or learned. On three occasions, she alluded to a childhood experience in which she’d been so overwhelmed by anger at her mother, for drinking in the afternoon, that she slapped her. Betty warned her, “If you turn against me, I won’t have any reason to live.” Nussbaum prayed to be relieved of her anger, fearing that its potential was infinite. “I thought it would kill somebody,” she said.

Anger is an emotion that she now rarely experiences. She invariably remains friends with former lovers, a fact that Sunstein, Sen, and Alan Nussbaum wholeheartedly affirmed. In her new book, “Anger and Forgiveness,” which was published last month, Nussbaum argues against the idea, dear to therapists and some feminists, that “people (and women especially) owe it to their self-respect to own, nourish, and publicly proclaim their anger.” It is a “magical fantasy,” a bit of “metaphysical nonsense,” she writes, to assume that anger will restore what was damaged. She believes that embedded in the emotion is the irrational wish that “things will be made right if I inflict suffering.” She writes that even leaders of movements for revolutionary justice should avoid the emotion and move on to “saner thoughts of personal and social welfare.” (She acknowledges, “It might be objected that my proposal sounds all too much like that of the upper-middle-class (ex)-Wasp academic that I certainly am. I simply deny the charge.”)

Martha Nussbaums Moral Philosophies

For a long time, Nussbaum had seemed to be working on getting in touch with anger. In the nineties, when she composed the list of ten capabilities to which all humans should be entitled—a list that she’s revised in the course of many papers—she and the feminist legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon debated whether “justified anger” should make the list. Nussbaum was wary of the violence that accompanies anger’s expression, but MacKinnon said she convinced Nussbaum that anger can be a “sign that self-respect has not been crushed, that humanity burns even where it is supposed to have been extinguished.” Nussbaum decided to view anger in a more positive light. “I thought, I’m just getting duped by my own history,” she said. In an interview a few years later, she said that being able to express anger to a friend, after years of training herself to suppress it, was “the most tremendous pleasure in life.” In a 2003 essay, she describes herself as “angry more or less all the time.”

When I asked her about the different self-conceptions, she wrote me three e-mails from a plane to Mexico (she was on her way to give lectures in Puebla) to explain that she had articulated these views before she had studied the emotion in depth. It was not full-fledged anger that she was experiencing but “transitional anger,” an emotional state that embodies the thought: Something should be done about this, in response to social injustice. In another e-mail from the air, she clarified: “My experience of political anger has always been more King-like: protest, not acquiescence, but no desire for payback.”

Last year, Nussbaum had a colonoscopy. She didn’t want to miss a workday, so she refused sedation. She was thrilled by the sight of her appendix, so pink and tiny. “It’s such a big part of you and you don’t get to meet these parts,” she told me. “I love that kind of familiarization: it’s like coming to terms with yourself.”

Her friends were repulsed when she told them that she had been awake the entire time. “They thought it was disgusting to go through the procedure without their consciousness obliterated,” she said. She wasn’t surprised that men wanted to be sedated, but she couldn’t understand why women her age would avoid the sight of their organs. “Here are the same women who were inspired by ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves,’ ” she told me. “We said, ‘Oh, let’s not shrink from looking at our vaginas. Let’s not think, Our periods are disgusting, but let’s celebrate it as part of who we are!’ Now we get to our sixties, and we are disgusted by our bodies again, and we want to be knocked out.”

Nussbaum believes that disgust “draws sharp edges around the self” and betrays a shame toward what is human. When she goes shopping with younger colleagues—among her favorite designers are Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaïa, and Seth Aaron Henderson, whom she befriended after he won “Project Runway”—she often emerges from the changing room in her underwear. Bodily functions do not embarrass her, either. When she goes on long runs, she has no problem urinating behind bushes. Once, when she was in Paris with her daughter, Rachel, who is now an animal-rights lawyer in Denver, she peed in the garden of the Tuileries Palace at night. (Rachel was curt when we met; Nussbaum told me that Rachel, who has co-written papers with her mother on the legal status of whales, was wary of being portrayed “as adjunct to me.”)

Nussbaum acknowledges that, as she ages, it becomes harder to rejoice in all bodily developments. Recently, she was dismayed when she looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize her nose. Sinking cartilage had created a new bump. She asked the doctor who gives her Botox in her forehead what to do. “He is a minimalist,” she told me. “He’s very artistic.” He fixed the problem by putting filler above the tip of her nose. It wasn’t that she was disgusted. “But I do feel conscious that at my age I have to be very careful of how I present myself, at risk of not being thought attractive,” she told me. “There are women like Germaine Greer who say that it’s a big relief to not worry about men and to forget how they look. I don’t feel that way! I care how men look at me. I like men.”

In a new book, tentatively titled “Aging Wisely,” which will be published next year, Nussbaum and Saul Levmore, a colleague at the law school, investigate the moral, legal, and economic dilemmas of old age—“an unknown country,” which they say has been ignored by philosophy. The book is structured as a dialogue between two aging scholars, analyzing the way that old age affects love, friendship, inequality, and the ability to cede control. They both reject the idea that getting old is a form of renunciation. Nussbaum critiques the tendency in literature to “assign a ‘comeuppance’ ” to aging women who fail to display proper levels of resignation and shame. She calls for an “informal social movement akin to the feminist Our Bodies movement: a movement against self-disgust” for the aging. She promotes Walt Whitman’s “anti-disgust” world view, his celebration of the “lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean. . . . The thin red jellies within you or within me. . . . O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul.”

At a faculty workshop last summer, professors at the law school gathered to critique drafts of two chapters from the book. Nussbaum wore a fitted purple dress and high-heeled sandals, and her blond hair looked as if it had recently been permed. She appeared to be dressed for a different event from the one that the other professors were attending. As she often does, she looked delighted but not necessarily happy.

In one of the chapters, Levmore argued that it should be legal for employers to require that employees retire at an agreed-upon age, and Nussbaum wrote a rebuttal, called “No End in Sight.” She said that it was painful to see colleagues in other countries forced to retire when philosophers such as Kant, Cato, and Gorgias didn’t produce their best work until old age.

The libertarian scholar Richard Epstein raised his hand and said that, rather than having a national policy regarding retirement, each institution should make its own decision. “So Martha, full of vim and vigor, can get offers from four other places and go on and continue to work,” he said.

“Sure, I could go and move someplace else,” she said, interrupting him. “But I don’t want to.” If she were forced to retire, she said, “that would really affect me psychologically in a very deep way. And I have no idea what I’d do. I might go off and do some interesting thing like be a cantor. Or I might just get depressed.”

“Martha, it’s too autobiographical,” Epstein said. His concern was not that “Martha stays on. It’s that a bunch of dead wood stays on, as well, and it’s a cost to the institution.”

When another colleague suggested that no one knew the precise moment when aging scholars had peaked, Nussbaum cited Cato, who wrote that the process of aging could be resisted through vigorous physical and mental activity. Her celebration of this final, vulnerable stage of life was undercut by her confidence that she needn’t be so vulnerable. She said that her grandmother lived until she was a hundred and four years old. “Why do I have my outlook?” she said. “It’s a matter of the habits you form when you are very young—the habits of exercise, of being active. All of that stuff builds to the sense of a life that can go on.”

I would share but Im not there developmentally.
“I would share, but I’m not there developmentally.”

Not long ago, Nussbaum bought a Dolce & Gabbana skirt dotted with crystal stars and daisies. “It had a happy look,” she told me, holding the hanger to her chin. She planned to wear it to the college graduation of Nathaniel Levmore, whom she describes as her “quasi-child.” Nathaniel, the son of Saul Levmore, has always been shy. Saul told me, “Of my two children, this is the one that’s the underdog, and of course Martha loves him, and they talk for hours and hours. Martha has this total belief in the underdog. The more underdog, the more charming she finds them.”

Nussbaum has taken Nathaniel on trips to Botswana and India, and, when she hosts dinner parties, he often serves the wine. When I joined them last summer for an outdoor screening of “Star Trek,” they spent much of the hour-long drive debating whether it was anti-Semitic for Nathaniel’s college to begin its semester on Rosh Hashanah. Their persistence was both touching and annoying. Just when I thought the conversation would die, the matter settled, Nathaniel would raise a new point, and Nussbaum would argue from a new angle that the scheduling was anti-Semitic.

Recently, when I had dinner at Nussbaum’s apartment, she said she was sorry that Nathaniel wasn’t there to enjoy it. We sat at her kitchen island, facing a Chicago White Sox poster, eating what remained of an elaborate and extraordinary Indian meal that she had cooked two days before, for the dean of the law school and eight students. She served me heaping portions of every dish and herself a modest plate of yogurt, rice, and spinach.

I mentioned that Saul Levmore had said she is so devoted to the underdog that she even has sympathy for a former student who had been stalking her; the student appeared to have had a psychotic break and bombarded her with threatening e-mails. “I feel great sympathy for any weak person or creature,” she told me. She mentioned that a few days before she had been watching a Webcam of a nest of newborn bald eagles and had become distraught when she saw that the parent eagle was giving all the food to only one of her two babies. “The other one kept trying to eat something, and didn’t get it!” she said. “I thought it was possible that one of the eagles was getting weaker and weaker, and I asked my bird-watcher friend, and he said that kind of sibling rivalry is actually pretty common in those species and the one may die. I was really upset by this.”

“Isn’t that the sort of dynamic you had with your sister?” I asked.

“Yeah, it probably is,” Nussbaum said, running her finger along the rim of her plate. “It is, I guess.” She said that her sister seemed to have become happier as she aged; her musical career at the church was blossoming. “Well, this is what we’ll have to talk about in class tomorrow,” she said. “Can guilt ever be creative?” She licked the sauce on her finger. “ ‘Guilt’ might not even be quite the right word. It’s a kind of sorrow that one had profited at the expense of someone else.”

We began talking about a chapter that she intended to write for her book on aging, on the idea of looking back at one’s life and turning it into a narrative. “Did you stand for something, or didn’t you?” she said. She said that she had always admired the final words of John Stuart Mill, who reportedly said, “I have done my work.” She has quoted these words in a number of interviews and papers, offering them as the mark of a life well lived. The image of Mill on his deathbed is not dissimilar to one she has of her father, who died as he was putting papers into his briefcase. Nussbaum often describes this as a good death—he was doing his work until the end—while Nussbaum’s brother and sister see it as a sign of his isolation.

She said, “If I found that I was going to die in the next hour, I would not say that I had done my work. If you have a good life, you typically always feel that there’s something that you want to do next.” She wondered if Mill had surrendered too soon because he was prone to depression.

“It does sound a little bit final,” she went on, “and one rarely dies when one is out of useful ideas—unless maybe you were really ill for a long time.” She said that she had been in a hospital only twice, once to give birth and once when she had an operation to staple the top of her left ear to the back of her head, when she was eleven. It poked out, and her father worried that boys wouldn’t be attracted to her. “I just enjoyed having this big bandage around my head,” she said. “I was acting the part of Marley’s ghost in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and it made quite an effect.”

She stood up to clear our plates. “You’re making me feel I chose the wrong last words,” she called out from the sink. She returned with two large cakes. “I think last words are silly,” she said, cutting herself a sliver. “Probably the best thing to do with your last words is to say goodbye to the people you love and not to talk about yourself.”

Please see my related posts

Aesthetics and Ethics: At the Intersection

Key Sources of Research

Art and Ethical Criticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research

No ̈el Carroll

Click to access carroll-aec.pdf

 The Moral Power of the Narrative
Art, Literature, and Moral Knowledge

Eleni LEONTSINI

https://repository.mruni.eu/bitstream/handle/007/16008/33296492.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

The Aesthetics of Ethical Reflection and the Ethical Significance of Aesthetic Experience:  A Critique of Alasdair MacIntyre and Martha Nussbaum1

Rüdiger Bender (Erfurt)

http://webdoc.sub.gwdg.de/edoc/ia/eese/artic98/bender/1_98.html

The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics

edited by Peter Kivy

Art, Education, and Witness; Or, How to Make Our Ideals Clear

Paul C. Taylor

Click to access b113f238e58cde43bc630fac6b8a02e05441.pdf

Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities – Updated Edition

Marth Nussbaum

Ethics and Aesthetics Intersections in Iris Murdoch’s Philosophy

Click to access 14917294.pdf

Does the ethical criticism of art make sense?

Simon Marcus

December 2010

Click to access Simon%20Marcus%20-%20Does%20the%20ethical%20criticism%20of%20art%20make%20sense%3F.pdf

Aesthetic Value, Artistic Value, and Morality

https://philarchive.org/archive/SAUAVAv1

THE ROUTLEDGE COMPANION TO AESTHETICS

Click to access Lopes_Dominic_Gaut_Berys_The_Routledge_Companiom_2001.pdf

Images of Reality: Iris Murdoch’s Five Ways from Art to Religion

Elizabeth Burns

Click to access 6.%20Burns%20Murdoch%20on%20Art%20and%20Religion%2C%20Religions%2007%2015.pdf

Morality by Words: Murdoch, Nussbaum, Rorty

TRACY LLANERA

Click to access LLAMBW.pdf

LITERATURE AND ETHICAL THEORY: ALLIES OR ADVERSARIES?

Martha C. Nussbaum

Click to access 364256942-Martha-Nussbaum-Literature-and-Ethical-Theory.pdf

IRIS MURDOCH ON THE ROLE OF ART IN MORAL PERCEPTION

Diana Reid

https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/handle/2123/18825/Reid_Diana_thesis_S2_2017.pdf?sequence=1

WITTGENSTEIN AND LEAVIS:
LITERATURE AND THE ENACTMENT OF THE ETHICAL

Danièle Moyal-Sharrock

Click to access 269464e518438682467a98301d9b8e0da0fd.pdf

Renegotiating Ethics in Literature, Philosophy, and Theory

Click to access 4318bb56e6a8dd3ec27d408aabe4b6ea3244.pdf

Introduction:
The Double ‘‘Turn’’ to Ethics and Literature?

Michael Eskin

Click to access PT025-04-01EskinFpp.pdf

PHILOSOPHY, LITERATURE AND THE HUMAN GOOD

Michael Weston

Click to access 1557312203-michael-weston-philosophy-literature-and-the-human-good-2001-routledge-.pdf

Moral Emotions

Ronald de Sousa

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Moral-Emotions-Sousa/e4458ab6ac77c52fec371f582884671d6bccef81

The Concept of Intellectual Character and its Connection to Moral Character

Shari Tishman

Click to access ED386618.pdf

Li Yu’s Theory of Drama: A Moderate Moralism

Peng Feng

Philosophy East and West, Volume 66, Number 1, January 2016, pp. 73-91

Click to access 20181108114212468368.pdf

Art Invoked: A Mode of Understanding and Shaping the Political

Click to access 5684404a08ae051f9af0428b.pdf

Cultivating Humanity in Legal Education

MarthaC. Nussbaumt

http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5169&context=uclrev

Education and Democratic Citizenship: Capabilities and Quality Education

MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM

Click to access nussbaum-on-education.pdf

Interview with Martha Nussbaum

https://papyrus.bib.umontreal.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1866/3293/2003v1_Nussbaum.pdf?sequence=1

EDUCATION FOR CITIZENSHIP IN AN ERA OF GLOBAL CONNECTION

Click to access Nussbaum%20-%20Education%20for%20Citizenship%20in%20an%20Era%20of%20Global%20Connection.pdf

CONCEIVING EMOTIONS Martha Nussbaum’s Upheavals of Thought

Diana Fritz Cates

Narrative Emotions

Click to access nussbaum.pdf

MARTHA NUSSBAUM AND THOMAS AQUINAS ON THE EMOTIONS

CARLO LEGET

Click to access 64.3.5.pdf

The Ethhical Criticism of Art

B Gaut

Click to access Gaut_Ethical_Criticism_of_Art.pdf

The Wheel of Virtue: Art, Literature, and Moral Knowledge

Noël Carroll
The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism
Vol. 60, No. 1, 60th Anniversary Issue (Winter, 2002), pp. 3-26

At the Crossroads of Ethics and Aesthetics

Noël Carroll

Philosophy and Literature

Johns Hopkins University Press

Volume 34, Number 1, April 2010

pp. 248-259

Ethics and Aesthetics: Replies to Dickie, Stecker, and Livingston

The British Journal of Aesthetics, Volume 46, Issue 1,
January 2006, Pages 82–95,
Published:
01 January 2006

Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection

edited by Jerrold Levinson

The Ethical Criticism of Art: A New Mapping of the Territory

Alessandro Giovannelli

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Literature

edited by Noël Carroll, John Gibson

Art and Ethical Criticism

Elizabeth Burns Coleman
Pages 375-376 | Published online: 21 May 2010

Narrative and the Ethical Life

Aesthetics and Ethics: At the Intersection

Aesthetics and Ethics: At the Intersection

 

Aesthetics and Ethics have normally been studied separately.

Aesthetics belong to Beautiful and Ethics belong to Good in the Integral Theory.

  • Aesthetics – Arts – Beautiful
  • Ethics – Morals – Good

 

 

AESTHETICS AND ETHICS: THE STATE OF THE ART

https://aesthetics-online.org/page/DeanState

Jeffrey Dean

Because the poet traffics in mimesis, ungoverned by reason, appealing to the irrational part of the soul, this makes it right for us to proceed to lay hold of him and set him down as the counterpart of the painter, for he resembles him in that his creations are inferior in respect of reality, and the fact that his appeal is to the inferior part of the soul and not to the best part is another point of resemblance. And so we may at last say that we should be justified in not admitting him into a well-ordered state, because he stimulates and fosters this element in the soul, and by strengthening it tends to destroy the rational part, just as when in a state one puts bad men in power and turns the city over to them and ruins the better sort. Precisely in the same manner we shall say that the mimetic poet sets up in each individual soul a vicious currying favor with the senseless element that cannot distinguish the greater from the less, but calls the same thing now one, now the other. – Plato

I spoke of the novel as an especially useful agent of the moral imagination, as the literary form which most directly reveals to us the complexity, the difficulty, and the interest of life in society, and best instructs our human variety and contradiction. – Lionel Trilling

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. – Oscar Wilde

You know you’ve arrived when your likeness appears on The Simpsons or on MTV’s Celebrity Death Match, and while I don’t expect philosophers to show up on either of these shows any time soon (despite the notable publication of The Simpsons and Philosophy), for those interested in the intersection of aesthetics and ethics we have recently seen the next best thing: a survey article by Noel Carroll on art and ethical criticism in the journal Ethics. Of course, any arrival marks the end of an absence, and as Carroll points out in the opening paragraphs of his essay, the recent flood of work on the ethical criticism of art puts an end to a surprising dearth of work on the part of Anglo-American philosophers in this area. Surprising, not only because connections between ethics and aesthetics were central to much philosophy from Plato through the end of the eighteenth-century, but also because outside of Anglo-American academic philosophy, the ethical “interrogation” of art (and artists) has been steadily mounting for much of the twentieth-century. Precisely because it is the work that has seen most development in the last ten to fifteen years, and in order to help make this overview manageable, discussion here will be limited to what I see as the two most robust areas of renewed interest in Anglo-American philosophy of an “analytic” bent: research pertaining to the role of art and aesthetics in the development of moral imagination and understanding; and work on the relationship between moral and aesthetic values.

A great deal of this recent work in aesthetics has emphasized the connection between art and moral understanding, a connection long thought important, but as noted, largely neglected during the better part of the last two centuries. This neglect can be attributed to, among other things, zealous attempts to define and defend the intrinsic value of art, attempts which shun any whiff of an instrumentalism that sites the value of art in its didactic or ethical effects. But as contemporary critics of this approach often stress, the resulting aestheticism, the purpose of which was to save art from moralizing, is itself too often a form of reductive and blinkered formalism. The task some of those working in contemporary aesthetics have set themselves is to understand and characterize the relationship between art and ethics in a way that avoids the weaknesses of both instrumentalism and aestheticism.

In this endeavor aesthetics has been met halfway by ethics. Until fairly recently, the dominant strains in British and American philosophical ethics have been Utilitarian and Kantian. The central debates were over whether ethics should be characterized in deontological or consequentialist terms, with a shared focus on impartial principles designed to regulate self-interest for mutual advantage, and disagreements centered around the structure of moral intentions and obligations and the moral relevance of the consequences of actions.

But more recently there has been a renewed interest in what is commonly referred to as “virtue ethics”. In the tradition of Aristotle, virtue ethics focuses more on the long-term development of moral agency-including character, moral emotions, and the perception of salient details of particular moral contexts-than on finely tuned general principles intended to entail impartial outcomes in particular cases. The difference in approaches is sometimes cast as between an ethics of obligation vs. an ethics of character. This shift dovetails nicely with the recent efforts in aesthetics, since one element central to Aristotelian ethics is precisely what engagement with art has long been claimed to provide: a means to imaginative perception, feeling, and understanding Peter Lamarque provides one characterization of this trend, referring to the Wittgensteinian school of (literary value and) ethics (also represented by D.Z. Phillips and R.W. Beardsmore) as follows:

It is not the central task of ethics to formulate and apply general principles but rather to stress the particularity of moral situations and the idea that profound moral disagreements reside not in a difference of beliefs but in different ways of looking at the world. The argument is then brought to bear on literature with a parallel more or less explicitly drawn between a moral agent on the one hand and a competent reader on the other. The idea is that the moral agent and the reader both in effect confront complex moral situations with both called upon to adopt an imaginative perspective on those situations which should yield in the one case a moral judgement or appropriate action and in the other a moral insight or revised way of seeing. A competent reader might hope to learn from the literary work not by formulating a derived moral principle but by acquiring a new vision or perspective on the world.The list of recent and contemporary philosophers who stress the close connection between aesthetic and moral perception and understanding is long one, including among many others Wayne Booth, Noël Carroll, Gregory Currie, Richard Eldridge, Susan Feagin, Peter Lamarque, Peter McCormick, Iris Murdoch, Martha Nussbaum, Frank Palmer, John Passmore, and Hilary Putnam. Most of the discussion by these authors focuses on narrative art, usually narrative fiction in the form of poetry, literature, drama and film. Also common to these accounts is their rejection of a central role for propositional knowledge vis-à-vis the moral relevance of art. Instead, it is claimed variously that art “shows” rather than “tells” us morally relevant features of the world, illuminating the importance of feeling, reflection and the perception of particulars in the moral evaluation of character and situation (esp. Murdoch, Nussbaum, Palmer, and Passmore), is especially well-suited to modifying our moral concepts (esp. Carroll, McCormick, and Putnam), and exercises the very imaginative capacities necessary for making sensitive moral judgments (esp. Booth, Currie, Feagin, and Lamarque). Each of these sorts of claim is intended to highlight ways in which the appreciation of art engages and refines capacities necessary for sound moral understanding and judgment, stressing that what is morally valuable about such art is inherently bound up with its aesthetic appreciation.

While most of the early work in this area tended to valorize the moral benefits of sensitive engagement with works of art, recent work has also stressed the potential dangers of imaginative commerce with art-particularly narrative art-in those cases where the work in question encourages or mandates imaginative identification with, or mental simulation of, morally deficient or pernicious points of view. Although little has been made of this as of yet, taking seriously the morally disruptive or destructive power of art (even while bearing in mind its virtues) may have significant consequences for one’s attitudes regarding censorship and arts education. That is, given the nature of the kinds of views developed and defended in current research, it becomes increasingly difficult to take seriously the ethical benefits of imaginative engagement with art without acknowledging its potential dangers as well. I expect to see increased discussion of this issue in the coming years.

Given that recent efforts have centered on close connections between imaginative engagement with works of art and moral understanding, it is perhaps unsurprising that the other main focus of research and debate has been the relationship between aesthetic and moral value, and by extension, the relationship between aesthetic and moral judgment. The debate here has centered on the question of whether the moral and aesthetic values of works of art are independent, or, alternatively, at least on occasion interdependent.

Consider the case of Marquis de Sade’s Juliette. Here, Sade offers a narrative which appears to endorse the notion that sexual torture is erotic and amusing. In this case, the “successful” understanding of the narrative (in the sense that we see things as the author would have us see them) would entail some distortion or perversion of our moral understanding, on the assumption that sexual torture is not, or at least should not be, either amusing or erotic, and that persons should not be treated merely as means to one’s own sadistic gratification. It may be said, then, that because Juliette prescribes a response to its subject matter that is ethically inappropriate, it is a morally flawed work.

The question then arises whether the fact that Juliette is morally flawed (because it endorses a morally defective perspective which prescribes a morally inappropriate response to its subject matter) in a manner that undermines its narrative intent (morally sensitive audiences should not respond in the manner prescribed by the work) means that it is thereby aesthetically flawed as well (and for that very same reason). The question is a surprisingly difficult one to answer. For, on the one hand, it seems intuitive to say when a work fails to merit a prescribed response, it has to that extent failed aesthetically. Thrillers that do not thrill, comedies that are not humorous, and tragedies that are not tragic fail in some respect, and that failure, given that it is internal to the nature and aims of the work, would appear to be an aesthetic one. Since Juliette fails in a respect internal to the aims of the work, it would also appear to be an aesthetically flawed in this regard. And the explanation for this failure is that the work is morally flawed. So the work is both aesthetically and morally flawed, and for the same reason.

On the other hand, however, a thriller that fails to thrill (say) is aesthetically flawed precisely because of its failure to thrill; why it fails to thrill would seem to be extraneous to the aesthetic issue, viz., that it fails. It may fail to thrill because the pacing is off; it may fail to thrill because the dialog is weak; or it may fail to thrill due to some moral defect, e.g., the putatively sympathetic protagonist is in fact morally repugnant, such that the audience doesn’t have sufficient sympathy with him or his plight to care about what happens to him or take a positive interest in the outcome of the storyline. In each case we have an aesthetic failure-a thriller that fails to thrill-with different explanations for this failure: pacing, dialog, moral misstep. In the latter case, it is mistaken to say that the thriller’s aesthetic defect (its failure to thrill) is “the same as” its moral defect (its prescription to sympathize with a repugnant character). Indeed, it would be mistaken to identify the failure to thrill with any of the explanations for that failure. Likewise, it is mistaken to identify the aesthetic defect in Juliette (its failure to warrant its prescribed response) with its moral defect (its endorsement of and invitation to share a morally corrupt perspective).

It is important to note that whether one supposes that moral and aesthetic values and judgments sometimes overlap, or steadfastly maintains their conceptual independence, there is one thing that most of those currently writing on aesthetics: works of art have multiple dimensions of value, including not only aesthetic and moral values, but historical, sociological, political, anthropological and other sorts of values as well. My own view (a view certainly shared and articulated by others, but not always made apparent in the literature) is that for the sake of clarity, the value matrices that converge in works of art ought to be referred to as artistic value (or “overall artistic value”). Artists are concerned with more than the expression of aesthetic values in their work, and so too are critics and philosophers of art. It is clear, in this sense, that moral values are sometimes artistic values, whether or not they are sometimes aesthetic values (which, as indicated above, is a more vexed question). A work of art that is aesthetically excellent, historically significant, and morally profound is a better work of art, overall, than one which is only some or none of these things (assuming of course that we hold the various achievements in the varieties of value constant across cases). This helps explain, in part, why judgments about artworks are so often contested. When one pays attention to the specifics of criticism or praise, one often finds that disputants are talking past each other: one is touting the excellence of a work while the other is decrying is triviality, but it will often turn out that the former, say, is focused on the work’s historical significance and moral fortitude, while the latter is considering only a specific set of aesthetic values relevant to the genre. Again, whether or not one believes varieties of value may sometimes merge, it is important to be mindful of their differences, so that evaluations are commensurable.

In closing, it should be noted that in addition to the topics discussed above, much interesting work has recently been undertaken on emotional engagement with artworks (including moral emotions), on a variety of relationships between works of art and simulation theory, imagination, and identification (where a great deal of this work has bearing on our understanding of the moral relevance of art), and on a variety of other topics. This is of course only the beginning, but a promising one, and I would wager that interest in the intersection of ethics and aesthetics has not only arrived: it is here to stay.

2002 © Jeffrey Dean

Please see my related posts:

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

On Aesthetics

On Beauty

On Classical Virtues

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Drama Theory: Acting Strategically

Drama Theory: Choices, Conflicts and Dilemmas

Drama Therapy: Self in Performance

 

Main Sources of Research

Aesthetics and Ethics : Essays at the Intersection

AESTHETICS AND ETHICS: THE STATE OF THE ART

On Aesthetics

On Aesthetics

 

What is Aesthetics?

Is it taste? Is it values? Is it virtues ?

Our likes and dislikes.

  • Aesthetics and Taste
  • Aesthetics and Values/Ethics
  • Consciousness
  • Culture
  • Appropriateness
  • Justness
  • Boundaries
  • Classes
  • Hierarchy
  • Inclusion
  • Exclusion

 

Is there higher and lower in Aesthetics

What appeals to us?  What we may disagree with?

Does taste define class? Does it define culture?

We create symbolic boundaries with what we exclude.

What is appropriate ? Is there higher and lower culture?

Classes, Hierarchy, Exclusion, Boundaries

 

 

 

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aesthetic-concept/

The Concept of the Aesthetic

First published Fri Sep 11, 2009; substantive revision Tue Oct 17, 2017

 

Introduced into the philosophical lexicon during the Eighteenth Century, the term ‘aesthetic’ has come to be used to designate, among other things, a kind of object, a kind of judgment, a kind of attitude, a kind of experience, and a kind of value. For the most part, aesthetic theories have divided over questions particular to one or another of these designations: whether artworks are necessarily aesthetic objects; how to square the allegedly perceptual basis of aesthetic judgments with the fact that we give reasons in support of them; how best to capture the elusive contrast between an aesthetic attitude and a practical one; whether to define aesthetic experience according to its phenomenological or representational content; how best to understand the relation between aesthetic value and aesthetic experience. But questions of more general nature have lately arisen, and these have tended to have a skeptical cast: whether any use of ‘aesthetic’ may be explicated without appeal to some other; whether agreement respecting any use is sufficient to ground meaningful theoretical agreement or disagreement; whether the term ultimately answers to any legitimate philosophical purpose that justifies its inclusion in the lexicon. The skepticism expressed by such general questions did not begin to take hold until the later part of the 20th century, and this fact prompts the question whether (a) the concept of the aesthetic is inherently problematic and it is only recently that we have managed to see that it is, or (b) the concept is fine and it is only recently that we have become muddled enough to imagine otherwise. Adjudicating between these possibilities requires a vantage from which to take in both early and late theorizing on aesthetic matters.

1. The Concept of Taste

The concept of the aesthetic descends from the concept of taste. Why the concept of taste commanded so much philosophical attention during the 18th century is a complicated matter, but this much is clear: the eighteenth-century theory of taste emerged, in part, as a corrective to the rise of rationalism, particularly as applied to beauty, and to the rise of egoism, particularly as applied to virtue. Against rationalism about beauty, the eighteenth-century theory of taste held the judgment of beauty to be immediate; against egoism about virtue, it held the pleasure of beauty to be disinterested.

1.1 Immediacy

Rationalism about beauty is the view that judgments of beauty are judgments of reason, i.e., that we judge things to be beautiful by reasoning it out, where reasoning it out typically involves inferring from principles or applying concepts. At the beginning of the 18th century, rationalism about beauty had achieved dominance on the continent, and was being pushed to new extremes by “les géomètres,” a group of literary theorists who aimed to bring to literary criticism the mathematical rigor that Descartes had brought to physics. As one such theorist put it:

The way to think about a literary problem is that pointed out by Descartes for problems of physical science. A critic who tries any other way is not worthy to be living in the present century. There is nothing better than mathematics as propaedeutic for literary criticism. (Terrasson 1715, Preface, 65; quoted in Wimsatt and Brooks 1957, 258)

It was against this, and against more moderate forms of rationalism about beauty, that mainly British philosophers working mainly within an empiricist framework began to develop theories of taste. The fundamental idea behind any such theory—which we may call the immediacy thesis—is that judgments of beauty are not (or at least not canonically) mediated by inferences from principles or applications of concepts, but rather have all the immediacy of straightforwardly sensory judgments. It is the idea, in other words, that we do not reason to the conclusion that things are beautiful, but rather “taste” that they are. Here is an early expression of the thesis, from Jean-Baptiste Dubos’s Critical Reflections on Poetry, Painting, and Music, which first appeared in 1719:

Do we ever reason, in order to know whether a ragoo be good or bad; and has it ever entered into any body’s head, after having settled the geometrical principles of taste, and defined the qualities of each ingredient that enters into the composition of those messes, to examine into the proportion observed in their mixture, in order to decide whether it be good or bad? No, this is never practiced. We have a sense given us by nature to distinguish whether the cook acted according to the rules of his art. People taste the ragoo, and tho’ unacquainted with those rules, they are able to tell whether it be good or no. The same may be said in some respect of the productions of the mind, and of pictures made to please and move us. (Dubos 1748, vol. II, 238–239)

And here is a late expression, from Kant’s 1790 Critique of the Power of Judgment:

If someone reads me his poem or takes me to a play that in the end fails to please my taste, then he can adduce Batteux or Lessing, or even older and more famous critics of taste, and adduce all the rules they established as proofs that his poem is beautiful… . I will stop my ears, listen to no reasons and arguments, and would rather believe that those rules of the critics are false … than allow that my judgment should be determined by means of a priorigrounds of proof, since it is supposed to be a judgment of taste and not of the understanding of reason. (Kant 1790, 165)

But the theory of taste would not have enjoyed its eighteenth-century run, nor would it continue now to exert its influence, had it been without resources to counter an obvious rationalist objection. There is a wide difference—so goes the objection—between judging the excellence of a ragout and judging the excellence of a poem or a play. More often than not, poems and plays are objects of great complication. But taking in all that complication requires a lot of cognitive work, including the application of concepts and the drawing of inferences. Judging the beauty of poems and plays, then, is evidently not immediate and so evidently not a matter of taste.

The chief way of meeting this objection was first to distinguish between the act of grasping the object preparatory to judging it and the act of judging the object once grasped, and then to allow the former, but not the latter, to be as concept- and inference-mediated as any rationalist might wish. Here is Hume, with characteristic clarity:

[I]n order to pave the way for [a judgment of taste], and give a proper discernment of its object, it is often necessary, we find, that much reasoning should precede, that nice distinctions be made, just conclusions drawn, distant comparisons formed, complicated relations examined, and general facts fixed and ascertained. Some species of beauty, especially the natural kinds, on their first appearance command our affection and approbation; and where they fail of this effect, it is impossible for any reasoning to redress their influence, or adapt them better to our taste and sentiment. But in many orders of beauty, particularly those of the fine arts, it is requisite to employ much reasoning, in order to feel the proper sentiment. (Hume, 1751, Section I)

Hume—like Shaftesbury and Hutcheson before him, and Reid after him (Cooper 1711, 17, 231; Hutcheson 1725, 16–24; Reid 1785, 760–761)—regarded the faculty of taste as a kind of “internal sense.” Unlike the five “external” or “direct” senses, an “internal” (or “reflex” or “secondary”) sense is one that depends for its objects on the antecedent operation of some other mental faculty or faculties. Reid characterizes it as follows:

Beauty or deformity in an object, results from its nature or structure. To perceive the beauty therefore, we must perceive the nature or structure from which it results. In this the internal sense differs from the external. Our external senses may discover qualities which do not depend upon any antecedent perception… . But it is impossible to perceive the beauty of an object, without perceiving the object, or at least conceiving it. (Reid 1785, 760–761)

Because of the highly complex natures or structures of many beautiful objects, there will have to be a role for reason in their perception. But perceiving the nature or structure of an object is one thing. Perceiving its beauty is another.

1.2 Disinterest

Egoism about virtue is the view that to judge an action or trait virtuous is to take pleasure in it because you believe it to serve some interest of yours. Its central instance is the Hobbesian view—still very much on early eighteenth-century minds—that to judge an action or trait virtuous is to take pleasure in it because you believe it to promote your safety. Against Hobbesian egoism a number of British moralists—preeminently Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Hume—argued that, while a judgment of virtue is a matter of taking pleasure in response to an action or trait, the pleasure is disinterested, by which they meant that it is not self-interested (Cooper 1711, 220–223; Hutcheson 1725, 9, 25–26; Hume 1751, 218–232, 295–302). One argument went roughly as follows. That we judge virtue by means of an immediate sensation of pleasure means that judgments of virtue are judgments of taste, no less than judgments of beauty. But pleasure in the beautiful is not self-interested: we judge objects to be beautiful whether or not we believe them to serve our interests. But if pleasure in the beautiful is disinterested, there is no reason to think that pleasure in the virtuous cannot also be (Hutcheson 1725, 9–10).

The eighteenth-century view that judgments of virtue are judgments of taste highlights a difference between the eighteenth-century concept of taste and our concept of the aesthetic, since for us the concepts aesthetic and moral tend oppose one another such that a judgment’s falling under one typically precludes its falling under the other. Kant is chiefly responsible for introducing this difference. He brought the moral and the aesthetic into opposition by re-interpreting what we might call the disinterest thesis—the thesis that pleasure in the beautiful is disinterested (though see Cooper 1711, 222 and Home 2005, 36–38 for anticipations of Kant’s re-interpretation).

According to Kant, to say that a pleasure is interested is not to say that it is self-interested in the Hobbesian sense, but rather that it stands in a certain relation to the faculty of desire. The pleasure involved in judging an action to be morally good is interested because such a judgment issues in a desire to bring the action into existence, i.e., to perform it. To judge an action to be morally good is to become aware that one has a duty to perform the action, and to become so aware is to gain a desire to perform it. By contrast, the pleasure involved in judging an object to be beautiful is disinterested because such a judgment issues in no desire to do anything in particular. If we can be said to have a duty with regard to beautiful things, it appears to be exhausted in our judging them aesthetically to be beautiful. That is what Kant means when he says that the judgment of taste is not practical but rather “merely contemplative” (Kant 1790, 95).

By thus re-orienting the notion of disinterest, Kant brought the concept of taste into opposition with the concept of morality, and so into line, more or less, with the present concept of the aesthetic. But if the Kantian concept of taste is continuous, more or less, with the present-day concept of the aesthetic, why the terminological discontinuity? Why have we come to prefer the term ‘aesthetic’ to the term ‘taste’? The not very interesting answer appears to be that we have preferred an adjective to a noun. The term ‘aesthetic’ derives from the Greek term for sensory perception, and so preserves the implication of immediacy carried by the term ‘taste.’ Kant employed both terms, though not equivalently: according to his usage, ‘aesthetic’ is broader, picking out a class of judgments that includes both the normative judgment of taste and the non-normative, though equally immediate, judgment of the agreeable. Though Kant was not the first modern to use ‘aesthetic’ (Baumgarten had used it as early as 1735), the term became widespread only, though quickly, after his employment of it in the third Critique. Yet the employment that became widespread was not exactly Kant’s, but a narrower one according to which ‘aesthetic’ simply functions as an adjective corresponding to the noun “taste.” So for example we find Coleridge, in 1821, expressing the wish that he “could find a more familiar word than aesthetic for works of taste and criticism,” before going on to argue:

As our language … contains no other useable adjective, to express coincidence of form, feeling, and intellect, that something, which, confirming the inner and the outward senses, becomes a new sense in itself … there is reason to hope, that the term aesthetic, will be brought into common use. (Coleridge 1821, 254)

The availability of an adjective corresponding to “taste” has allowed for the retiring of a series of awkward expressions: the expressions “judgment of taste,” “emotion of taste” and “quality of taste” have given way to the arguably less offensive ‘aesthetic judgment,’ ‘aesthetic emotion,’ and ‘aesthetic quality.’ However, as the noun ‘taste’ phased out, we became saddled with other perhaps equally awkward expressions, including the one that names this entry.

2. The Concept of the Aesthetic

Much of the history of more recent thinking about the concept of the aesthetic can be seen as the history of the development of the immediacy and disinterest theses.

2.1 Aesthetic Objects

Artistic formalism is the view that the artistically relevant properties of an artwork—the properties in virtue of which it is an artwork and in virtue of which it is a good or bad one—are formal merely, where formal properties are typically regarded as properties graspable by sight or by hearing merely. Artistic formalism has been taken to follow from both the immediacy and the disinterest theses (Binkley 1970, 266–267; Carroll 2001, 20–40). If you take the immediacy thesis to imply the artistic irrelevance of all properties whose grasping requires the use of reason, and you include representational properties in that class, then you are apt to think that the immediacy thesis implies artistic formalism. If you take the disinterest thesis to imply the artistic irrelevance of all properties capable of practical import, and you include representational properties in that class, then you are apt to think that the disinterest thesis implies artistic formalism.

This is not to suggest that the popularity enjoyed by artistic formalism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries owed mainly to its inference from the immediacy or disinterest theses. The most influential advocates of formalism during this period were professional critics, and their formalism derived, at least in part, from the artistic developments with which they were concerned. As a critic Eduard Hanslick advocated for the pure music of Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and later Brahms, and against the dramatically impure music of Wagner; as a theorist he urged that music has no content but “tonally moving forms” (Hanslick 1986, 29). As a critic Clive Bell was an early champion of the post-Impressionists, especially Cezanne; as a theorist he maintained that the formal properties of painting—“relations and combinations of lines and colours”—alone have artistic relevance (Bell 1958, 17–18). As a critic Clement Greenberg was abstract expressionism’s ablest defender; as a theorist he held painting’s “proper area of competence” to be exhausted by flatness, pigment, and shape (Greenberg 1986, 86–87).

Not every influential defender of formalism has also been a professional critic. Monroe Beardsley, who arguably gave formalism its most sophisticated articulation, was not (Beardsley 1958). Nor is Nick Zangwill, who recently has mounted a spirited and resourceful defense of a moderate version of formalism (Zangwill 2001). But formalism has always been sufficiently motivated by art-critical data that once Arthur Danto made the case that the data no longer supported it, and perhaps never really had, formalism’s heyday came to an end. Inspired in particular by Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, which are (more or less) perceptually indistinguishable from the brand-printed cartons in which boxes of Brillo were delivered to supermarkets, Danto observed that for most any artwork it is possible to imagine both (a) another object that is perceptually indiscernible from it but which is not an artwork, and (b) another artwork that is perceptually indiscernible from it but which differs in artistic value. From these observations he concluded that form alone neither makes an artwork nor gives it whatever value it has (Danto 1981, 94–95; Danto 1986, 30–31; Danto 1997, 91).

But Danto has taken the possibility of such perceptual indiscernibles to show the limitations not merely of form but also of aesthetics, and he has done so on the grounds, apparently, that the formal and the aesthetic are co-extensive. Regarding a urinal Duchamp once exhibited and a perceptual indiscernible ordinary urinal, Danto maintains that

aesthetics could not explain why one was a work of fine art and the other not, since for all practical purposes they were aesthetically indiscernible: if one was beautiful, the other one had to be beautiful, since they looked just alike. (Danto 2003, 7)

But the inference from the limits of the artistically formal to the limits of the artistically aesthetic is presumably only as strong as the inferences from the immediacy and disinterest theses to artistic formalism, and these are not beyond question. The inference from the disinterest thesis appears to go through only if you employ a stronger notion of disinterest than the one Kant understands himself to be employing: Kant, it is worth recalling, regards poetry as the highest of the fine arts precisely because of its capacity to employ representational content in the expression of what he calls ‘aesthetic ideas’ (Kant 1790, 191–194; see Costello 2008 and 2013 for extended treatment of the capacity of Kantian aesthetics to accommodate conceptual art). The inference from the immediacy thesis appears to go through only if you employ a notion of immediacy stronger than the one Hume, for example, takes himself to be defending when he claims (in a passage quoted in section1.1) that “in many orders of beauty, particularly those of the fine arts, it is requisite to employ much reasoning, in order to feel the proper sentiment” (Hume 1751, 173). It may be that artistic formalism results if you push either of the tendencies embodied in the immediacy and disinterest theses to extremes. It may be that the history of aesthetics from the 18th century to the mid-Twentieth is largely the history of pushing those two tendencies to extremes. It does not follow that those tendencies must be so pushed.

Consider Warhol’s Brillo Boxes. Danto is right to maintain that the eighteenth-century theorist of taste would not know how to regard it as an artwork. But this is because the eighteenth-century theorist of taste lives in the 18th century, and so would be unable to situate that work in its twentieth-century art-historical context, and not because the kind of theory he holds forbids him from situating a work in its art-historical context. When Hume, for instance, observes that artists address their works to particular, historically-situated audiences, and that a critic therefore “must place himself in the same situation as the audience” to whom a work is addressed (Hume 1757, 239), he is allowing that artworks are cultural products, and that the properties that works have as the cultural products they are are among the “ingredients of the composition” that a critic must grasp if she is to feel the proper sentiment. Nor does there seem to be anything in the celebrated conceptuality of Brillo Boxes, nor of any other conceptual work, that ought to give the eighteenth-century theorist pause. Francis Hutcheson asserts that mathematical and scientific theorems are objects of taste (Hutcheson 1725, 36–41). Alexander Gerard asserts that scientific discoveries and philosophical theories are objects of taste (Gerard 1757, 6). Neither argues for his assertion. Both regard it as commonplace that objects of intellect may be objects of taste as readily as objects of sight and hearing may be. Why should the present-day aesthetic theorist think otherwise? If an object is conceptual in nature, grasping its nature will require intellectual work. If grasping an object’s conceptual nature requires situating it art-historically, then the intellectual work required to grasp its nature will include situating it art-historically. But—as Hume and Reid held (see section 1.1)—grasping the nature of an object preparatory to aesthetically judging it is one thing; aesthetically judging the object once grasped is another.

Though Danto has been the most influential and persistent critic of formalism, his criticisms are no more decisive than those advanced by Kendall Walton in his essay “Categories of Art.” Walton’s anti-formalist argument hinges on two main theses, one psychological and one philosophical. According to the psychological thesis, which aesthetic properties we perceive a work as having depends on which category we perceive the work as belonging to. Perceived as belonging to the category of painting, Picasso’s Guernica will be perceived as “violent, dynamic, vital, disturbing” (Walton 1970, 347). But perceived as belonging to the category of “guernicas”—where guernicas are works with “surfaces with the colors and shapes of Picasso’sGuernica, but the surfaces are molded to protrude from the wall like relief maps of different kinds of terrain”—Picasso’s Guernica will be perceived not as violent and dynamic, but as “cold, stark, lifeless, or serene and restful, or perhaps bland, dull, boring” (Walton 1970, 347). That Picasso’s Guernica can be perceived both as violent and dynamic and as not violent and not dynamic might be thought to imply that there is no fact of the matter whether it is violent and dynamic. But this implication holds only on the assumption that there is no fact of the matter which category Picasso’s Guernica actually belongs to, and this assumption appears to be false given that Picasso intended that Guernica be a painting and did not intend that it be a Guernica, and that the category of paintings was well-established in the society in which Picasso painted it while the category of guernicas was not. Hence the philosophical thesis, according to which the aesthetic properties a work actually has are those it is perceived as having when perceived as belonging to the category (or categories) it actually belongs to. Since the properties of having been intended to be a painting and having been created in a society in which painting is well-established category are artistically relevant though not graspable merely by seeing (or hearing) the work, it seems that artistic formalism cannot be true. “I do not deny,” Walton concludes, “that paintings and sonatas are to be judged solely on what can be seen or heard in them—when they are perceived correctly. But examining a work with the senses can by itself reveal neither how it is correct to perceive it, nor how to perceive it that way” (Walton 1970, 367).

But if we cannot judge which aesthetic properties paintings and sonatas have without consulting the intentions and the societies of the artists who created them, what of the aesthetic properties of natural items? With respect to them it may appear as if there is nothing to consult except the way they look and sound, so that an aesthetic formalism about nature must be true. Allen Carlson, a central figure in the burgeoning field of the aesthetics of nature, argues against this appearance. Carlson observes that Walton’s psychological thesis readily transfers from works of art to natural items: that we perceive Shetland ponies as cute and charming and Clydesdales as lumbering surely owes to our perceiving them as belonging to the category of horses (Carlson 1981, 19). He also maintains that the philosophical thesis transfers: whales actually have the aesthetic properties we perceive them as having when we perceive them as mammals, and do not actually have any contrasting aesthetic properties we might perceive them to have when we perceive them as fish. If we ask what determines which category or categories natural items actually belong to, the answer, according to Carlson, is their natural histories as discovered by natural science (Carlson 1981, 21–22). Inasmuch as a natural item’s natural history will tend not to be graspable by merely seeing or hearing it, formalism is no truer of natural items than it is of works of art.

The claim that Walton’s psychological thesis transfers to natural items has been widely accepted (and was in fact anticipated, as Carlson acknowledges, by Ronald Hepburn (Hepburn 1966 and 1968)). The claim that Walton’s philosophical thesis transfers to natural items has proven more controversial. Carlson is surely right that aesthetic judgments about natural items are prone to be mistaken insofar as they result from perceptions of those items as belonging to categories to which they do not belong, and, insofar as determining which categories natural items actually belong to requires scientific investigation, this point seems sufficient to undercut the plausibility of any very strong formalism about nature (see Carlson 1979 for independent objections against such formalism). Carlson, however, also wishes to establish that aesthetic judgments about natural items have whatever objectivity aesthetic judgments about works of art do, and it is controversial whether Walton’s philosophical claim transfers sufficiently to support such a claim. One difficulty, raised by Malcolm Budd (Budd 2002 and 2003) and Robert Stecker (Stecker1997c), is that since there are many categories in which a given natural item may correctly be perceived, it is unclear which correct category is the one in which the item is perceived as having the aesthetic properties it actually has. Perceived as belonging to the category of Shetland ponies, a large Shetland pony may be perceived as lumbering; perceived as belonging to the category of horses, the same pony may be perceived as cute and charming but certainly not lumbering. If the Shetland pony were a work of art, we might appeal to the intentions (or society) of its creator to determine which correct category is the one that fixes its aesthetic character. But as natural items are not human creations they can give us no basis for deciding between equally correct but aesthetically contrasting categorizations. It follows, according to Budd, “the aesthetic appreciation of nature is endowed with a freedom denied to the appreciation of art” (Budd 2003, 34), though this is perhaps merely another way of saying that the aesthetic appreciation of art is endowed with an objectivity denied to the appreciation of nature.

2.2 Aesthetic Judgment

The eighteenth-century debate between rationalists and theorists of taste (or sentimentalists) was primarily a debate over the immediacy thesis, i.e., over whether we judge objects to be beautiful by applying principles of beauty to them. It was not primarily a debate over the existence of principles of beauty, a matter over which theorists of taste might disagree. Kant denied that there are any such principles (Kant 1790, 101), but both Hutcheson and Hume affirmed their existence: they maintained that although judgments of beauty are judgments of taste and not of reason, taste nevertheless operates according to general principles, which might be discovered through empirical investigation (Hutcheson 1725, 28–35; Hume 1757, 231–233).

It is tempting to think of recent debate in aesthetics between particularists and generalists as a revival of the eighteenth-century debate between rationalists and theorists of taste. But the accuracy of this thought is difficult to gauge. One reason is that it is often unclear whether particularists and generalists take themselves merely to be debating the existence of aesthetic principles or to be debating their employment in aesthetic judgment. Another is that, to the degree particularists and generalists take themselves to be debating the employment of aesthetic principles in aesthetic judgment, it is hard to know what they can be meaning by ‘aesthetic judgment.’ If ‘aesthetic’ still carries its eighteenth-century implication of immediacy, then the question under debate is whether judgment that is immediate is immediate. If ‘aesthetic’ no longer carries that implication, then it is hard to know what question is under debate because it is hard to know what aesthetic judgment could be. It may be tempting to think that we can simply re-define ‘aesthetic judgment’ such that it refers to any judgment in which an aesthetic property is predicated of an object. But this requires being able to say what an aesthetic property is without reference to its being immediately graspable, something no one seems to have done. It may seem that we can simply re-define ‘aesthetic judgment’ such that it refers to any judgment in which any property of the class exemplified by beauty is predicated of an object. But which class is this? The classes exemplified by beauty are presumably endless, and the difficulty is to specify the relevant class without reference to the immediate graspability of its members, and that is what no one seems to have done.

However we are to sort out the particularist/generalist debate, important contributions to it include, on the side of particularism, Arnold Isenberg’s “Critical Communication” (1949) Frank Sibley’s “Aesthetic Concepts” (in Sibley 2001) and Mary Mothersill’s Beauty Restored (1984) and, on the side of generalism, Monroe Beardsley’s Aesthetics (1958) and “On the Generality of Critical Reasons” (1962), Sibley’s “General Reasons and Criteria in Aesthetics” (in Sibley 2001), George Dickie’s Evaluating Art (1987), Stephen Davies’s “Replies to Arguments Suggesting that Critics’ Strong Evaluations Could not be Soundly Deduced” (1995), and John Bender’s “General but Defeasible Reasons in Aesthetic Evaluation: The Generalist/Particularist Dispute” (1995). Of these, the papers by Isenberg and Sibley have arguably enjoyed the greatest influence.

Isenberg concedes that we often appeal to descriptive features of works in support of our judgments of their value, and he allows that this may make it seem as if we must be appealing to principles in making those judgments. If in support of a favorable judgment of some painting a critic appeals to the wavelike contour formed by the figures clustered in its foreground, it may seem as if his judgment must involve tacit appeal to the principle that any painting having such a contour is so much the better. But Isenberg argues that this cannot be, since no one agrees to any such principle:

There is not in all the world’s criticism a single purely descriptive statement concerning which one is prepared to say beforehand, ‘If it is true, I shall like that work so much the better’ (Isenberg 1949, 338).

But if in appealing to the descriptive features of a work we are not acknowledging tacit appeals to principles linking those features to aesthetic value, what are we doing? Isenberg believes we are offering “directions for perceiving” the work, i.e., by singling out certain its features, we are “narrow[ing] down the field of possible visual orientations” and thereby guiding others in “the discrimination of details, the organization of parts, the grouping of discrete objects into patterns” (Isenberg 1949, 336). In this way we get others to see what we have seen, rather than getting them to infer from principle what we have so inferred.

That Sibley advances a variety of particularism in one paper and a variety of generalism in another will give the appearance of inconsistency where there is none: Sibley is a particularist of one sort, and with respect to one distinction, and a generalist of another sort with respect to another distinction. Isenberg, as noted, is a particularist with respect to the distinction between descriptions and verdicts, i.e., he maintains that there are no principles by which we may infer from value-neutral descriptions of works to judgments of their overall value. Sibley’s particularism and generalism, by contrast, both have to do with judgments falling in between descriptions and verdicts. With respect to a distinction between descriptions and a set of judgments intermediate between descriptions and verdicts, Sibley is straightforwardly particularist. With respect to a distinction between a set of judgments intermediate between descriptions and verdicts and verdicts, Sibley is a kind of generalist and describes himself as such.

Sibley’s generalism, as set forth in “General Reasons and Criteria in Aesthetics,” begins with the observation that the properties to which we appeal in justification of favorable verdicts are not all descriptive or value-neutral. We also appeal to properties that are inherently positive, such as grace, balance, dramatic intensity, or comicality. To say that a property is inherently positive is not to say that any work having it is so much the better, but rather that its tout court attribution implies value. So although a work may be made worse on account of its comical elements, the simple claim that a work is good because comical is intelligible in a way that the simple claims that a work is good because yellow, or because it lasts twelve minutes, or because it contains many puns, are not. But if the simple claim that a work is good because comical is thus intelligible, comicality is a general criterion for aesthetic value, and the principle that articulates that generality is true. But none of this casts any doubt on the immediacy thesis, as Sibley himself observes:

I have argued elsewhere that there are no sure-fire rules by which, referring to the neutral and non-aesthetic qualities of things, one can infer that something is balanced, tragic, comic, joyous, and so on. One has to look and see. Here, equally, at a different level, I am saying that there are no sure-fire mechanical rules or procedures for deciding which qualities are actual defects in the work; one has to judge for oneself. (Sibley 2001, 107–108)

The “elsewhere” referred to in the first sentence is Sibley’s earlier paper, “Aesthetic Concepts,” which argues that the application of concepts such as ‘balanced,’ ‘tragic,’ ‘comic,’ or ‘joyous’ is not a matter of determining whether the descriptive (i.e., non-aesthetic) conditions for their application are met, but is rather a matter of taste. Hence aesthetic judgments are immediate in something like the way that judgments of color, or of flavor, are:

We see that a book is red by looking, just as we tell that the tea is sweet by tasting it. So too, it might be said, we just see (or fail to see) that things are delicate, balanced, and the like. This kind of comparison between the exercise of taste and the use of the five senses is indeed familiar; our use of the word ‘taste’ itself shows that the comparison is age-old and very natural (Sibley 2001, 13–14).

But Sibley recognizes—as his eighteenth-century forebears did and his formalist contemporaries did not—that important differences remain between the exercise of taste and the use of the five senses. Central among these is that we offer reasons, or something like them, in support of our aesthetic judgments: by talking—in particular, by appealing to the descriptive properties on which the aesthetic properties depend—we justify aesthetic judgments by bringing others to see what we have seen (Sibley 2001, 14–19).

It is unclear to what degree Sibley, beyond seeking to establish that the application of aesthetic concepts is not condition-governed, seeks also to define the term ‘aesthetic’ in terms of their not being so. It is clearer, perhaps, that he does not succeed in defining the term this way, whatever his intentions. Aesthetic concepts are not alone in being non-condition-governed, as Sibley himself recognizes in comparing them with color concepts. But there is also no reason to think them alone in being non-condition-governed while also being reason-supportable, since moral concepts, to give one example, at least arguably also have both these features. Isolating the aesthetic requires something more than immediacy, as Kant saw. It requires something like the Kantian notion of disinterest, or at least something to play the role played by that notion in Kant’s theory.

Given the degree to which Kant and Hume continue to influence thinking about aesthetic judgment (or critical judgment, more broadly), given the degree to which Sibley and Isenberg continue to abet that influence, it is not surprising that the immediacy thesis is now very widely received. The thesis, however, has come under attack, notably by Davies (1990) and Bender (1995). (See also Carroll (2009), who follows closely after Davies (1990), and Dorsch (2013) for further discussion.)

Isenberg, it will be recalled, maintains that if the critic is arguing for her verdict, her argumentation must go something as follows:

  1. Artworks having p are better for having p.
  2. W is an artwork having p.
  3. Therefore, W is so much the better for having p.

Since the critical principle expressed in premise 1 is open to counter-example, no matter what property we substitute for p, Isenberg concludes that we cannot plausibly interpret the critic as arguing for her verdict. Rather than defend the principle expressed in premise 1, Davies and Bender both posit alternative principles, consistent with the fact that no property is good-making in all artworks, which they ascribe to the critic. Davies proposes that we interpret the critic as arguing deductively from principles relativized to artistic type, that is, from principles holding that artworks of a specific types or categories—Italian Renaissance paintings, romantic symphonies, Hollywood Westerns, etc.—having p are better for having it (Davies 1990, 174). Bender proposes that we interpret the critic as arguing inductively from principles expressing mere tendencies that hold between certain properties and artworks—principles, in other words, holding that artworks having p tend to be better for having it (Bender 1995, 386).

Each proposal has its own weaknesses and strengths. A problem with Bender’s approach is that critics do not seem to couch their verdicts in probabilistic terms. Were a critic to say that a work is likely to be good, or almost certainly good, or even that she has the highest confidence that it must be good, her language would suggest that she had not herself experienced the work, perhaps that she had judged the work on the basis of someone else’s testimony, and that she was, therefore, no critic at all. We would therefore have good reason to prefer Davies’s deductive approach if only we had good reason for thinking that relativizing critical principles to artistic type removed the original threat of counterexample. Though it is clear that such relativizing reduces the relative number of counterexamples, we need good reason for thinking that it reduces that number to zero, and Davies provides no such reason. Bender’s inductive approach, by contrast, cannot be refuted by counterexample, but only by counter-tendency.

If the critic argues from the truth of a principle to the truth of a verdict—as Davies and Bender both contend—it must be possible for her to establish the truth of the principle before establishing the truth of the verdict. How might she do this? It seems unlikely that mere reflection on the nature of art, or on the natures of types of art, could yield up the relevant lists of good- and bad-making properties. At least the literature has yet to produce a promising account as to how this might be done. Observation therefore seems the most promising answer. To say that the critic establishes the truth of critical principles on the basis of observation, however, is to say that she establishes a correlation between certain artworks she has already established to be good and certain properties she has already established those works to have. But then any capacity to establish that works are good by inference from principles evidently depends on some capacity to establish that works are good without any such inference, and the question arises why the critic should prefer to do by inference what she can do perfectly well without. The answer cannot be that judging by inference from principle yields epistemically better results, since a principle based on observations can be no more epistemically sound than the observations on which it is based.

None of this shows that aesthetic or critical judgment could never be inferred from principles. It does however suggest that such judgment is first and foremost non-inferential, which is what the immediacy thesis holds.

2.3 The Aesthetic Attitude

The Kantian notion of disinterest has its most direct recent descendents in the aesthetic-attitude theories that flourished from the early to mid 20th century. Though Kant followed the British in applying the term ‘disinterested’ strictly to pleasures, its migration to attitudes is not difficult to explain. For Kant the pleasure involved in a judgment of taste is disinterested because such a judgment does not issue in a motive to do anything in particular. For this reason Kant refers to the judgment of taste as contemplative rather than practical (Kant 1790, 95). But if the judgment of taste is not practical, then the attitude we bear toward its object is presumably also not practical: when we judge an object aesthetically we are unconcerned with whether and how it may further our practical aims. Hence it is natural to speak of our attitude toward the object as disinterested.

To say, however, that the migration of disinterest from pleasures to attitudes is natural is not to say that it is inconsequential. Consider the difference between Kant’s aesthetic theory, the last great theory of taste, and Schopenhauer’s aesthetic theory, the first great aesthetic-attitude theory. Whereas for Kant disinterested pleasure is the means by which we discover things to bear aesthetic value, for Schopenhauer disinterested attention (or “will-less contemplation”) is itself the locus of aesthetic value. According to Schopenhauer, we lead our ordinary, practical lives in a kind of bondage to our own desires (Schopenhauer 1819, 196). This bondage is a source not merely of pain but also of cognitive distortion in that it restricts our attention to those aspects of things relevant to the fulfilling or thwarting of our desires. Aesthetic contemplation, being will-less, is therefore both epistemically and hedonically valuable, allowing us a desire-free glimpse into the essences of things as well as a respite from desire-induced pain:

When, however, an external cause or inward disposition suddenly raises us out of the endless stream of willing, and snatches knowledge from the thralldom of the will, the attention is now no longer directed to the motives of willing, but comprehends things free from their relation to the will … Then all at once the peace, always sought but always escaping us … comes to us of its own accord, and all is well with us. (Schopenhauer 1819, 196)

The two most influential aesthetic-attitude theories of the 20th century are those of Edward Bullough and Jerome Stolnitz. According to Stolnitz’s theory, which is the more straightforward of the two, bearing an aesthetic attitude toward an object is a matter of attending to it disinterestedly and sympathetically, where to attend to it disinterestedly is to attend to it with no purpose beyond that of attending to it, and to attend to it sympathetically is to “accept it on its own terms,” allowing it, and not one’s own preconceptions, to guide one’s attention of it (Stolnitz 1960, 32–36). The result of such attention is a comparatively richer experience of the object, i.e., an experience taking in comparatively many of the object’s features. Whereas a practical attitude limits and fragments the object of our experience, allowing us to “see only those of its features which are relevant to our purposes,…. By contrast, the aesthetic attitude ‘isolates’ the object and focuses upon it—the ‘look’ of the rocks, the sound of the ocean, the colors in the painting.” (Stolnitz 1960, 33, 35).

Bullough, who prefers to speak of “psychical distance” rather than disinterest, characterizes aesthetic appreciation as something achieved

by putting the phenomenon, so to speak, out of gear with our actual practical self; by allowing it to stand outside the context of our personal needs and ends—in short, by looking at it ‘objectively’ … by permitting only such reactions on our part as emphasise the ‘objective features of the experience, and by interpreting even our ‘subjective’ affections not as modes of our being but rather as characteristics of the phenomenon. (Bullough 1995, 298–299; emphasis in original).

Bullough has been criticized for claiming that aesthetic appreciation requires dispassionate detachment:

Bullough’s characterization of the aesthetic attitude is the easiest to attack. When we cry at a tragedy, jump in fear at a horror movie, or lose ourselves in the plot of a complex novel, we cannot be said to be detached, although we may be appreciating the aesthetic qualities of these works to the fullest… . And we can appreciate the aesthetic properties of the fog or storm while fearing the dangers they present. (Goldman 2005, 264)

But such a criticism seems to overlook a subtlety of Bullough’s view. While Bullough does hold that aesthetic appreciation requires distance “between our own self and its affections” (Bullough 1995, 298), he does not take this to require that we not undergo affections but quite the opposite: only if we undergo affections have we affections from which to be distanced. So, for example, the properly distanced spectator of a well-constructed tragedy is not the “over-distanced” spectator who feels no pity or fear, nor the “under-distanced” spectator who feels pity and fear as she would to an actual, present catastrophe, but the spectator who interprets the pity and fear she feels “not as modes of [her] being but rather as characteristics of the phenomenon” (Bullough 1995, 299). The properly distanced spectator of a tragedy, we might say, understands her fear and pity to be part of what tragedy is about.

The notion of the aesthetic attitude has been attacked from all corners and has very few remaining sympathizers. George Dickie is widely regarded as having delivered the decisive blow in his essay “The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude” (Dickie 1964) by arguing that all purported examples of interested or distanced attention are really just examples of inattention. So consider the case of the spectator at a performance of Othello who becomes increasingly suspicious of his own wife as the action proceeds, or the case of the impresario who sits gauging the size of the audience, or the case of the father who sits taking pride in his daughter’s performance, or the case of the moralist who sits gauging the moral effects the play is apt to produce in its audience. These and all such cases will be regarded by the attitude theorist as cases of interested or distanced attention to the performance, when they are actually nothing but cases of inattention to the performance: the jealous husband is attending to his wife, the impresario to the till, the father to his daughter, the moralist to the effects of the play. But if none of them is attending to the performance, then none of them is attending to it disinterestedly or with distance (Dickie 1964, 57–59).

The attitude theorist, however, can plausibly resist Dickie’s interpretation of such examples. Clearly the impresario is not attending to the performance, but there is no reason to regard the attitude theorist as committed to thinking otherwise. As for the others, it might be argued that they are all attending. The jealous husband must be attending to the performance, since it is the action of the play, as presented by the performance, that is making him suspicious. The proud father must be attending to the performance, since he is attending to his daughter’s performance, which is an element of it. The moralist must be attending to the performance, since he otherwise would have no basis by which to gauge its moral effects on the audience. It may be that none of these spectators is giving the performance the attention it demands, but that is precisely the attitude theorist’s point.

But perhaps another of Dickie’s criticisms, one lesser known, ultimately poses a greater threat to the ambitions of the attitude theorist. Stolnitz, it will be recalled, distinguishes between disinterested and interested attention according to the purpose governing the attention: to attend disinterestedly is to attend with no purpose beyond that of attending; to attend interestedly is to attend with some purpose beyond that of attending. But Dickie objects that a difference in purpose does not imply a difference in attention:

Suppose Jones listens to a piece of music for the purpose of being able to analyze and describe it on an examination the next day and Smith listens to the same music with no such ulterior purpose. There is certainly a difference in the motives and intentions of the two men: Jones has an ulterior purpose and Smith does not, but this does not mean Jones’s listening differs from Smith’s … . There is only one way to listen to (to attend to) music, although there may be a variety of motives, intentions, and reasons for doing so and a variety of ways of being distracted from the music. (Dickie 1964, 58).

There is again much here that the attitude theorist can resist. The idea that listening is a species of attending can be resisted: the question at hand, strictly speaking, is not whether Jones and Smith listen to the music in the same way, but whether they attend in the same way to the music they are listening to. The contention that Jones and Smith are attending in the same way appears to be question-begging, as it evidently depends on a principle of individuation that the attitude theorist rejects: if Jones’s attention is governed by some ulterior purpose and Smith’s is not, and we individuate attention according to the purpose that governs it, their attention is not the same. Finally, even if we reject the attitude theorist’s principle of individuation, the claim that there is but one way to attend to music is doubtful: one can seemingly attend to music in myriad ways—as historical document, as cultural artifact, as aural wallpaper, as sonic disturbance—depending on which of the music’s features one attends to in listening to it. But Dickie is nevertheless onto something crucial to the degree he urges that a difference in purpose need not imply a relevantdifference in attention. Disinterest plausibly figures in the definition of the aesthetic attitude only to the degree that it, and it alone, focuses attention on the features of the object that matter aesthetically. The possibility that there are interests that focus attention on just those same features implies that disinterest has no place in such a definition, which in turn implies that neither it nor the notion of the aesthetic attitude is likely to be of any use in fixing the meaning of the term ‘aesthetic.’ If to take the aesthetic attitude toward an object simply is to attend to its aesthetically relevant properties, whether the attention is interested or disinterested, then determining whether an attitude is aesthetic apparently requires first determining which properties are the aesthetically relevant ones. And this task seems always to result either in claims about the immediate graspability of aesthetic properties, which are arguably insufficient to the task, or in claims about the essentially formal nature of aesthetic properties, which are arguably groundless.

But that the notions of disinterest and psychical distance prove unhelpful in fixing the meaning of the term ‘aesthetic’ does not imply that they are mythic. At times we seem unable to get by without them. Consider the case of The Fall of Miletus—a tragedy written by the Greek dramatist Phrynicus and staged in Athens barely two years after the violent Persian capture of the Greek city of Miletus in 494 BC. Herodotus records that

[the Athenians] found many ways to express their sorrow at the fall of Miletus, and in particular, when Phrynicus composed and produced a play called The Fall of Miletus, the audience burst into tears and fined him a thousand drachmas for reminding them of a disaster that was so close to home; future productions of the play were also banned. (Herodotus, The Histories, 359)

How are we to explain the Athenian reaction to this play without recourse to something like interest or lack of distance? How, in particular, are we to explain the difference between the sorrow elicited by a successful tragedy and the sorrow elicited in this case? The distinction between attention and inattention is of no use here. The difference is not that the Athenians could not attend to The Fall whereas they could attend to other plays. The difference is that they could not attend to The Fall as they could attend to other plays, and this because of their too intimate connection to what attending to The Fall required their attending to.

2.4 Aesthetic Experience

Theories of aesthetic experience may be divided into two kinds according to the kind of feature appealed to in explanation of what makes experience aesthetic. Internalist theories appeal to features internal to experience, typically to phenomenological features, whereas externalist theories appeal to features external to the experience, typically to features of the object experienced. (The distinction between internalist and externalist theories of aesthetic experience is similar, though not identical, to the distinction between phenomenal and epistemic conceptions of aesthetic experience drawn by Gary Iseminger (Iseminger 2003, 100, and Iseminger 2004, 27, 36)). Though internalist theories—particularly John Dewey’s (1934) and Monroe Beardsley’s (1958)—predominated during the early and middle parts of the 20th century, externalist theories—including Beardsley’s (1982) and George Dickie’s (1988)—have been in the ascendant since. Beardsley’s views on aesthetic experience make a strong claim on our attention, given that Beardsley might be said to have authored the culminating internalist theory as well as the founding externalist one. Dickie’s criticisms of Beardsley’s internalism make an equally strong claim, since they moved Beardsley—and with him most everyone else—from internalism toward externalism.

According to the version of internalism Beardsley advances in his Aesthetics (1958), all aesthetic experiences have in common three or four (depending on how you count) features, which “some writers have [discovered] through acute introspection, and which each of us can test in his own experience” (Beardsley 1958, 527). These are focus (“an aesthetic experience is one in which attention is firmly fixed upon [its object]”), intensity, and unity, where unity is a matter of coherence and of completeness (Beardsley 1958, 527). Coherence, in turn, is a matter of having elements that are properly connected one to another such that

[o]ne thing leads to another; continuity of development, without gaps or dead spaces, a sense of overall providential pattern of guidance, an orderly cumulation of energy toward a climax, are present to an unusual degree. (Beardsley 1958, 528)

Completeness, by contrast, is a matter having elements that “counterbalance” or “resolve” one another such that the whole stands apart from elements without it:

The impulses and expectations aroused by elements within the experience are felt to be counterbalanced or resolved by other elements within the experience, so that some degree of equilibrium or finality is achieved and enjoyed. The experience detaches itself, and even insulates itself, from the intrusion of alien elements. (Beardsley 1958, 528)

Dickie’s most consequential criticism of Beardsley’s theory is that Beardsley, in describing the phenomenology of aesthetic experience, has failed to distinguish between the features we experience aesthetic objects as having and the features aesthetic experiences themselves have. So while every feature mentioned in Beardsley’s description of the coherence of aesthetic experience—continuity of development, the absence of gaps, the mounting of energy toward a climax—surely is a feature we experience aesthetic objects as having, there is no reason to think of aesthetic experience itself as having any such features:

Note that everything referred to [in Beardsley’s description of coherence] is a perceptual characteristic … and not an effect of perceptual characteristics. Thus, no ground is furnished for concluding that experience can be unified in the sense of being coherent. What is actually argued for is that aesthetic objects are coherent, a conclusion which must be granted, but not the one which is relevant. (Dickie 1965, 131)

Dickie raises a similar worry about Beardsley’s description of the completeness of aesthetic experience:

One can speak of elements being counterbalanced in the painting and say that the painting is stable, balanced and so on, but what does it mean to say the experience of the spectator of the painting is stable or balanced? … Looking at a painting in some cases might aid some persons in coming to feel stable because it might distract them from whatever is unsettling them, but such cases are atypical of aesthetic appreciation and not relevant to aesthetic theory. Aren’t characteristics attributable to the painting simply being mistakenly shifted to the spectator? (Dickie 1965, 132)

Though these objections turned out to be only the beginning of the debate between Dickie and Beardsley on the nature of aesthetic experience (See Beardsley 1969, Dickie 1974, Beardsley 1982, and Dickie 1987; see also Iseminger 2003 for a helpful overview of the Beardsley-Dickie debate), they nevertheless went a long way toward shaping that debate, which taken as whole might be seen as the working out of an answer to the question “What can a theory of aesthetic experience be that takes seriously the distinction between the experience of features and the features of experience?” The answer turned out to be an externalist theory of the sort that Beardsley advances in the 1982 essay “The Aesthetic Point of View” and that many others have advanced since: a theory according to which an aesthetic experience just is an experience having aesthetic content, i.e., an experience of an object as having the aesthetic features that it has.

The shift from internalism to externalism has not been without costs. One central ambition of internalism—that of fixing the meaning of ‘aesthetic’ by tying it to features peculiar to aesthetic experience—has had to be given up. But a second, equally central, ambition—that of accounting for aesthetic value by tying it to the value of aesthetic experience—has been retained. Indeed most everything written on aesthetic experience since the Beardsley-Dickie debate has been written in service of the view that an object has aesthetic value insofar as it affords valuable experience when correctly perceived. This view—which has come to be called empiricism about aesthetic value, given that it reduces aesthetic value to the value of aesthetic experience—has attracted many advocates over the last several years (Beardsley 1982, Budd 1985 and 1995, Goldman 1995 and 2006, Walton 1993, Levinson 1996 and 2006, Miller 1998, Railton 1998, and Iseminger 2004), while provoking relatively little criticism (Zangwill 1999, Sharpe 2000, D. Davies 2004, and Kieran 2005). Yet it can be wondered whether empiricism about aesthetic value is susceptible to a version of the criticism that has done internalism in.

For there is something odd about the position that combines externalism about aesthetic experience with empiricism about aesthetic value. Externalism locates the features that determine aesthetic character in the object, whereas empiricism locates the features that determine aesthetic value in the experience, when one might have thought that the features that determine aesthetic character just are the features that determine aesthetic value. If externalism and empiricism are both true, there is nothing to stop two objects that have different, even wholly disparate, aesthetic characters from nevertheless having the very same aesthetic value—unless, that is, the value-determining features of an experience are bound logically to the character-determining features of the object that affords it such that only an object with those features could afford an experience having that value. But in that case the value-determining features of the experience are evidently not simply the phenomenological features that might have seemed best suited to determine the value of the experience, but perhaps rather the representational or epistemic features of the experience that it has only in relation to its object. And this is what some empiricists have been urging of late:

Aesthetic experience … aims first at understanding and appreciation, at taking in the aesthetic properties of the object. The object itself is valuable for providing experience that could only be an experience of that object… . Part of the value of aesthetic experience lies in experiencing the object in the right way, in a way true to its nonaesthetic properties, so that the aim of understanding and appreciation is fulfilled. (Goldman 2006, 339–341; see also Iseminger 2004, 36)

But there is an unaddressed difficulty with this line of thought. While the representational or epistemic features of an aesthetic experience might very plausibly contribute to its value, such features very implausibly contribute to the value of the object affording such an experience. If the value of the experience of a good poem consists, in part, in its being an experience in which the poem is properly understood or accurately represented, the value of a good poem cannot consist, even in part, in its capacity to afford an experience in which it is properly understood or accurately represented, because, all things being equal, a bad poem presumably has these capacities in equal measure. It is of course true that only a good poem rewards an understanding of it. But then a good poem’s capacity for rewarding understanding is evidently to be explained by the poem’s already being good; it is evidently in virtue of its already being good that a poem rewards us on condition that we understand it.

Other empiricists have taken a different tack. Instead of trying to isolate the general features of aesthetic experience in virtue of which it and its objects are valuable, they simply observe the impossibility, in any particular case, of saying much about the value of an aesthetic experience without also saying a lot about the aesthetic character of the object. So, for example, referring to the values of the experiences that works of art afford, Jerrold Levinson maintains that

if we examine more closely these goods … we see that their most adequate description invariably reveals them to involve ineliminably the artworks that provide them… . The cognitive expansion afforded us by Bartok’s Fourth String Quartet, similarly, is not so much a generalized effect of that sort as it is a specific state of stimulation undetachable from the particular turns and twists of Bartok’s carefully crafted essay… . even the pleasure we take in the Allegro of Mozart’s Symphony no. 29 is, as it were, the pleasure of discovering the individual nature and potential of its thematic material, and the precise way its aesthetic character emerges from its musical underpinnings… . there is a sense in which the pleasure of the Twenty-Ninth can be had only from that work. (Levinson 1996, 22–23; see also Budd 1985, 123–124)

There is no denying that when we attempt to describe, in any detail, the values of experiences afforded by particular works we quickly find ourselves describing the works themselves. The question is what to make of this fact. If one is antecedently committed to empiricism, it may seem a manifestation of the appropriately intimate connection between the aesthetic character of a work and the value of the experience that the work affords. But if one is not so committed, it may seem to manifest something else. If, when attempting to account for the aesthetic value of Bartok’s Fourth String Quartet in terms of the value of the experience it affords, we find ourselves unable to say much about the value of that experience without saying something about the quartet’s “particular turns and twists,” this may be because the value resides in those twists and turns and not in the experience of them. To affirm such a possibility, of course, is not to deny that the value the quartet has in virtue of its particular twists in turns is a value that we experience it as having. It is rather to insist on sharply distinguishing between the value of experience and the experience of value, in something like the way Dickie insisted on sharply distinguishing between the unity of experience and the experience of unity. When the empiricist maintains that that value of Bartok’s Fourth String Quartet, with its particular twists and turns, consists in the value of the experience that it affords, which experience is valuable, at least in part, because it is an experience of a quartet with those twists and turns, one may wonder whether a value originally belonging to the quartet has been transferred to the experience, before being reflected back, once again, onto the quartet.

Bibliography

  • Acocella, J., 2007 , “Mozart Moves,” The New Yorker, August 20, 84–85.
  • Beardsley, M.C., 1958, Aesthetics, Indianapolis: Hackett.
  • –––, 1962, “On the Generality of Critical Reasons,” The Journal of Philosophy, 59: 477–486.
  • –––, 1982, The Aesthetic Point of View, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press
  • Bell, C., 1958, Art, New York: Capricorn Books.
  • Bender, J., 1995, “General but Defeasible Reasons in Aesthetic Evaluation: The Generalist/Particularist Dispute,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 53: 379–392.
  • Binkley, T., 1970, “Piece: Contra Aesthetics,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 35: 265–277.
  • Budd, M., 1985, Music and the Emotions: The Philosophical Theories, London: Routledge.
  • –––, 1995, Values of Art: Painting, Poetry, and Music, London: Penguin.
  • –––, 2002, The Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • –––, 2003, “Aesthetics of Nature,” in The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, J. Levinson (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 117–135.
  • –––, 2008, Aesthetic Essays, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Bullough, E., 1995, “‘Psychical Distance’ as a Factor in Art and as an Aesthetic Principle,” in The Philosophy of Art: Readings Ancient and Modern, A. Neill and A. Ridley (eds.), New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Carlson, A., 1979, “Formal Qualities in the Natural Environment,” Journal of Aesthetic Education, 13: 99–114.
  • –––, 1981, “Nature, Aesthetic Judgment, and Objectivity,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 40: 15–27.
  • Carroll, N., 2000, “Art and the Domain of the Aesthetic,” The British Journal of Aesthetics, 40: 191–208.
  • –––, 2001, Beyond Aesthetics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • –––, 2009, On Criticism, New York: Routledge Press.
  • Cohen, T., 1973, “Aesthetics/Non-Aesthetics and the Concept of Taste,” Theoria, 39: 113–52.
  • Coleridge, S., 1821, “Letter to Mr. Blackwood,” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 10: 253–255.
  • Cooper, A., (Third Earl of Shaftesbury), 1711, Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001.
  • Costello, D., 2008, “Kant and Danto, Together at Last?,” in K. Stock and K. Thomson-Jones (eds.), New Waves in Aesthetics, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 244–266.
  • –––, 2013, “Kant and the Problem of Strong Non-Perceptual Art,” The British Journal of Aesthetics, 53: 277–298.
  • Danto, A.C., 1981, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • –––, 1986, The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • –––, 1997, After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • –––, 2003, The Abuse of Beauty, Peru, IL: Open Court.
  • Davies, D., 2004, Art as Performance, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Davies, S., 1990, “Replies to Arguments Suggesting that Critics’ Strong Evaluations Could Not Be Soundly Deduced,” Grazer Philosophische Studien, 38: 157–175.
  • –––, 2006, “Aesthetic Judgments, Artworks, and Functional Beauty,” Philosophical Quarterly, 56: 224–241.
  • Dewey, J., 1934, Art and Experience, New York: Putnam.
  • Dickie, G., 1964, “The Myth of the Aesthetic Attitude,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 1: 56–65.
  • –––, 1965, “Beardsley’s Phantom Aesthetic Experience,” Journal of Philosophy, 62: 129–136.
  • –––, 1974, Art and the Aesthetic: An Institutional Analysis, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • –––, 1988, Evaluating Art, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • –––, 1996, The Century of Taste, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Dorsch, F., 2013, “Non-Inferentialism about Justification—The Case of Aesthetic Judgments,” The Philosophical Quarterly, 63: 660–682.
  • Dubos, J.-B. 1748, Critical Reflections on Poetry, Painting, and Music, T. Nugent (trans.), London.
  • Gerard, A., 1759, An Essay on Taste, London: Millar.
  • Goldman, A.H., 1990, “Aesthetic Qualities and Aesthetic Value,” Journal of Philosophy, 87: 23–37.
  • –––, 1995, Aesthetic Value, Boulder, CO: Westview.
  • –––, 2004, “Evaluating Art,” in P. Kivy (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics, Malden, MA: Blackwell, 93–108.
  • –––, 2005, “The Aesthetic,” in The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, B. Gaut and D. Lopes (eds.), London: Routledge, 255–266.
  • –––, 2006, “The Experiential Account of Aesthetic Value,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 64: 333–342.
  • Greenberg, C., 1986, The Collected Essays and Criticism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Guyer, P., 1993, “The dialectic of disinterestedness: I. Eighteenth-century aesthetics”, in Kant and the Experience of Freedom: Essays on Aesthetics and Morality, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • –––, 2004, “The Origins of Modern Aesthetics: 1711–1735” in The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics, P. Kivy (ed.), Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Hanslick, E., 1986, On the Musically Beautiful, G. Payzant (trans.), Indianapolis: Hackett.
  • Hepburn, R.W., 1966, “Contemporary Aesthetics and the Neglect of Natural Beauty,” in British Analytical Philosophy, B. Williams and A. Montefiori (eds.), London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 285–310.
  • –––, 1968, “Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature” in Aesthetics in the Modern World, H. Osborne (ed.), London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Herodotus, The Histories, R. Waterfield (trans.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Home, H. (Lord Kames), 2005, Elements of Criticism (Volume 1), Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.
  • Hopkins, R., 2000, “Beauty and Testimony” in Philosophy, the Good, the True and the Beautiful, A. O’Hear (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 209–236.
  • –––, 2004, “Critical Reasoning and Critical Perception,” in Knowing Art, M. Kieran and D. Lopes (eds.), Dordrecht: Springer, 137–154.
  • –––, 2011, “How to Be a Pessimist about Aesthetic Testimony,” The Journal of Philosophy, 108: 138–157.
  • Hume, D., 1751, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, in L.A. Selby-Bigge and P. Nidditch (eds.), Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  • –––, 1757, “Of the Standard of Taste,” in E. Miller (ed.), Essays Moral, Political, and Literary, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985.
  • Hutcheson, F., 1725, An Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, W. Leidhold (ed.), Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004.
  • Iseminger, G., 2003, “Aesthetic Experience,” in The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, J. Levinson (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 99–116.
  • –––, 2004, The Aesthetic Function of Art, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
  • Isenberg, A., 1949, “Critical Communication,” Philosophical Review, 58(4): 330–344.
  • Kant, I., 1790, Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans. P. Guyer, and E. Matthews, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Kemp, G., 1999, “The Aesthetic Attitude,” The British Journal of Aesthetics, 39: 392–399.
  • Kieran, M., 2005, Revealing Art, London: Routledge.
  • Kivy, P., 1973, Speaking of Art, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • –––, 2003, The Seventh Sense: Francis Hutcheson and Eighteenth-Century British-Aesthetics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • –––, 2015, De Gustibus: Arguing About Taste and Why We Do It, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Levinson, J., 1996, The Pleasures of Aesthetics, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • –––, 2006, Contemplating Art: Essays in Aesthetics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Lopes, D., 2011, “The Myth of (Non-Aesthetic) Artistic Value,” The Philosophical Quarterly, 61: 518–536.
  • –––, 2014, Beyond Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Miller, R., 1998, “Three Versions of Objectivity: Aesthetic, Moral, and Scientific,” in J. Levinson (ed.), Aesthetics and Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 26–58.
  • Mothersill, M., 1984, Beauty Restored, Oxford: Oxford Clarendon Press.
  • Prettejohn, E., 2005, Beauty and Art: 1750–2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Railton, P., 1998, “Aesthetic Value, Moral Value, and the Ambitions of Naturalism,” in J. Levinson (ed.), Aesthetics and Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 59–105.
  • Reid, T., 1785, Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press, 1969.
  • Riggle, N., 2015, “On the Aesthetic Ideal,” The British Journal of Aesthetics, 55: 433–447.
  • –––, 2016, “On the Interest in Beauty and Disinterest,” Philosophers’ Imprint, 16: 1–14.
  • Rind, M., 2002, “The Concept of Disinterestedness in Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetics,” The Journal of the History of Philosophy, 40: 67–87.
  • Schopenhauer, A., 1819, The World as Will and Representation, vol. 1, trans. E. Payne, New York: Dover, 1969.
  • Sharpe, R.A., 2000, “The Empiricist Theory of Artistic Value,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 58: 312–332.
  • Shelley, J., 2003, “The Problem of Non-Perceptual Art,” The British Journal of Aesthetics, 43: 363–378.
  • –––, 2004, “Critical Compatibilism,” in Knowing Art, D. Lopes and M. Kieran (eds.), Dordrecht: Springer, 125–136.
  • –––, 2007, “Aesthetics and the World at Large,” The British Journal of Aesthetics, 47: 169–183.
  • –––, 2010, “Against Value Empiricism in Aesthetics,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 88: 707–720.
  • Sibley, F., 2001, Approach to Aesthetics: Collected Papers on Philosophical Aesthetics, J. Benson, B. Redfern, and J. Cox (eds.), Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Stecker, R., 1997a, Artworks: Definition, Meaning, Value University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • –––, 1997b, “Two Conceptions of Artistic Value,” Iyyun, 46: 51–62.
  • –––, 1997c, “The Correct and the Appropriate in the Appreciation of Nature,” The British Journal of Aesthetics, 37: 393–402.
  • –––, 2004, “Value in Art,” in J. Levinson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 307–324.
  • Stolnitz, J., 1960, Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art Criticism, New York: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Terrasson, J., 1715, Dissertation Critique sur L’lliade d’Homère, Paris: Fournier and Coustelier.
  • Walton, K.L., 1970, “Categories of Art,” The Philosophical Review, 79 (3): 334–367.
  • –––, 1993, “How Marvelous!: Towards a Theory of Aesthetic Value,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 51: 499–510.
  • Wimsatt, W. and Brooks, C., 1957, Literary Criticism: A Short History, New York: Knopf.
  • Zangwill, N., 1999, “Art and Audience,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 57: 315–332.
  • –––, 2001, The Metaphysics of Beauty, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • –––, 2007, Aesthetic Creation, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

 

Please see my related posts:

On Beauty

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful

Boundaries and Distinctions

On Classical Virtues

 

 

 

On Beauty

On Beauty

Perspectives on Beauty.

 

Classical conception of beauty is mathematical.  It is based on:
  • Proportions
  • Symmetry
  • Harmony
  • Golden Ratio

 

in Architecture, Sculpture, Music. and Literature.

In the West, classical conception of Beauty is dominant.

 

 

Plotinus was critical of Plato’s view on Beauty,

Read Idealist conception of beauty to get views of Plotinus.

From Stanford encyclopedia of Philosophy

Beauty
First published Tue Sep 4, 2012; substantive revision Wed Oct 5, 2016

 

The nature of beauty is one of the most enduring and controversial themes in Western philosophy, and is—with the nature of art—one of the two fundamental issues in philosophical aesthetics. Beauty has traditionally been counted among the ultimate values, with goodness, truth, and justice. It is a primary theme among ancient Greek, Hellenistic, and medieval philosophers, and was central to eighteenth and nineteenth-century thought, as represented in treatments by such thinkers as Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Hume, Burke, Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Hanslick, and Santayana. By the beginning of the twentieth century, beauty was in decline as a subject of philosophical inquiry, and also as a primary goal of the arts. However, there were signs of revived interest by the early 2000s.

This article will begin with a sketch of the debate over whether beauty is objective or subjective, which is perhaps the single most-prosecuted disagreement in the literature. It will proceed to set out some of the major approaches to or theories of beauty developed within Western philosophical and artistic traditions.

 

1. Objectivity and Subjectivity

Perhaps the most familiar basic issue in the theory of beauty is whether beauty is subjective—located ‘in the eye of the beholder’—or whether it is an objective feature of beautiful things. A pure version of either of these positions seems implausible, for reasons we will examine, and many attempts have been made to split the difference or incorporate insights of both subjectivist and objectivist accounts. Ancient and medieval accounts for the most part located beauty outside of anyone’s particular experiences. Nevertheless, that beauty is subjective was also a commonplace from the time of the sophists. By the eighteenth century, Hume could write as follows, expressing one ‘species of philosophy’:

Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others. (Hume 1757, 136)

And Kant launches his discussion of the matter in The Critique of Judgment(the Third Critique) at least as emphatically:

The judgment of taste is therefore not a judgment of cognition, and is consequently not logical but aesthetical, by which we understand that whose determining ground can be no other than subjective. Every reference of representations, even that of sensations, may be objective (and then it signifies the real [element] of an empirical representation), save only the reference to the feeling of pleasure and pain, by which nothing in the object is signified, but through which there is a feeling in the subject as it is affected by the representation. (Kant 1790, section 1)

However, if beauty is entirely subjective—that is, if anything that anyone holds to be or experiences as beautiful is beautiful (as James Kirwan, for example, asserts)—then it seems that the word has no meaning, or that we are not communicating anything when we call something beautiful except perhaps an approving personal attitude. In addition, though different persons can of course differ in particular judgments, it is also obvious that our judgments coincide to a remarkable extent: it would be odd or perverse for any person to deny that a perfect rose or a dramatic sunset was beautiful. And it is possible actually to disagree and argue about whether something is beautiful, or to try to show someone that something is beautiful, or learn from someone else why it is.

On the other hand, it seems senseless to say that beauty has no connection to subjective response or that it is entirely objective. That would seem to entail, for example, that a world with no perceivers could be beautiful or ugly, or perhaps that beauty could be detected by scientific instruments. Even if it could be, beauty would seem to be connected to subjective response, and though we may argue about whether something is beautiful, the idea that one’s experiences of beauty might be disqualified as simply inaccurate or false might arouse puzzlement as well as hostility. We often regard other people’s taste, even when it differs from our own, as provisionally entitled to some respect, as we may not, for example, in cases of moral, political, or factual opinions. All plausible accounts of beauty connect it to a pleasurable or profound or loving response, even if they do not locate beauty purely in the eye of the beholder.

Until the eighteenth century, most philosophical accounts of beauty treated it as an objective quality: they located it in the beautiful object itself or in the qualities of that object. In De Veritate Religione, Augustine asks explicitly whether things are beautiful because they give delight, or whether they give delight because they are beautiful; he emphatically opts for the second (Augustine, 247). Plato’s account in the Symposium and Plotinus’s in theEnneads connect beauty to a response of love and desire, but locate beauty itself in the realm of the Forms, and the beauty of particular objects in their participation in the Form. Indeed, Plotinus’s account in one of its moments makes beauty a matter of what we might term ‘formedness’: having the definite shape characteristic of the kind of thing the object is.

We hold that all the loveliness of this world comes by communion in Ideal-Form. All shapelessness whose kind admits of pattern and form, as long as it remains outside of Reason and Idea, is ugly from that very isolation from the Divine-Thought. And this is the Absolute Ugly: an ugly thing is something that has not been entirely mastered by pattern, that is by Reason, the Matter not yielding at all points and in all respects to Ideal-Form. But where the Ideal-Form has entered, it has grouped and coordinated what from a diversity of parts was to become a unity: it has rallied confusion into co-operation: it has made the sum one harmonious coherence: for the Idea is a unity and what it moulds must come into unity as far as multiplicity may. (Plotinus, 22 [Ennead I, 6])

In this account, beauty is at least as objective as any other concept, or indeed takes on a certain ontological priority as more real than particular Forms: it is a sort of Form of Forms.

Though Plato and Aristotle disagree on what beauty is, they both regard it as objective in the sense that it is not localized in the response of the beholder. The classical conception (see below) treats beauty as a matter of instantiating definite proportions or relations among parts, sometimes expressed in mathematical ratios, for example the ‘golden section.’ The sculpture known as ‘The Canon,’ by Polykleitos (fifth/fourth century BCE), was held up as a model of harmonious proportion to be emulated by students and masters alike: beauty could be reliably achieved by reproducing its objective proportions. Nevertheless, it is conventional in ancient treatments of the topic also to pay tribute to the pleasures of beauty, often described in quite ecstatic terms, as in Plotinus: “This is the spirit that Beauty must ever induce: wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight” (Plotinus 23, [Ennead 1, 3]).

At latest by the eighteenth century, however, and particularly in the British Isles, beauty was associated with pleasure in a somewhat different way: pleasure was held to be not the effect but the origin of beauty. This was influenced, for example, by Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Locke and the other empiricists treated color (which is certainly one source or locus of beauty), for example, as a ‘phantasm’ of the mind, as a set of qualities dependent on subjective response, located in the perceiving mind rather than of the world outside the mind. Without perceivers of a certain sort, there would be no colors. One argument for this was the variation in color experiences between people. For example, some people are color-blind, and to a person with jaundice much of the world takes on a yellow cast. In addition, the same object is perceived as having different colors by the same the person under different conditions: at noon and midnight, for example. Such variations are conspicuous in experiences of beauty as well.

Nevertheless, eighteenth-century philosophers such as Hume and Kant perceived that something important was lost when beauty was treated merely as a subjective state. They saw, for example, that controversies often arise about the beauty of particular things, such as works of art and literature, and that in such controversies, reasons can sometimes be given and will sometimes be found convincing. They saw, as well, that if beauty is completely relative to individual experiencers, it ceases to be a paramount value, or even recognizable as a value at all across persons or societies.

Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste” and Kant’s Critique Of Judgment attempt to find ways through what has been termed ‘the antinomy of taste.’ Taste is proverbially subjective: de gustibus non est disputandum (about taste there is no disputing). On the other hand, we do frequently dispute about matters of taste, and some persons are held up as exemplars of good taste or of tastelessness. Some people’s tastes appear vulgar or ostentatious, for example. Some people’s taste is too exquisitely refined, while that of others is crude, naive, or non-existent. Taste, that is, appears to be both subjective and objective: that is the antinomy.

Both Hume and Kant, as we have seen, begin by acknowledging that taste or the ability to detect or experience beauty is fundamentally subjective, that there is no standard of taste in the sense that the Canon was held to be, that if people did not experience certain kinds of pleasure, there would be no beauty. Both acknowledge that reasons can count, however, and that some tastes are better than others. In different ways, they both treat judgments of beauty neither precisely as purely subjective nor precisely as objective but, as we might put it, as inter-subjective or as having a social and cultural aspect, or as conceptually entailing an inter-subjective claim to validity.

Hume’s account focuses on the history and condition of the observer as he or she makes the judgment of taste. Our practices with regard to assessing people’s taste entail that judgments of taste that reflect idiosyncratic bias, ignorance, or superficiality are not as good as judgments that reflect wide-ranging acquaintance with various objects of judgment and are unaffected by arbitrary prejudices. “Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice, can alone entitle critics to this valuable character; and the joint verdict of such, wherever they are to found, is the true standard of taste and beauty” (“Of the Standard of Taste” 1757, 144).

Hume argues further that the verdicts of critics who possess those qualities tend to coincide, and approach unanimity in the long run, which accounts, for example, for the enduring veneration of the works of Homer or Milton. So the test of time, as assessed by the verdicts of the best critics, functions as something analogous to an objective standard. Though judgments of taste remain fundamentally subjective, and though certain contemporary works or objects may appear irremediably controversial, the long-run consensus of people who are in a good position to judge functions analogously to an objective standard and renders such standards unnecessary even if they could be identified. Though we cannot directly find a standard of beauty that sets out the qualities that a thing must possess in order to be beautiful, we can describe the qualities of a good critic or a tasteful person. Then the long-run consensus of such persons is the practical standard of taste and the means of justifying judgments about beauty.

Kant similarly concedes that taste is fundamentally subjective, that every judgment of beauty is based on a personal experience, and that such judgments vary from person to person.

By a principle of taste I mean a principle under the condition of which we could subsume the concept of the object, and thus infer, by means of a syllogism, that the object is beautiful. But that is absolutely impossible. For I must immediately feel the pleasure in the representation of the object, and of that I can be persuaded by no grounds of proof whatever. Although, as Hume says, all critics can reason more plausibly than cooks, yet the same fate awaits them. They cannot expect the determining ground of their judgment [to be derived] from the force of the proofs, but only from the reflection of the subject upon its own proper state of pleasure or pain. (Kant 1790, section 34)

But the claim that something is beautiful has more content merely than that it gives me pleasure. Something might please me for reasons entirely eccentric to myself: I might enjoy a bittersweet experience before a portrait of my grandmother, for example, or the architecture of a house might remind me of where I grew up. “No one cares about that,” says Kant (1790, section 7): no one begrudges me such experiences, but they make no claim to guide or correspond to the experiences of others.

By contrast, the judgment that something is beautiful, Kant argues, is a disinterested judgment. It does not respond to my idiosyncrasies, or at any rate if I am aware that it does, I will no longer take myself to be experiencing the beauty per se of the thing in question. Somewhat as in Hume—whose treatment Kant evidently had in mind—one must be unprejudiced to come to a genuine judgment of taste, and Kant gives that idea a very elaborate interpretation: the judgment must be made independently of the normal range of human desires—economic and sexual desires, for instance, which are examples of our ‘interests’ in this sense. If one is walking through a museum and admiring the paintings because they would be extremely expensive were they to come up for auction, for example, or wondering whether one could steal and fence them, one is not having an experience of the beauty of the paintings at all. One must focus on the form of the mental representation of the object for its own sake, as it is in itself. Kant summarizes this as the thought that insofar as one is having an experience of the beauty of something, one is indifferent to its existence. One takes pleasure, rather, in its sheer representation in one’s experience:

Now, when the question is whether something is beautiful, we do not want to know whether anything depends or can depend on the existence of the thing, either for myself or anyone else, but how we judge it by mere observation (intuition or reflection). … We easily see that, in saying it is beautiful, and in showing that I have taste, I am concerned, not with that in which I depend on the existence of the object, but with that which I make out of this representation in myself. Everyone must admit that a judgement about beauty, in which the least interest mingles, is very partial and is not a pure judgement of taste. (Kant 1790, section 2)

One important source of the concept of aesthetic disinterestedness is the Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s dialogue The Moralists, where the argument is framed in terms of a natural landscape: if you are looking at a beautiful valley primarily as a valuable real estate opportunity, you are not seeing it for its own sake, and cannot fully experience its beauty. If you are looking at a lovely woman and considering her as a possible sexual conquest, you are not able to experience her beauty in the fullest or purest sense; you are distracted from the form as represented in your experience. And Shaftesbury, too, localizes beauty to the representational capacity of the mind. (Shaftesbury 1738, 222)

For Kant, some beauties are dependent—relative to the sort of thing the object is—and others are free or absolute. A beautiful ox would be an ugly horse, but abstract textile designs, for example, may be beautiful in themselves without a reference group or “concept,” and flowers please whether or not we connect them to their practical purposes or functions in plant reproduction (Kant 1790, section 16). The idea in particular that free beauty is completely separated from practical use and that the experiencer of it is not concerned with the actual existence of the object leads Kant to conclude that absolute or free beauty is found in the form or design of the object, or as Clive Bell put it, in the arrangement of lines and colors (in the case of painting) (Bell 1914). By the time Bell writes in the early twentieth century, however, beauty is out of fashion in the arts, and Bell frames his view not in terms of beauty but in terms of a general formalist conception of aesthetic value.

Since in reaching a genuine judgment of taste one is aware that one is not responding to anything idiosyncratic in oneself, Kant asserts (1790, section 8), one will reach the conclusion that anyone similarly situated should have the same experience: that is, one will presume that there ought to be nothing to distinguish one person’s judgment from another’s (though in fact there may be). Built conceptually into the judgment of taste is the assertion that anyone similarly situated ought to have the same experience and reach the same judgment. Thus, built into judgments of taste is a ‘universalization’ somewhat analogous to the universalization that Kant associates with ethical judgments. In ethical judgments, however, the universalization is objective: if the judgment is true, then it is objectively the case that everyone ought to act on the maxim according to which one acts. In the case of aesthetic judgments, however, the judgment remains subjective, but necessarily contains the ‘demand’ that everyone should reach the same judgment. The judgment conceptually entails a claim to inter-subjective validity. This accounts for the fact that we do very often argue about judgments of taste, and that we find tastes that are different than our own defective.

The influence of this series of thoughts on philosophical aesthetics has been immense. One might mention related approaches taken by such figures as Schopenhauer, Hanslick, Bullough, and Croce, for example. A somewhat similar though more adamantly subjectivist line is taken by Santayana, who defines beauty as ‘objectified pleasure.’ The judgment of something that it is beautiful responds to the fact that it induces a certain sort of pleasure; but this pleasure is attributed to the object, as though the object itself were having subjective states.

We have now reached our definition of beauty, which, in the terms of our successive analysis and narrowing of the conception, is value positive, intrinsic, and objectified. Or, in less technical language, Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing. … Beauty is a value, that is, it is not a perception of a matter of fact or of a relation: it is an emotion, an affection of our volitional and appreciative nature. An object cannot be beautiful if it can give pleasure to nobody: a beauty to which all men were forever indifferent is a contradiction in terms. … Beauty is therefore a positive value that is intrinsic; it is a pleasure. (Santayana 1896, 50–51)

It is much as though one were attributing malice to a balky object or device. The object causes certain frustrations and is then ascribed an agency or a kind of subjective agenda that would account for its causing those effects. Now though Santayana thought the experience of beauty could be profound or could even be the meaning of life, this account appears to make beauty a sort of mistake: one attributes subjective states (indeed, one’s own) to a thing which in many instances is not capable of having subjective states.

It is worth saying that Santayana’s treatment of the topic in The Sense of Beauty (1896) was the last major account offered in English for some time, possibly because, once beauty has been admitted to be entirely subjective, much less when it is held to rest on a sort of mistake, there seems little more to be said. What stuck from Hume’s and Kant’s treatments was the subjectivity, not the heroic attempts to temper it. If beauty is a subjective pleasure, it would seem to have no higher status than anything that entertains, amuses, or distracts; it seems odd or ridiculous to regard it as being comparable in importance to truth or justice, for example. And the twentieth century also abandoned beauty as the dominant goal of the arts, again possibly in part because its trivialization in theory led artists to believe that they ought to pursue more real and more serious projects. This decline is explored eloquently in Arthur Danto’s book The Abuse of Beauty (2003).

However, there has been a revival of interest in beauty in both art and philosophy in recent years, and several theorists have made new attempts to address the antinomy of taste. To some extent, such approaches echo G.E. Moore’s: “To say that a thing is beautiful is to say, not indeed that it is itself good, but that it is a necessary element in something which is: to prove that a thing is truly beautiful is to prove that a whole, to which it bears a particular relation as a part, is truly good” (Moore 1903, 201). One interpretation of this would be that what is fundamentally valuable is the situation in which the object and the person experiencing are both embedded; the value of beauty might include both features of the beautiful object and the pleasures of the experiencer.

Similarly, Crispin Sartwell in his book Six Names of Beauty (2004), attributes beauty neither exclusively to the subject nor to the object, but to the relation between them, and even more widely also to the situation or environment in which they are both embedded. He points out that when we attribute beauty to the night sky, for instance, we do not take ourselves simply to be reporting a state of pleasure in ourselves; we are turned outward toward it; we are celebrating the real world. On the other hand, if there were no perceivers capable of experiencing such things, there would be no beauty. Beauty, rather, emerges in situations in which subject and object are juxtaposed and connected.

Alexander Nehamas, in Only a Promise of Happiness (2007), characterizes beauty as an invitation to further experiences, a way that things invite us in, while also possibly fending us off. The beautiful object invites us to explore and interpret, but it also requires us to explore and interpret: beauty is not to be regarded as an instantaneously apprehensible feature of surface. And Nehamas, like Hume and Kant, though in another register, considers beauty to have an irreducibly social dimension. Beauty is something we share, or something we want to share, and shared experiences of beauty are particularly intense forms of communication. Thus, the experience of beauty is not primarily within the skull of the experiencer, but connects observers and objects such as works of art and literature in communities of appreciation.

Aesthetic judgment, I believe, never commands universal agreement, and neither a beautiful object nor a work of art ever engages a catholic community. Beauty creates smaller societies, no less important or serious because they are partial, and, from the point of view of its members, each one is orthodox—orthodox, however, without thinking of all others as heresies. … What is involved is less a matter of understanding and more a matter of hope, of establishing a community that centers around it—a community, to be sure, whose boundaries are constantly shifting and whose edges are never stable. (Nehamas 2007, 80–81)

2. Philosophical Conceptions of Beauty

Each of the views sketched below has many expressions, some of which may be incompatible with one another. In many or perhaps most of the actual formulations, elements of more than one such account are present. For example, Kant’s treatment of beauty in terms of disinterested pleasure has obvious elements of hedonism, while the ecstatic neo-Platonism of Plotinus includes not only the unity of the object, but also the fact that beauty calls out love or adoration. However, it is also worth remarking how divergent or even incompatible with one another many of these views are: for example, some philosophers associate beauty exclusively with use, others precisely with uselessness.

2.1 The Classical Conception

The art historian Heinrich Wölfflin gives a fundamental description of the classical conception of beauty, as embodied in Italian Renaissance painting and architecture:

The central idea of the Italian Renaissance is that of perfect proportion. In the human figure as in the edifice, this epoch strove to achieve the image of perfection at rest within itself. Every form developed to self-existent being, the whole freely co-ordinated: nothing but independently living parts…. In the system of a classic composition, the single parts, however firmly they may be rooted in the whole, maintain a certain independence. It is not the anarchy of primitive art: the part is conditioned by the whole, and yet does not cease to have its own life. For the spectator, that presupposes an articulation, a progress from part to part, which is a very different operation from perception as a whole. (Wölfflin 1932, 9–10, 15)

The classical conception is that beauty consists of an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole, according to proportion, harmony, symmetry, and similar notions. This is a primordial Western conception of beauty, and is embodied in classical and neo-classical architecture, sculpture, literature, and music wherever they appear. Aristotle says in the Poetics that “to be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must … present a certain order in its arrangement of parts” (Aristotle, volume 2, 2322 [1450b34]). And in the Metaphysics: “The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree” (Aristotle, volume 2 1705 [1078a36]). This view, as Aristotle implies, is sometimes boiled down to a mathematical formula, such as the golden section, but it need not be thought of in such strict terms. The conception is exemplified above all in such texts as Euclid’s Elements and such works of architecture as the Parthenon, and, again, by the Canon of the sculptor Polykleitos (late fifth/early fourth century BCE).

The Canon was not only a statue deigned to display perfect proportion, but a now-lost treatise on beauty. The physician Galen characterizes the text as specifying, for example, the proportions of “the finger to the finger, and of all the fingers to the metacarpus, and the wrist, and of all these to the forearm, and of the forearm to the arm, in fact of everything to everything…. For having taught us in that treatise all the symmetriae of the body, Polyclitus supported his treatise with a work, having made the statue of a man according to his treatise, and having called the statue itself, like the treatise, the Canon” (quoted in Pollitt 1974, 15). It is important to note that the concept of ‘symmetry’ in classical texts is distinct from and richer than its current use to indicate bilateral mirroring. It also refers precisely to the sorts of harmonious and measurable proportions among the parts characteristic of objects that are beautiful in the classical sense, which carried also a moral weight. For example, in the Sophist (228c-e), Plato describes virtuous souls as symmetrical.

The ancient Roman architect Vitruvius gives as good a characterization of the classical conception as any, both in its complexities and, appropriately enough, in its underlying unity:

Architecture consists of Order, which in Greek is called taxis, and arrangement, which the Greeks name diathesis, and of Proportion and Symmetry and Decor and Distribution which in the Greeks is called oeconomia.

Order is the balanced adjustment of the details of the work separately, and as to the whole, the arrangement of the proportion with a view to a symmetrical result.

Proportion implies a graceful semblance: the suitable display of details in their context. This is attained when the details of the work are of a height suitable to their breadth, of a breadth suitable to their length; in a word, when everything has a symmetrical correspondence.

Symmetry also is the appropriate harmony arising out of the details of the work itself: the correspondence of each given detail to the form of the design as a whole. As in the human body, from cubit, foot, palm, inch and other small parts come the symmetric quality of eurhythmy. (Vitruvius, 26–27)

Aquinas, in a typically Aristotelian pluralist formulation, says that “There are three requirements for beauty. Firstly, integrity or perfection—for if something is impaired it is ugly. Then there is due proportion or consonance. And also clarity: whence things that are brightly coloured are called beautiful” (Summa Theologica I, 39, 8).

Francis Hutcheson in the eighteenth century gives what may well be the clearest expression of the view: “What we call Beautiful in Objects, to speak in the Mathematical Style, seems to be in a compound Ratio of Uniformity and Variety; so that where the Uniformity of Bodys is equal, the Beauty is as the Variety; and where the Variety is equal, the Beauty is as the Uniformity” (Hutcheson 1725, 29). Indeed, proponents of the view often speak “in the Mathematical Style.” Hutcheson goes on to adduce mathematical formulae, and specifically the propositions of Euclid, as the most beautiful objects (in another echo of Aristotle), though he also rapturously praises nature, with its massive complexity underlain by universal physical laws as revealed, for example, by Newton. There is beauty, he says, “In the Knowledge of some great Principles, or universal Forces, from which innumerable Effects do flow. Such is Gravitation, in Sir Isaac Newton’s Scheme” (Hutcheson 1725, 38).

A very compelling series of refutations of and counter-examples to the idea that beauty can be a matter of any specific proportions between parts, and hence to the classical conception, is given by Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Beautiful and the Sublime:

Turning our eyes to the vegetable kingdom, we find nothing there so beautiful as flowers; but flowers are of every sort of shape, and every sort of disposition; they are turned and fashioned into an infinite variety of forms. … The rose is a large flower, yet it grows upon a small shrub; the flower of the apple is very small, and it grows upon a large tree; yet the rose and the apple blossom are both beautiful. … The swan, confessedly a beautiful bird, has a neck longer than the rest of its body, and but a very short tail; is this a beautiful proportion? we must allow that it is. But what shall we say of the peacock, who has comparatively but a short neck, with a tail longer than the neck and the rest of the body taken together? … There are some parts of the human body, that are observed to hold certain proportions to each other; but before it can be proved, that the efficient cause of beauty lies in these, it must be shewn, that wherever these are found exact, the person to whom they belong is beautiful. … For my part, I have at several times very carefully examined many of these proportions, and found them to hold very nearly, or altogether alike in many subjects, which were not only very different from one another, but where one has been very beautiful, and the other very remote from beauty. … You may assign any proportions you please to every part of the of the human body; and I undertake, that a painter shall observe them all, and notwithstanding produce, if he pleases, a very ugly figure. (Burke 1757, 84–89)

2.2 The Idealist Conception

There are many ways to interpret Plato’s relation to classical aesthetics. The political system sketched in The Republic characterizes justice in terms of the relation of part and whole. But Plato was also no doubt a dissident in classical culture, and the account of beauty that is expressed specifically in The Symposium—perhaps the key Socratic text for neo-Platonism and for the idealist conception of beauty—expresses an aspiration toward beauty as perfect unity.

In the midst of a drinking party, Socrates recounts the teachings of his instructress, one Diotima, on matters of love. She connects the experience of beauty to the erotic or the desire to reproduce (Plato, 558–59 [Symposium 206c–207e]). But the desire to reproduce is associated in turn with a desire for the immortal or eternal: ‘And why all this longing for propagation? Because this is the one deathless and eternal element in our mortality. And since we have agreed that the lover longs for the good to be his own forever, it follows that we are bound to long for immortality as well as for the good—which is to say that Love is a longing for immortality” (Plato, 559, [Symposium 206e–207a]). What follows is, if not classical, at any rate classic:

The candidate for this initiation cannot, if his efforts are to be rewarded, begin too early to devote himself to the beauties of the body. First of all, if his preceptor instructs him as he should, he will fall in love with the beauty of one individual body, so that his passion may give life to noble discourse. Next he must consider how nearly related the beauty of any one body is to the beauty of any other, and he will see that if he is to devote himself to loveliness of form it will be absurd to deny that the beauty of each and every body is the same. Having reached this point, he must set himself to be the lover of every lovely body, and bring his passion for the one into due proportion by deeming it of little or no importance.

Next he must grasp that the beauties of the body are as nothing to the beauties of the soul, so that wherever he meets with spiritual loveliness, even in the husk of an unlovely body, he will find it beautiful enough to fall in love with and cherish—and beautiful enough to quicken in his heart a longing for such discourse as tends toward the building of a noble nature. And from this he will be led to contemplate the beauty of laws and institutions. And when he discovers how every kind of beauty is akin to every other he will conclude that the beauty of the body is not, after all, of so great moment. …

And so, when his prescribed devotion to boyish beauties has carried our candidate so far that the universal beauty dawns upon his inward sight, he is almost within reach of the final revelation. … Starting from individual beauties, the quest for universal beauty must find him mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung—that is, from one to two, and from two to every lovely body, and from bodily beauty to the beauty of institutions, from institutions to learning, and from learning in general to the special lore that pertains to nothing but the beautiful itself—until at last he comes to know what beauty is.

And if, my dear Socrates, Diotima went on, man’s life is ever worth living, it is when he has attained this vision of the very soul of beauty. (Plato, 561–63 [Symposium 210a–211d])

Beauty here is conceived—perhaps explicitly in contrast to the classical aesthetics of integral parts and coherent whole—as perfect unity, or indeed as the principle of unity itself.

Plotinus, as we have already seen, comes close to equating beauty with formedness per se: it is the source of unity among disparate things, and it is itself perfect unity. Plotinus specifically attacks what we have called the classical conception of beauty:

Almost everyone declares that the symmetry of parts towards each other and towards a whole, with, besides, a certain charm of colour, constitutes the beauty recognized by the eye, that in visible things, as indeed in all else, universally, the beautiful thing is essentially symmetrical, patterned.

But think what this means.

Only a compound can be beautiful, never anything devoid of parts; and only a whole; the several parts will have beauty, not in themselves, but only as working together to give a comely total. Yet beauty in an aggregate demands beauty in details; it cannot be constructed out of ugliness; its law must run throughout.

All the loveliness of colour and even the light of the sun, being devoid of parts and so not beautiful by symmetry, must be ruled out of the realm of beauty. And how comes gold to be a beautiful thing? And lightning by night, and the stars, why are these so fair?

In sounds also the simple must be proscribed, though often in a whole noble composition each several tone is delicious in itself. (Plotinus, 21 [Ennead 1.6])

And Plotinus declares that fire is the most beautiful physical thing, “making ever upwards, the subtlest and sprightliest of all bodies, as very near to the unembodied. … Hence the splendour of its light, the splendour that belongs to the Idea” (Plotinus, 22 [Ennead 1.3]). For Plotinus as for Plato, all multiplicity must be immolated finally into unity, and all roads of inquiry and experience lead toward the Good/Beautiful/True/Divine.

This gave rise to a basically mystical vision of the beauty of God that, as Umberto Eco has argued, persisted alongside an anti-aesthetic asceticism throughout the Middle Ages: a delight in profusion that finally merges into a single spiritual unity. In the sixth century, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite characterized the whole of creation as yearning toward God; the universe is called into being by love of God as beauty (Pseudo-Dionysius, 4.7; see Kirwan 1999, 29). Sensual/aesthetic pleasures could be considered the expressions of the immense, beautiful profusion of God and our ravishment thereby. Eco quotes Suger, Abbot of St Denis in the twelfth century, describing a richly-appointed church:

Thus, when—out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God—the loveliness of the many-colored gems has called me away from external cares, and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect, transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial, on the diversity of the sacred virtues: then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling, as it were, in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven; and that, by the grace of God, I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world in an anagogical manner. (Eco 1959, 14)

This conception has had many expressions in the modern era, including in such figures as Shaftesbury, Schiller, and Hegel, according to whom the aesthetic or the experience of art and beauty is a primary bridge (or to use the Platonic image, stairway or ladder) between the material and the spiritual. For Shaftesbury, there are three levels of beauty: what God makes (nature); what human beings make from nature or what is transformed by human intelligence (art, for example); and finally what makes even the maker of such things as us (that is, God). Shaftesbury’s character Theocles describes “the third order of beauty,”

which forms not only such as we call mere forms but even the forms which form. For we ourselves are notable architects in matter, and can show lifeless bodies brought into form, and fashioned by our own hands, but that which fashions even minds themselves, contains in itself all the beauties fashioned by those minds, and is consequently the principle, source, and fountain of all beauty. … Whatever appears in our second order of forms, or whatever is derived or produced from thence, all this is eminently, principally, and originally in this last order of supreme and sovereign beauty. … Thus architecture, music, and all which is of human invention, resolves itself into this last order. (Shaftesbury 1738, 228–29)

Schiller’s expression of a similar series of thoughts was fundamentally influential on the conceptions of beauty developed within German Idealism:

The pre-rational concept of Beauty, if such a thing be adduced, can be drawn from no actual case—rather does itself correct and guide our judgement concerning every actual case; it must therefore be sought along the path of abstraction, and it can be inferred simply from the possibility of a nature that is both sensuous and rational; in a word, Beauty must be exhibited as a necessary condition of humanity. Beauty … makes of man a whole, complete in himself. (1795, 59–60, 86)

For Schiller, beauty or play or art (he uses the words, rather cavalierly, almost interchangeably) performs the process of integrating or rendering compatible the natural and the spiritual, or the sensuous and the rational: only in such a state of integration are we—who exist simultaneously on both these levels—free. This is quite similar to Plato’s ‘ladder’: beauty as a way to ascend to the abstract or spiritual. But Schiller—though this is at times unclear—is more concerned with integrating the realms of nature and spirit than with transcending the level of physical reality entirely, a la Plato. It is beauty and art that performs this integration.

In this and in other ways—including the tripartite dialectical structure of the view—Schiller strikingly anticipates Hegel, who writes as follows.

The philosophical Concept of the beautiful, to indicate its true nature at least in a preliminary way, must contain, reconciled within itself, both the extremes which have been mentioned [the ideal and the empirical] because it unites metaphysical universality with real particularity. (Hegel 1835, 22)

Beauty, we might say, or artistic beauty at any rate, is a route from the sensuous and particular to the Absolute and to freedom, from finitude to the infinite, formulations that—while they are influenced by Schiller—strikingly recall Shaftesbury, Plotinus, and Plato.

Both Hegel and Shaftesbury, who associate beauty and art with mind and spirit, hold that the beauty of art is higher than the beauty of nature, on the grounds that, as Hegel puts it, “the beauty of art is born of the spirit and born again” (Hegel 1835, 2). That is, the natural world is born of God, but the beauty of art transforms that material again by the spirit of the artist. This idea reaches is apogee in Benedetto Croce, who very nearly denies that nature can ever be beautiful, or at any rate asserts that the beauty of nature is a reflection of the beauty of art. “The real meaning of ‘natural beauty’ is that certain persons, things, places are, by the effect which they exert upon one, comparable with poetry, painting, sculpture, and the other arts” (Croce 1928, 230).

2.3 Love and Longing

Edmund Burke, expressing an ancient tradition, writes that, “by beauty I mean, that quality or those qualities in bodies, by which they cause love, or some passion similar to it” (Burke 1757, 83). As we have seen, in almost all treatments of beauty, even the most apparently object or objectively-oriented, there is a moment in which the subjective qualities of the experience of beauty are emphasized: rhapsodically, perhaps, or in terms of pleasure or ataraxia, as in Schopenhauer. For example, we have already seen Plotinus, for whom beauty is certainly not subjective, describe the experience of beauty ecstatically. In the idealist tradition, the human soul, as it were, recognizes in beauty its true origin and destiny. Among the Greeks, the connection of beauty with love is proverbial from early myth, and Aphrodite the goddess of love won the Judgment of Paris by promising Paris the most beautiful woman in the world.

There is an historical connection between idealist accounts of beauty and those that connect it to love and longing, though there would seem to be no entailment either way. We have Sappho’s famous fragment 16: “Some say thronging cavalry, some say foot soldiers, others call a fleet the most beautiful sights the dark world offers, but I say it’s whatever you love best” (Sappho, 16). (Indeed, at Phaedrus 236c, Socrates appears to defer to “the fair Sappho” as having had greater insight than himself on love [Plato, 483].)

Plato’s discussions of beauty in the Symposium and the Phaedrus occur in the context of the theme of erotic love. In the former, love is portrayed as the ‘child’ of poverty and plenty. “Nor is he delicate and lovely as most of us believe, but harsh and arid, barefoot and homeless” (Plato, 556 [Symposium 203b–d]). Love is portrayed as a lack or absence that seeks its own fulfillment in beauty: a picture of mortality as an infinite longing. Love is always in a state of lack and hence of desire: the desire to possess the beautiful. Then if this state of infinite longing could be trained on the truth, we would have a path to wisdom. The basic idea has been recovered many times, for example by the Romantics. It fueled the cult of idealized or courtly love through the Middle Ages, in which the beloved became a symbol of the infinite.

Recent work on the theory of beauty has revived this idea, and turning away from pleasure has turned toward love or longing (which are not necessarily entirely pleasurable experiences) as the experiential correlate of beauty. Both Sartwell and Nehamas use Sappho’s fragment 16 as an epigraph. Sartwell defines beauty as “the object of longing” and characterizes longing as intense and unfulfilled desire. He calls it a fundamental condition of a finite being in time, where we are always in the process of losing whatever we have, and are thus irremediably in a state of longing. And Nehamas writes

I think of beauty as the emblem of what we lack, the mark of an art that speaks to our desire. … Beautiful things don’t stand aloof, but direct our attention and our desire to everything else we must learn or acquire in order to understand and possess, and they quicken the sense of life, giving it new shape and direction. (Nehamas 2007, 77)

2.4 Hedonist Conceptions

Thinkers of the 18th century—many of them oriented toward empiricism—accounted for beauty in terms of pleasure. The Italian historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori, for example, in quite a typical formulation, says that “By beautiful we generally understand whatever, when seen, heard, or understood, delights, pleases, and ravishes us by causing within us agreeable sensations” (see Carritt 1931, 60). In Hutcheson it is not clear whether we ought to conceive beauty primarily in terms of classical formal elements or in terms of the viewer’s pleasurable response. He begins the Inquiry Into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue with a discussion of pleasure. And he appears to assert that objects which instantiate his “compound ratio of uniformity and variety’ are peculiarly or necessarily capable of producing pleasure:

The only Pleasure of sense, which our Philosophers seem to consider, is that which accompanys the simple Ideas of Sensation; But there are vastly greater Pleasures in those complex Ideas of objects, which obtain the Names of Beautiful, Regular, Harmonious. Thus every one acknowledges he is more delighted with a fine Face, a just Picture, than with the View of any one Colour, were it as strong and lively as possible; and more pleased with a Prospect of the Sun arising among settled Clouds, and colouring their Edges, with a starry Hemisphere, a fine Landskip, a regular Building, than with a clear blue Sky, a smooth Sea, or a large open Plain, not diversify’d by Woods, Hills, Waters, Buildings: And yet even these latter Appearances are not quite simple. So in Musick, the Pleasure of fine Composition is incomparably greater than that of any one Note, how sweet, full, or swelling soever. (Hutcheson 1725, 22)

When Hutcheson then goes on to describe ‘original or absolute beauty,’ he does it, as we have seen, in terms of the qualities of the beautiful thing, and yet throughout, he insists that beauty is centered in the human experience of pleasure. But of course the idea of pleasure could come apart from Hutcheson’s particular aesthetic preferences, which are poised precisely opposite Plotinus’s, for example. That we find pleasure in a symmetrical rather than an asymmetrical building (if we do) is contingent. But that beauty is connected to pleasure appears, according to Hutcheson, to be necessary, and the pleasure which is the locus of beauty itself has ideas rather than things as its object.

Hume writes in a similar vein in the Treatise of Human Nature:

Beauty is such an order and construction of parts as, either by the primary constitution of our nature, by custom, or by caprice, is fitted to give a pleasure and satisfaction to the soul. … Pleasure and pain, therefore, are not only necessary attendants of beauty and deformity, but constitute their very essence. (Hume 1740, 299)

Though this appears ambiguous as between locating the beauty in the pleasure or in the impression or idea that causes it, Hume is soon talking about the ‘sentiment of beauty,’ where sentiment is, roughly, a pleasurable or painful response to impressions or ideas, though beauty is a matter of cultivated or delicate pleasures. Indeed, by the time of Kant’s Third Critique and after that for perhaps two centuries, the direct connection of beauty to pleasure is taken as a commonplace, to the point where thinkers are frequently identifying beauty as a certain sort of pleasure. Santayana, for example, as we have seen, while still gesturing in the direction of the object or experience that causes pleasure, emphatically identifies beauty as a certain sort of pleasure.

One result of this approach to beauty—or perhaps an extreme expression of this orientation—is the assertion of the positivists that words such as ‘beauty’ are meaningless or without cognitive content, or are mere expressions of subjective approval. Hume and Kant were no sooner declaring beauty to be a matter of sentiment or pleasure and therefore to be subjective than they were trying to ameliorate the sting, largely by emphasizing critical consensus. But once this fundamental admission is made, any consensus is contingent. Another way to formulate this is that it appears to certain thinkers after Hume and Kant that there can be no reasons to prefer the consensus to a counter-consensus assessment. A.J. Ayer writes:

Such aesthetic words as ‘beautiful’ and ‘hideous’ are employed … not to make statements of fact, but simply to express certain feelings and evoke a certain response. It follows…that there is no sense attributing objective validity to aesthetic judgments, and no possibility of arguing about questions of value in aesthetics. (Ayer 1952, 113)

All meaningful claims either concern the meaning of terms or are empirical, in which case they are meaningful because observations could confirm or disconfirm them. ‘That song is beautiful’ has neither status, and hence has no empirical or conceptual content. It merely expresses a positive attitude of a particular viewer; it is an expression of pleasure, like a satisfied sigh. The question of beauty is not a genuine question, and we can safely leave it behind or alone. Most twentieth-century philosophers did just that.

2.5 Use and Uselessness

Philosophers in the Kantian tradition identify the experience of beauty with disinterested pleasure, psychical distance, and the like, and contrast the aesthetic with the practical. “Taste is the faculty of judging an object or mode of representing it by an entirely disinterested satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The object of such satisfaction is called beautiful” (Kant 1790, 45). Edward Bullough distinguishes the beautiful from the merely agreeable on the grounds that the former requires a distance from practical concerns: “Distance is produced in the first instance by putting the phenomenon, so to speak, out of gear with our practical, actual self; by allowing it to stand outside the context of our personal needs and ends.“ (Bullough 1912, 244)

On the other hand, many philosophers have gone in the opposite direction and have identified beauty with suitedness to use. ‘Beauty’ is perhaps one of the few terms that could plausibly sustain such entirely opposed interpretations.

According to Diogenes Laertius, the ancient hedonist Aristippus of Cyrene took a rather direct approach.

Is not then, also, a beautiful woman useful in proportion as she is beautiful; and a boy and a youth useful in proportion to their beauty? Well then, a handsome boy and a handsome youth must be useful exactly in proportion as they are handsome. Now the use of beauty is, to be embraced. If then a man embraces a woman just as it is useful that he should, he does not do wrong; nor, again, will he be doing wrong in employing beauty for the purposes for which it is useful. (Diogenes Laertius, 94)

In some ways, Aristippus is portrayed parodically: as the very worst of the sophists, though supposedly a follower of Socrates. And yet the idea of beauty as suitedness to use finds expression in a number of thinkers. Xenophon’s Memorabilia puts the view in the mouth of Socrates, with Aristippus as interlocutor:

Socrates: In short everything which we use is considered both good and beautiful from the same point of view, namely its use.

Aristippus: Why then, is a dung-basket a beautiful thing?

Socrates: Of course it is, and a golden shield is ugly, if the one be beautifully fitted to its purpose and the other ill. (Xenophon, Book III, viii)

Berkeley expresses a similar view in his dialogue Alciphron, though he begins with the hedonist conception: “Every one knows that beauty is what pleases” (Berkeley 1732, 174, see Carritt 1931, 75). But it pleases for reasons of usefulness. Thus, as Xenophon suggests, on this view, things are beautiful only in relation to the uses for which they are intended or to which they are properly applied. The proper proportions of an object depend on what kind of object it is, and again a beautiful ox would make an ugly horse. “The parts, therefore, in true proportions, must be so related, and adjusted to one another, as they may best conspire to the use and operation of the whole” (Berkeley 1732, 174–75, see Carritt 1931, 76). One result of this is that, though beauty remains tied to pleasure, it is not an immediate sensible experience. It essentially requires intellection and practical activity: one has to know the use of a thing, and assess its suitedness to that use.

This treatment of beauty is often used, for example, to criticize the distinction between fine art and craft, and it avoids sheer philistinism by enriching the concept of ‘use,’ so that it might encompass not only performing a practical task, but performing it especially well or with an especial satisfaction. Ananda Coomaraswamy, the Ceylonese-British scholar of Indian and European medieval arts, adds that a beautiful work of art or craft expresses as well as serves its purpose.

A cathedral is not as such more beautiful than an airplane, … a hymn than a mathematical equation. … A well-made sword is not more beautiful than a well-made scalpel, though one is used to slay, the other to heal. Works of art are only good or bad, beautiful or ugly in themselves, to the extent that they are or are not well and truly made, that is, do or do not express, or do or do not serve their purpose. (Coomaraswamy 1977, 75)

Roger Scruton, in his book Beauty (2009) returns to a modified Kantianism with regard to both beauty and sublimity, enriched by many and varied examples. “We call something beautiful,” writes Scruton, “when we gain pleasure from contemplating it as an individual object, for its own sake, and in its presented form.” (Scruton 2009, 26)

Despite the Kantian framework, Scruton, like Sartwell and Nehamas, throws the subjective/objective distinction into question. He compares experiencing a beautiful thing to a kiss. To kiss someone that one loves is not merely to place one body part on another, “but to touch the other person in his very self. Hence the kiss is compromising – it is a move from one self toward another, and a summoning of the other into the surface of his being.” (Scruton 2009, 48)

Bibliography

  • Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica, Fathers of the English Dominican Province, trans., London: Christian Classics, 1981 [13th century text].
  • Augustine, Earlier Writings, J.H. Burleigh, ed., New York: WJK Publishing, 1953 [4th/5th century AD text].
  • Aristotle, The Complete Works of Aristotle, in two volumes, Jonathan Barnes, ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984 [4th century BCE text].
  • Ayer, A.J., 1952, Language, Truth, and Logic, New York: Dover.
  • Bell, Clive, 1914, Art, London: Chatto & Windus.
  • Berkeley, Bishop George, 1732, Alciphron: or, The Minute Philosopher, London: Tonson and Co.
  • Bullough, Edward, 1912. “‘Psychical Distance’ as a Factor in Art and as an Aesthetic Principle,” British Journal of Psychology, 5. Widely anthologized, e.g., in Cahn, Steven and Meskin, Aaron, 2008. Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Burke, Edmund, 1757, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
  • Carritt, E.F., 1931, Philosophies of Beauty, London: Oxford University Press.
  • Coomaraswamy, Ananda, 1977, Traditional Art and Symbolism (Selected Papers, volume 1), Princeton: Bollingen.
  • Croce, Benedetto, 1928, “Aesthetica in Nunc,” in Philosophy, Poetry, History, Cecil Sprigge, trans., London: Oxford University Press, 1966.
  • Danto, Arthur, 2003, The Abuse of Beauty, Chicago: Open Court.
  • Diogenes Laertius, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, C.D. Yonge trans., New York: George Bell & Sons, 1895 [3rd century CE text].
  • Eco, Umberto, 1959, Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages, Hugh Bredin, trans., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986.
  • Hanslick, Eduard, 1891, The Beautiful in Music, Gustav Cohen, trans., London: Novello and Company.
  • Hegel, G.W.F., 1835, Hegel’s Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, in two volumes, T.M. Knox, trans., Oxford: Clarendon, 1975.
  • Hume, David, 1757, “Of the Standard of Taste,” Essays Moral and Political, London: George Routledge and Sons, 1894.
  • –––, 1740, A Treatise of Human Nature, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Hutcheson, Francis, 1725, An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004.
  • Kant, Immanuel, 1790, Critique of Judgement, J.H. Bernard, trans., New York: Macmillan, 1951.
  • Kirwan, James, 1999. Beauty, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Moore, G.E., 1903, Principia Ethica, Mineola, NY: Dover, 2004.
  • Mothersill, Mary, 1984, Beauty Restored, Oxford: Clarendon.
  • Nehamas, Alexander, 2007, Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Plato, Collected Dialogues, Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, eds., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961 [4th century BCE text].
  • Plotinus, The Six Enneads, Stephen McKenna and B.S. Page, trans., Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Publishing, 1952 [3rd century CE text].
  • Pollitt, J.J., 1974, The Ancient View of Greek Art, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Pseudo-Dionysius, Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, John Parker, trans., London: James Parker and Co., 1897 [originally 5th or 6th century CE].
  • Santayana, George, 1896, The Sense of Beauty, New York: Scribner’s.
  • Sappho, The Poetry of Sappho, Jim Powell, trans., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007 [7th or 6th century BCE text].
  • Sartwell, Crispin, 2004, Six Names of Beauty, New York: Routledge
  • Schiller, Friedrich, 1795, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, New York: Dover, 2004.
  • Schopenhauer, Arthur, 1818, The World as Will and Idea, E.F.J. Payne, trans., New York: Dover, 1966.
  • Scruton, Roger, 2009, Beauty, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Shaftesbury, Third Earl of, 1738, “The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody, “ Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001.
  • Vitruvius, On Architecture, Frank Granger, trans., Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970 [originally 1st century BCE].
  • Wölfflin, Heinrich, 1932, Principles of Art History, M.D. Hottinger, trans., New York: Dover, 1950.
  • Xenophon, Memorabilia, E. C. Marchant, trans., Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1923 [4th century BCE text].

 

Please see my related post:

Shapes and Patterns in Nature

 

 

 

 

On Classical Virtues

On Classical Virtues

 

 

Keywords:

  • Aristotle
  • Ethics
  • Psychopathology
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cardinal virtues
  • Temperance
  • Fortitude
  • Prudence
  • Justice

 

 

Aristotle’s Cardinal Virtues:
Their Application to Assessment of Psychopathology and Psychotherapy

The roots of virtue theory lie in pre-Socratic times but commenced in earnest with Socrates’ infuriating questioning of the values and beliefs of his fellow Athenians. The theory was significantly advanced by Plato and was definitively elaborated by Aristotle himself in his two ethical treatises, the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics. Aristotelian thought was preserved by Arab scholars during the so-called Dark Ages and rediscovered by Christian thinkers during the high Middle Ages. Aristotelian moral philosophy was then incorporated into Christian moral theology/philosophy, particularly by Thomas Aquinas.

Of course, the elaboration of virtue ethics did not cease with Aristotle but continued as a major philosophical theme of the Stoics, Cynics, Epicureans, and other ancient philosophical schools. As one author put it, ‚virtue ethics persisted as the dominant approach in Western moral philosophy until at least the Enlightenment‛ (Hursthouse, 2007, p.1), and it survives today, alongside its rivals, deontology and consequentialism. However, the present essay is based solely on Aristotle’s views.

Screen Shot 2019-12-09 at 10.48.15 AMScreen Shot 2019-12-09 at 11.22.31 AMScreen Shot 2019-12-09 at 11.23.13 AM

How are virtues assigned?

  • By profession – Class System
  • By family ? – Caste System

 

Virtues and Classes in Greece

Temperance was common to all classes, but primarily associated with the producing classes, the farmers and craftsmen, and with the animal appetites, to whom no special virtue was assigned; fortitude was assigned to the warrior class and to the spirited element in man; prudence to the rulers and to reason. Justice stands outside the class system and divisions of man, and rules the proper relationship among the three of them.

And what about development? Can virtues be acquired?

Through life practice

  • Contemplation
  • Meditation
  • Tapasya
  • Hatha Yoga

Through Karma/action

  • Charity
  • Devotion

Aristotle, being the grounded empiricist he was, noted a number of variables that either enhance or hinder a person’s development of virtues; and he stated that, in order to develop higher levels of virtues, a person must have the ‘good fortune’ to be in circumstances that favour the enhancement variables. Perhaps the most crucial of these variables is the family. Aristotle clearly recognized that virtues spring from appropriate socialization within the family and, thus, have a strong developmental underpinning. Children learn virtuous character traits by specific training in those dispositions, ideally accomplished in a strong, two parent family unit. He clearly believed that one of the impediments to acquiring virtue was the lack of a family structure capable of such training. In fact, contrary to Plato, he argued in favour of the value of the family and condemned adultery as always wrong because it undermines family structure—specifically, the relation- ship between husband and wife.

Aristotle believed that childhood training was a sine qua non for the full flowering of virtue but never sufficient in and of itself. Mature virtue is gained in adulthood when cognitive processes are developed enough to reflect on goals in life. Kraut (2007, p.6) summarizes this developmental process as follows:

We approach ethical theory with a disorganized bundle of likes and dislikes based on habit and experience; such disorder is an inevitable feature of childhood. But what is not inevitable is that our early experience will be rich enough to provide an adequate basis for worthwhile ethical reflection; That is why we need to be brought up well. Yet such an upbringing can take us only so far <we must systematize our goals so that as adults we have a coherent plan of life. We need to engage in ethical theory, and to reason well in this field if we are to move beyond the low-grade form of virtue we acquired as children.

Other variables Aristotle recognized as influencing our ability to develop virtues include the culture in general, sufficient income, enough power to resist being overwhelmed by the less virtuous, a positive body image, parents who live long enough to raise you, and peer support. Had Aristotle lived in the 20th/21st centuries, he might have added a number of variables to the list: sufficient cognitive ability to learn, an intact central nervous system free of genetic elements generating psychopathology and/or learning disabilities, birth into one of the developed countries with access to education, and many others. Clinicians everyday see how these and related deficits interfere with the proper socialization of children.

 

And, use of virtues in Psychotherapy and Psychopathology

 

In addition, Aristotle recognized certain ‘internal disorders’ that appear to have some similarity to various psychopathologies in today’s understanding and can lead to virtue deficiency. These virtue deficits occur when emotions, such as an appetite for pleasure, anger, fear, depression and such, exert pressure on the rational expression of virtue. The first—the ‘incontinent’—are less able than the truly virtuous to resist the counter pressures of emotion and conflict as they threaten breakthrough. A variety of mental disorders, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (2000) might well fall under this category, and the persons affected would present with a plethora of combinations of psychological and neuro- psychological negatives and histories of family dysfunction. The second—the ‘evil’ (kakos in Greek)—refuse to behave according to virtuous standards. Aristotle seemed to believe they have decided virtues have no value; and, therefore, they seek domination of others and sensual pleasures. In modern psychopathology these individuals might fall under the antisocial personality disorder category, and they would not be seen as making studied rational choices about whether or not to practice virtue.

Of course, the parallels between Aristotle’s recognition of these disorders and modern understandings are far from precise; yet, Aristotle showed great depth of understanding in recognizing that disorders of emotion can disrupt virtue formation.

 

From Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinal_virtues

Four cardinal virtues were recognized by Plato and in the Bible, classical antiquity and in traditional Christian theology:

  • Prudence (φρόνησις, phronēsis; Latin: prudentia; also Wisdom, Sophia, sapientia), the ability to discern the appropriate course of action to be taken in a given situation at the appropriate time.
  • Courage (ἀνδρεία, andreia; Latin: fortitudo): also termed fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation
  • Temperance (σωφροσύνη, sōphrosynē; Latin: temperantia): also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, discretion, and moderation tempering the appetition. Sōphrosynē can also be translated as sound-mindedness.
  • Justice (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosynē; Latin: iustitia): also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue;[1] the Greek word also having the meaning righteousness

These principles derive initially from Plato in Republic Book IV, 426–435 (and see Protagoras 330b, which also includes piety (hosiotes)). Cicero expanded on them, and Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, and Thomas Aquinas[2] adapted them while expanding on the theological virtues.

The term cardinal comes from the Latin cardo (hinge);[3] virtues are so called because they are regarded as the basic virtues required for a virtuous life. They also relate to the Quadrivium.

In classical antiquity

The four cardinal virtues appear as a group (sometimes included in larger lists) long before they are later given this title.

Plato identified the four cardinal virtues with the classes of the city described in The Republic, and with the faculties of man. Plato narrates a discussion of the character of a good city where the following is agreed upon. “Clearly, then, it will be wise, brave, temperate [literally: healthy-minded], and just.” (427e; see also 435b) Temperance was common to all classes, but primarily associated with the producing classes, the farmers and craftsmen, and with the animal appetites, to whom no special virtue was assigned; fortitude was assigned to the warrior class and to the spirited element in man; prudence to the rulers and to reason. Justice stands outside the class system and divisions of man, and rules the proper relationship among the three of them.

Plato sometimes (e.g., Protagoras 349b; cf. 324e, 329c, 330b, 331a-c) lists holiness (hosiotes, eusebeia, aidos) amongst the cardinal virtues. He especially associates holiness with justice, but leaves their precise relationship unexplained.

In Aristotle’s Rhetoric we read: “The forms of Virtue are justice, courage, temperance, magnificence, magnanimity, liberality, gentleness, prudence, wisdom.” (Rhetoric 1366b1)

The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero (106–43 BC), like Plato, limits the list to four virtues:

“Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind (animi) in harmony with reason and the order of nature. It has four parts: wisdom (prudentiam), justice, courage, temperance.” (De Inventione, II, LIII) [4]

Cicero discusses these further in De Officiis (I, V and following).

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius discusses these in Book V:12 of Meditations and views them as the “goods” that a person should identify in one’s own mind, as opposed to “wealth or things which conduce to luxury or prestige.”[5]

The cardinal virtues are listed in the Bible. The deuterocanonical book Wisdom of Solomon 8:7 reads, “She [Wisdom] teaches temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life.”

They are also found in the Biblical apocrypha. 4 Maccabees 1:18–19 relates: “Now the kinds of wisdom are right judgment, justice, courage, and self-control. Right judgment is supreme over all of these since by means of it reason rules over the emotions.”

Catholic moral philosophy drew from all of these sources when developing its thought on the virtues.

From Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_virtues

Cardinal virtues

Main article: Cardinal virtues

The Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, regarded temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage as the four most desirable character traits. The Book of Wisdom is one of the seven Sapiential Books included in the Septuagint. Wisdom 8:7 states that the fruits of Wisdom “… are virtues; For she teaches moderation and prudence, justice and fortitude, and nothing in life is more useful for men than these.”

The moral virtues are attitudes,and good habits that govern one’s actions, passions, and conduct according to reason; and are acquired by human effort.[2] Immanuel Kant said, “Virtue is the moral strength of the will in obeying the dictates of duty”.[3] The cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

  • Prudence from prudentia (meaning “seeing ahead, sagacity”) is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason.[4] It is called the Auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues) as it guides the other virtues.[5]
  • Justice is the virtue which regulates man in his dealings with others. Connected to justice are the virtues of religion, piety, and gratitude.[6]
  • Fortitude which Thomas Aquinas ranks third after prudence and justice and equates with brave endurance.[3] Patience and perseverance are virtues related to fortitude.
  • Temperance is the virtue which moderates in accordance with reason the desires and pleasures of the sensuous appetite. Related to temperance are the virtues of continence, humility, and meekness.[6]

Philosophers recognized the interrelatedness of the virtues such that courage without prudence risks becoming mere foolhardiness. Aquinas found an interconnection of practical wisdom (prudentia) and moral virtue. This is frequently termed “the Unity of the Virtues.”[7] Aquinas also argued that it not only matters what a person does but how the person does it. The person must aim at a good end and also make a right choice about the means to that end. The moral virtues direct the person to aim at a good end, but to ensure that the person make the right choices about the means to a good end, one needs practical wisdom.[8]

 

These seven virtues do not correspond to the seven heavenly virtues arrived at by combining the cardinal and theological virtues. Furthermore, efforts in the Middle Ages to set the seven heavenly virtues in direct opposition to the seven capital sins are both uncommon and beset with difficulties. “[T]reatises exclusively concentrating on both septenaries are actually quite rare.” and “examples of late medieval catalogues of virtues and vices which extend or upset the double heptad can be easily multiplied.”[9] And there are problems with this parallelism.

The opposition between the virtues and the vices to which these works allude despite the frequent inclusion of other schemes may seem unproblematic at first sight. The virtues and the vices seem to mirror each other as positive and negative moral attitudes, so that medieval authors, with their keen predilection for parallels and oppositions, could conveniently set them against each other … Yet artistic representations such as Conrad’s trees are misleading in that they establish oppositions between the principal virtues and the capital vices which are based on mere juxtaposition. As to content, the two schemes do not match each other. The capital vices of lust and avarice, for instance, contrast with the remedial virtues of chastity and generosity, respectively, rather than with any theological or cardinal virtue; conversely, the virtues of hope and prudence are opposed to despair and foolishness rather than to any deadly sin. Medieval moral authors were well aware of the fact. Actually, the capital vices are more often contrasted with the remedial or contrary virtues in medieval moral literature than with the principal virtues, while the principal virtues are frequently accompanied by a set of mirroring vices rather than by the seven deadly sins.[10]

 

Please see my related posts:

Levels of Human Psychological Development in Integral Spiral Dynamics

Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening

Key Sources of Research

 

Aristotle’s Cardinal Virtues:
Their Application to Assessment of Psychopathology and Psychotherapy

James M. Stedman

 

Click to access 229bb7ab418d868027e526372d22073236d4.pdf

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful

 

 

Key Terms

  • Integral Theory
  • Ken Wilber
  • Self Culture Nature
  • I  We  It
  • Beauty Good True
  • Development
  • Aesthetics, Morals, Logic

 

https://integrallife.com/good-true-beautiful/

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful

Ken Wilber explores the three fundamental discernments of the human mind: the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. Ken discusses how all three are simultaneously parts of a single indivisible whole, yet each possesses its own means of disclosing and verifying knowledge.

“To understand the whole, it is necessary to understand the parts. To understand the parts, it is necessary to understand the whole. Such is the circle of understanding. We move from part to whole and back again, and in that dance of comprehension, in that amazing circle of understanding, we come alive to meaning, to value, and to vision: the very circle of understanding guides our way, weaving together the pieces, healing the fractures, mending the torn and tortured fragments, lighting the way ahead—this extraordinary movement from part to whole and back again, with healing the hallmark of each and every step, and grace the tender reward.”Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit

What is the Good, the Beautiful, and the True?

The concept of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True is one that dates all the way back to antiquity, finding its first expressions in the Bhagavad Gita and the teachings of Plato, and later conceived by Aristotle as three of the primary transcendent properties of being — properties that both represent the three primary categories of knowledge, as well as the ideal forms within those categories. Although our understanding of these three irreducible dimensions has evolved quite a bit over the millennia (we no longer understand them as perfect platonic forms existing somewhere outside of time, but rather the natural product of the three fundamental perspectives we use to perceive reality), this perennial notion has proven just as useful today as ever before.

Screen Shot 2019-12-07 at 11.57.12 PM

A Brief History of the Good, the Beautiful, and the True

The story of the Big Three is the unfolding of human knowledge itself.

In premodern times, these three value spheres existed in a state of undifferentiated fusion — the Good was not different than the True, which was not different than the Beautiful. All three were collapsed into a single monological view, tightly controlled by a particular sovereign power (the Church, the King, etc.). This allowed each value sphere to dominate and control the others. Galileo was prevented from pursuing science (the True) because it came into conflict with the prevailing mythological religious morals of the time (the Good). Michelangelo had to be very careful about the types of figures he represented in his art, because Art and Morals were not yet differentiated. This is not holism or integration; this is undifferentiated fusion.

In modern times, beginning largely with the Renaissance, the spheres of Art, Morals, and Science began to be properly differentiated. Freed from the yoke of authoritarian control, each sphere was now allowed its own jurisdiction and its own methods for generating knowledge — and as a result, knowledge began to flourish at an exponential rate. New forms of artistic expression exploded into being. New methods of scientific validation allowed us to separate objective fact from subjective belief, resulting in the emergence of physics, chemistry, biology from the pre-differentiated amalgam of hermetic alchemy. These value spheres were not only accelerating their own acquisition of knowledge, they were also exerting an accelerating pressure upon the other spheres — for example, differentiating “I” from “We” allowed for the rise of individual rights and freedoms that could not be impinged or taken away by the state, the Church, etc., which in turn resulted in the proliferation of new philosophies of moral goodness based on these new principles of egalitarianism and individual dignity. By being properly differentiated, the three value spheres were transformed for the very first time into genuine turbines for the advancement of human thought.

But what happens when we take differentiation too far? Simple: it becomes full-on dissociation. Our entire body of knowledge becomes broken, flattened, and fragmented. The feedback loops created among the three differentiated spheres begin to break down, and every major tract of human knowledge begins to lose sight of the others, overextends its purview, and reasserts itself as the central authority of all that is knowable. Divorced from all notions of a common universal context, a new fundamentalism begins to take shape — not the brute fundamentalism of an un-differentiated central authority (all forest, no trees), but a somewhat more insidious fundamentalism of dissociated and disconnected nodes (all trees, no forest).

This is the postmodern condition many of ourselves now find ourselves in, where the many pathologies of dissociation run rampant — including all the usual ten-dollar terms like scientism, cultural constructivism and relativism, systemic reductionism, aesthetic infantilization, epistemic collapse, and “post-truth” politics.

From fusion to differentiation to dissociation — this is the story of human knowledge so far, the story of the human condition itself.

Integrating the Big 3

Which brings us to today, on the precipice of yet another monumental leap of understanding. A new kind of integrative thinking is now beginning to emerge from the smoking ruins of postmodernism, one that seeks to recognize, honor, and include all the numerous branches of Art, Morals, and Science while recognizing them as multiple facets of a single living gem. This integrative thinking is guided by three general principles:

“Everyone is right” (non-exclusion)
“Some are more right than others” (enfoldment)
“If you want to know this, do that” (enactment)

We wil explore these three principles of integral thinking in a future video clip. But for now, it is sufficient to note that, when all three principles are brought to bear, a very simple but deeply profound question arises: “How can we describe reality in such a way that all these verifiable perspectives on Truth, Goodness, and Beauty can be included?”

The Integral Vision is our very best answer to that question — our very best hope to overcome the painful fragmentation of our lives and the world around us, to bridge the ever-widening gaps between us, and to unfold the bright grain of truth in every perspective.

By opening yourself to this new integral wave of thinking, knowing, and being, you are able to more fully tap into the enormous spectrum of experience available to you. And the more fully you can experience reality, the more freedom and fullness blossoms in your life. Integral is a means by which you can see—and feel!—that somehow, everyone is right in their various interpretations of reality. Or, put another way, “no one is smart enough to be wrong all the time.” The Integral vision draws upon all the very best ideas throughout history—East and West, pre-modern, modern and beyond. It synthesizes all of our accumulated knowledge and wisdom in such a way that we can see very real patterns emerge right before our very eyes, patterns that connect all the various aspects of our lives, weaving together the many strands of our lives into a deeply meaningful whole.

The Integral Vision helps to refine and empower our own perspective of the world, while opening us up to all the infinite perspectives around us, so we may share fully and freely in the most comprehensive view of reality possible. It allows us to become an undeniable force of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the world, in our relationships, and in our own timeless heart.

Written by Corey deVos

 

Please see my related posts

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

 

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Its beauty which brings one closer to truth and goodness.

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Key Terms

  • Fundamental Triplicity
  • Satyam Shivam Sundram
  • Sat Chit Ananda
  • Truth Beauty Goodness
  • Platonic Triad
  • Socratic Trinity
  • Ken Wilber AQAL Model
  • Victor Cousin
  • Charles Sanders Peirce
  • Semiotics
  • I – You – We – It

From Awakening Wonder:

A Classical Guide to TRUTH, GOODNESS & BEAUTY

The True, the Good, and the Beautiful

It is in this civilizational context that we first encounter the emergence of the cosmic values known as the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. The Greek term aletheia (“truth”) literally means “nonconcealment,” the negation of lethein, “to elude notice, to be unseen.”9 Aletheia thus connotes a sense of disclosure: “truth in the sense of the unhiddenness . . . and disclosedness of the state of affairs which exhibits itself and is therefore perceived in its actuality.”10 The term agathos (“good”) as an adjective connoted “the significance or excellence of a thing or person” and was eventually developed by philosophers to designate the goal, purpose, or meaning of existence.11 Likewise, kalos (“beauty”) is generally rendered as “beautiful,” “healthy,” “excellent,” “strong,” or “good.”12 It is during the fifth century BC that we find two of the three terms used together. For example, kalos is first used together with agathos in a political or social context: the kaloi and agathoi are leading citizens who embody the virtues of the polis, the Greek city-state. Indeed, the synonymity of the terms contracted into a single word, kalokagathia.

Plato and the “Socratic Trinity”

However, it is not until the writings of Plato that these three terms converge into mutually interpreting concepts, in what has been termed the “Socratic trinity” or “Platonic triad.” Though Plato did not provide a systematic treatment of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, it is not coincidental that the first clear presentation of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful historically comes from a fifteenth-century commentary on Plato’s Philebus by the Italian humanist scholar Marsilio Ficino.13

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty for Plato were divine concepts; they make up what he called the eidon, the eternal transcendent world of the ideas or forms. This Socratic trinity is the eternal source of life in which the totality of our cosmos participates as an eikon, a temporal, finite image or icon of the eternal transcendent world of the Ideas or Forms. For Plato, the universe is very much alive, or at least inextricably bound up with divine activity, and is thereby considered an object of veneration. In the Timaeus, the world is animated by a rational soul, which is the macrocosmic basis for the microcosmic human soul.14 Humans, as microcosmic replications of the larger macrocosmic world, are composed of tripartite souls that loosely correspond to the Socratic trinity: logos, thymos or ethos, and eros or epithymetes. The logos involves our rational capacities; the thymos or ethos involves our emotional, ethical, or moral capacities; and the epithymetes or eros involves our desires and aesthetic capacities.15 And it is through the tripartite soul that was forged in the world of the forms before our birth and embodiment (Plato held more or less to a doctrine of reincarnation) that the individual human can mirror, reflect, or image the virtues of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, and thus exemplify and participate in divine life.

Now, for Plato, the dilemma is that we as tripartite souls already possess a knowledge of the virtues, literally the divine order of the eternal ideas or forms—the imprint—of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, but this knowledge has been forgotten as the result of our birth and embodiment. As he made clear in his Meno, knowledge does not derive from inductive or deductive processes or an investigation into the nature of things, but rather knowledge is a recollection, what Plato termed anamnesis, a recovery of Truth insofar as our souls have experienced it prior to our embodiment.16 So the key here is that knowledge needs to be awakened. And it is philosophia, the love of wisdom, that seeks to recover human perception of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful so as to restore the human soul to its participation in divine life. This pursuit of Truth in the Phaedrus and Gorgias, of Goodness in the Republic, and of Beauty in Diotima’s speech in the Symposium, in effect reorients the human person to the divine world of the eternal and immutable, and thereby effects a harmonious relationship with the cosmos, which itself participates in divine life.

The Platonic Conception of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

The precise relationship between the True, the Good, and the Beautiful in Plato is very difficult to determine, largely because these concepts are not treated systematically but rather are spread out among his works. But we can map out a broad, general model for how they work together in relation to the tripartite soul.

For Plato, the Good is not simply a thing or a value; the Good is universal priority in which all true things participate and from which they exist. In book VII of the Republic, Plato considered the Good to be the universal principle, the self-sufficient source of all being and the irreducible essence of reality:

[I]n the region of the known the last thing to be seen and hardly seen is the idea of Good, and that when seen it must needs point us to the conclusion that this is indeed the cause for all things of all that is right and beautiful, giving birth in the visible world to light, and the author of light and itself in the intelligible world being the authentic course of truth and reason.17

For Plato, the Good is not simply a thing or a value; the Good is universal priority in which all true things participate and from which they exist. The Good is “beyond being” and is thus the foundation of all hypotheses which requires no hypothesis; that Idea from which all Ideas emerge and on which they depend.18 According to his allegory of the cave in book VII of the Republic, the Good is to the world of Ideas much like what the sun is to our perceptible, physical world. As such, the Good, the divine source of life, is in itself unknowable, being the essence, the light, by which all things are known and perceived. The Good itself must thus be revealed; it must be communicated to the human mind by means of aletheia or “Truth.”19 Drawing from the allegory of the cave, we might say that Truth is the splendor of the Good that can be perceived by the soul.20 For Plato, Truth involves understanding how all things in our world, all particulars, participate in and derive their nature from the Good.21 Thus, concomitant with its etymology, it is the nature of Truth to reveal or disclose reality, the priority of the Good, to the human mind or logos.

However, the Good is not merely revealed to the mind through Truth. A desire, an eros, is awakened for the Good within the human soul through kalos or “Beauty.” In Diotima’s speech in the Symposium, Beauty is the object of eros or love.22 And it is here that Plato revealed the means by which the soul encounters the True and the Good. In awakening eros, Plato’s conception of Beauty becomes inextricably linked with Grecian physics, in that eros constitutes the law of attraction. Empedocles had envisioned the cosmos as a whole and all the particulars within it, including humans, as directed by eros and eris, literally “desire” and “strife,” which served as the opposing forces of attraction and repulsion. In accordance with Greco-Roman physics, this love, this desire awakened through Beauty, serves the indispensable role of momentum or motivation in intellectual, moral, and spiritual pursuits. This is why we associate Beauty with “attraction”; through Beauty we are drawn to the True and the Good. By awakening eros within us, Beauty provides us with the allure, the momentum, the gravitational pull toward the True and the Good and thus unites us with the divine source of life:

When a man has been thus far tutored in the lore of love, passing from view to view of beautiful things, in the right and regular ascent, suddenly he will have revealed to him, as he draws to the close of his dealings in love, a wondrous vision, beautiful in its nature; and this, Socrates, is the final object of all those previous toils. . . . Beginning from obvious beauties he must for the sake of that highest Beauty be ever climbing aloft, as one the rungs of a ladder, from one to two, and from two to all beautiful bodies; from personal Beauty he proceeds to beautiful observances, from observance to beautiful learning, and from learning at last to that particular study which is concerned with the beautiful itself and that alone; so that in the end he comes to know the very essence of Beauty.23

The important point here is that Beauty, because of its divine nature, is always linked with the True and the Good. In order for something to be truly beautiful, it must by definition draw one to the True and the Good. When eros or love is amputated from Truth and Goodness, say in the case of pornography, it is no longer love but rather lust or epithymia.24 The Greeks alluded to this differentiation in the mythologies of the Muses and the Sirens: the Muses are the daughters of Zeus who inspire Beauty and Truth, while the Sirens are water nymphs who lure sailors to their deaths through their bewitching songs. So we see here a highly ethical significance to this encounter with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Because Beauty communicates the True and the Good through its radiance, the awakening of eros always involves the awakening of arête—the classical virtues (wisdom, moderation, justice, and courage)—which occurs when the logos, thymos, and epithymetes or eros constituting the tripartite human soul reflect the balance or harmony of the cosmos.25 Thus Plato saw an inextricable link between virtue and a true knowledge of the world.

The important point here is that Beauty, because of its divine nature, is always linked with the True and the Good. In order for something to be truly beautiful, it must by definition draw one to the True and the Good.

Encountering Truth, Goodness, and Beauty through Paideia

For Plato, the educational project of paideia involves teaching students to repudiate what deserves repudiation and to love what is in fact lovely and deserving of our desires.26 This involves what amounts to be a three-stage process.

First, there is the need to realize there is in fact a problem, that one is in fact ignorant and incapable of accounting for reality. This admission of personal impoverishment, what the Greeks called aporia and the Latins called pietas, is the rationale for the Socratic Dialogue; Socrates was able to impart wisdom only when his interlocutor admits ignorance and perplexity.

Second, this intellectual and spiritual vacuousness, this virtue of humility, can then be filled—and filled not merely with facts but with a recollection of the knowledge of the world as it relates to that which is eternally True, Good, and Beautiful. This stage involves a twofold purification by which students cultivate a detachment from false things and an attachment to true things. The twofold purification consists of a moral and an intellectual purification. Moral purification involves the practice of the virtues, which in effect distances the soul from the confines and temptations of the body. Intellectual purification, or theoria, involves contemplation of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, particularly in mathematics, where students are able see the reality that lies beyond appearances. Thus, all subjects in an educational curriculum serve as lenses through which the True, the Good, and the Beautiful can be encountered. Gymnastics cultivate the virtue of enkrateia or self-mastery; music and poetry provide the chief means by which the rhythm and harmony of the cosmos can be communicated through the body and sunk deeply into the recesses of the soul.27

Third, there is ultimate theoria, the union of the soul with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, a beatific vision that one simply cannot experience while embodied. One experiences this vision only at death.28

Summary

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty emerge historically in a world very much removed from our own. This world was characterized by cosmic piety, the sense that the universe was alive with divine presence and thus obligated all people born into the world to live a particular kind of life, one that oriented the self into a harmonious relationship with the world and others. This obligation was lived out in the life of the polis, the city-state, which served as the civic center for communion between men and the gods. In order to foster a harmonious relationship with the cosmos and city, the Greek educational project called paideia sought to instill within students a love for the cosmic values: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. As particularly developed in the work of Plato, these values served as the harmonious model for cultivating a comparable harmony in one’s own soul, which one then lived out in harmony with one’s fellow man, and thus exemplified and perpetuated the cosmic harmony that sustained the world.

The educational project of paideia involves teaching students to repudiate what deserves repudiation and to love what is in fact lovely and deserving of our desires.

Plato’s philosophy provides us with the cosmic, anthropological, and civic frames of reference for the emergence of a distinctly Christian development of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, and it is to this Christian reappropriation that we now turn.

Please see my related posts:

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Cyber-Semiotics: Why Information is not enough

The Great Chain of Being

Indra’s Net: On Interconnectedness

On Holons and Holarchy

Interconnected Pythagorean Triples using Central Squares Theory

Shapes and Patterns in Nature

Consciousness of Cosmos: A Fractal, Recursive, Holographic Universe

Integral Philosophy of the Rg Veda: Four Dimensional Man

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

Myth of Invariance: Sound, Music, and Recurrent Events and Structures

Mind, Consciousness and Quantum Entanglement

Understanding Rasa: Yoga of Nine Emotions

Geometry of Consciousness

Key Sources of Research:

Lectures on the true, the beautiful, and the good

Victor Cousin

Translation by O. W. Wight

Click to access cousin.PDF

Awakening Wonder:

A Classical Guide to TRUTH, GOODNESS & BEAUTY

Stephen R. Turley, PhD

Click to access prod059505_smpl0.pdf

THE GOOD, THE TRUE, AND THE BEAUTIFUL

Click to access SeeNoEvil_Chapter3.pdf

THE BIRTH OF THE TRUE, THE GOOD, AND THE BEAUTIFUL:

TOWARD AN INVESTIGATION OF THE STRUCTURES OF SOCIAL THOUGHT

John Levi Martin

Click to access The%20Birth%20of%20the%20True,%20the%20Good,%20and%20the%20Beautiful.pdf

Beauty as a transcendental in the thought of Joseph Ratzinger

John Jang

University of Notre Dame Australia

https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=theses

Quotes by Victor Cousin