Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I feel that Schiller has finally provided me with an adequate definition of aesthetic beauty. I feel like talking about beauty is usually super difficult and kind of lame. It is a vague word, no one know what it means, and we mostly revert to the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That is to say, a discussion of beauty often collapses into relativism. Or, there may be that link between beauty and truth, of course. Which is also good.

But Schiller doesn't speak of beauty in this way. He describes beauty as a composite or emergent property of a person. He argues that in individuals we find three distinct types of relationships: our relationship to the physical, to the logical, and to the moral. That is, we relate to our body and emotions, to our thought and rationality, and to our morality and sense of right. There is, however, a fourth quality: a thing may also "relate to the totality of our varies powers, without being a specific object for any single one of them; that is its aesthetic character. A man can be pleasant to us through his readiness to oblige; he can cause us to think by means of his transactions; he can instill respect into us by his high moral standards; but finally, independently of all these and without our taking into consideration any law or any design in our own judgement of him, but simply contemplating him, simply by his manifesting himself–he can please us. In this last-named character we are judging him aesthetically" (On The Aesthetic Education Of Man, Note pg 99). Thus beauty as a composite or emergent property. It is something that emerges from contemplating the whole formed by the relation of the parts.

I very much like this idea of beauty.

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