For God, Maritain argued, everything is beautiful, though he clarified this in a footnote:. Evil, it is true—the wound of nothingness by which the freedom of a creature deforms a voluntary act—is ugly in the eyes of God. But no being is ugly, as Angelus Silesius Johann Scheffler repeatedly points out. The claim that an animal is as beautiful as an angel is quite another. Let us assume for the time being that the first assertion is true, and the second is obviously false.
As there is a hierarchy of being, there is also a hierarchy of beauty: To claim that a saint is as beautiful as the Holy Virgin is plainly false. One can also ask whether man can really know how God experiences beauty. Being Beauty itself, He need not perceive it frontally, as angels and humans do.
While transcendental beauty is intellectually perceived, our senses play a vital part in aesthetic beauty. The result is that not all things are beautiful to us.
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I would say that aesthetic beauty, which is not all beauty for man but which is the beauty most naturally proportioned to the human mind, is a particular determination of transcendental beauty: it is transcendental beauty as confronting not simply the intellect, but the intellect and the sense acting together in one single act. He further praises Jean Paul Sartre for having highlighted the fact that ugliness, filth, and their cortege of negative characteristics are a category in existence.
Once the mind has perceived the convincing luminosity of a geometrical demonstration, the latter is hardly an object that it will contemplate over and over again. What is typical of the aesthetic experience is the desire to go from a joyful acquaintance with a beautiful object to a contemplative attitude characterized by the desire to dwell on it again and again. Quantum notiores, tantum cariores , writes St. The better we know it, the more we love it. We rate our love for a piece of art according to our longing to see or hear it again.
Which one of us would prefer to have a Pythagorean acquaintance with aesthetic beauty than the one granted to us through our eyes and ears? John Henry Cardinal Newman had a particular love for music. But what is meant by value? Von Hildebrand distinguishes between two categories. The universe is a hierarchy, and ontological values are structured according to this hierarchy. At the top, we have God, then angels, then men, then higher animals, then lower ones, then plants, then inanimate matter. Each one of them, according to its value and dignity, possesses beauty. Apart from ontological values that are more or less beautiful according to their ontological rank, von Hildebrand speaks about qualitative values, moral values, intellectual values, and aesthetical values, to mention the most important ones.
These clearly differ from ontological values for the obvious reason that one can possess them more or less. Men are not equally just, or kind, or generous, or beautiful.
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Some are geniuses, some are intellectually talented, and some have a mediocre intelligence. Moreover, qualitative values have opposites: Moral goodness is opposed to moral evil; stupidity antagonizes intelligence; ugliness is at loggerheads with beauty. The author tells us, further, that qualitative values are beautiful and that once again, their degree of beauty depends on the degree in which a good incorporates this value. In other words, the moral value of a saint is infinitely more beautiful than the moral value of an honest man.
Good is opposed to evil, intelligence to stupidity, beauty to ugliness.
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Similarly, the beautiful person who is narcissistic would inevitably lose one dimension of aesthetic beauty. All values are beautiful, whether ontological or qualitative. Moreover, all of them except some aesthetic values are intellectually perceived. Whereas only persons can be morally good or intelligent, aesthetic values can be found in every single level of being: An animal can be beautiful, as can plants and inanimate matter.
Beauty is the most universal of all values. But some aesthetic values should we call them artistic values? In this Maritain and von Hildebrand agree.
The one question that is crucial is: Is what he says true? This does not prevent us from appreciating his stylistic gifts, but his work should not be rated according to it. The aesthete—that is, the person who makes of beauty his one exclusive concern—would have to rate Nietzsche above Aristotle because of the beauty of his style. This would clearly be a perversion. If he fails to do so, he is a bad artist. Martin Heidegger. The Philosophy of Time.
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