Beauty, a rival to Truth and Good?

Beauty, a Rival to Truth and Good?

Einstein was said to have rejected the theories of Quantum Mechanics, which he was instrumental in devising, because they lacked beauty. He was constantly attempting to improve on QM; he constantly looked for something more pleasing to his aesthetic considerations.

Physics has discovered the power of symmetry. It has, as I comprehend it, become as important to certain physics considerations as is the conservation of energy and momentum. I suspect that symmetry is very important in our judgments regarding beauty.

It is generally accepted that the characteristics of “esthetic feeling or of the aesthetic judgment (aesthetic value)” are due to social conditions.

Aesthetic judgment expresses a value, and hence implies a subjective element; but this value is not always apprehended as subjective, private, and relative, but rather as universal. It represents a confluence of emotion and intellection. In this context universality means “super-individual” and “implies that my attitude toward the aesthetic object is not individual, but is possible for any of my fellows.”

“The aesthetic consciousness in its beginnings is connected with art rather than with nature…Art has not arisen primarily to satisfy an already existing love of beauty…Art has its origins, almost without exception, in social relations; the explanation of the aesthetic categories is to be sought largely in social psychology.”

A widely recognized characteristic of the aesthetic attitude is one of detachment, or freedom from desire, and positively as an immediacy, or purely intense pleasure independent of desire; Kant described it as disinterestedness; a contemplative attitude; in Schiller as play. Recent writers, I think, tend to accentuate this detachment; it is sometimes called semblance, imitation, conscious self-illusion, or make-believe. The work of art is a closed unity; the aesthetic object is a world apart.

An additional characteristic of the aesthetic is stated as a "widening of our life of feeling toward the typical, comprehensive, and universal”. “Aristotle and Hegel emphasize the universality of the aesthetic object.” It expresses an idea that gives the human and not merely the particular.

There seems to be a congruence between play, i.e. make believe, and art. Aesthetic pleasure arises partially due to ease of adjustment, which “is favored by unity, symmetry, rhythm, etc.” In that all sapiens seem to harbor a similar disposition; we might assume such characteristics will give pleasure to all.

Aesthetic pleasure often seems to undergo a growing toward an objective sense, in that often, at first perception when we might distrust our judgment, our first judgment might be “I like this”. In such a moment we certainly regard the sensation as aesthetic but not universal. Under further examination our attitude switches to “This is great” or perhaps even “This is sublime” and further still to “This is heroic.” We might very well say that this sequence from “This is good” to “This is great” is passing from a purely subjective to a universal evaluation partially do to “the substitution of a social and objective attitude.”

The universality may be due in part a consideration as to how far I am really viewing the object as an expert and to whether the object stirs a genuinely social feeling. Universality of a mere numerical form may “belong much more to a judgment respecting strawberries than to judgments respecting Wagner. The aesthetic universality is qualitative and internal, not quantitative and external.” It means that I judge as from a standpoint that has been created and developed within me largely by the “social experience and expression.”

Kant expressed a category of the aesthetic as disinterestedness or detachment, and freedom; and it may have reference to a “certain absence of egoistic desire, and this quality stands almost necessarily to be enjoyed by contemplation.” Another aspect of the aesthetic to be noted under this category of disinterestedness is the aspect of freedom, of detachment from reality, or "make-believe”; the imagination of spectator as well as of artist must widen beyond the present reality.

“The claim is, that the various forms of art have been the most effective means of developing this free-play and the attendant delight. Further, in certain of the arts, notably the drama, we find a form of tension and excitement which, like certain of the games of childhood, or certain of the sports of mature life, suggests previous periods in the race-history when life itself, as maintained by fishing or hunting, in battle or strategy, was a process containing far more of emotional strain and stimulation than the life of civilization."

Can you imagine aesthetic value as having a universal quality, i.e. a quality that comes primarily from the object versus one that comes primarily from the subject? I think that all judgments have both objective and subjective components. I think that if we imagine a stick with ‘totally objective’ on one end and ‘totally subjective’ on the other that all judgments lie somewhere between these two end points.

‘Let the little lambs bleat that to be good is to be pretty’ - Zarathustra

I tend to take a Confucian approach to the matter (which mirrors the socratic approach) which fundamentally links aesthetics and morality. They are fundamentally the same thing.

I like your use of subject vs. object. Very nice synthesis between them. I think I will use that in the future.

I have had some other thoughts about this matter and I wonder what you might think about this possible post.

Objective or Subjective: It’s all a matter of degree

If we place the concept ‘subjective’ on one end of a stick and the concept ‘objective’ on the other end every matter of fact will fall some where in between.

The most objective truth might be “It is raining on me”, the most subjective truth might be “This grass tastes good”. Something that might fall exactly in the middle might be “I love you”.

I suspect we might take the three major classifications of human thought–aesthetic, real, and moral—i.e. beauty, truth, and good—and find propositions within those domains with the same relationship to subjectivity and objectivity.

If all of this is true does that not cause you to change your ideas about many things? We seem to give such great weight to something being objective and such little to something being subjective when it is all a matter of degree.