philosophy - william fleming
BEAUTY.—Beauty is absolute, real, and ideal. The
absolutely beautiful belongs to
Deity. The really beautiful is presented to us in the objects of nature and the
actions of human life. The ideally beautiful is aimed at by art. Plato
identified the beautiful with the good,
τὸ καλὸν καὶ
ἀγαθόν. But, although the
ideas of the beautiful, the good, and the true are related to each other, they
are distinct. There may be truth and propriety or proportion in beauty—and there
is a beauty in what is good or right, and also in what is true. But still these
ideas are distinct.
Dr Hutcheson (Inquiry Concerning Beauty, &c.) distinguishes
"absolute," or that beauty which we perceive in objects without comparison to
anything external, of which the object is supposed an imitation or picture; such
as that beauty,
perceived from the works of nature; and "comparative'' or relative
which we perceive in objects, commonly considered as imitations or resemblances
of something else. According to Hutcheson, the general foundation or occasion of
the ideas of beauty is "uniformity amidst variety" (Inquiry, sec. 2).
"All the objects we call beautiful agree in two things, which seem to concur in
our sense of beauty. (1) When they are perceived, or even imagined, they produce
a certain agreeable emotion or feeling in the mind; and (2) this agreeable
emotion is accompanied with an opinion or belief of their having some perfection
or excellence belonging to them " (Reid, Intellectual Powers, essay
Berkeley, in his Alciphron, and Hume, in many parts of his works, made utility
the foundation of beauty. But objects which are useful are not always beautiful,
and objects which are beautiful are not always useful. That which is useful is
useful for some end; and that which is beautiful is beautiful in itself, and
independent of the pleasure which it gives or the end it may serve.
On the question whether mental or material objects first give us feelings of
beauty, see Stewart, Active Powers, I. 279; Smith, Theory of Mor. Sent., pt.
IV. ch. I.; Alison, Essay on Taste; Price, in his Review of Principal Questions in
Morals, sec. 2; art. "Beauty" in the Ency. Brit., 9th ed., by Lord Jeffrey;
Kames, Elements of Criticism, vol. I. ch. III.; Burke, On the Sublime and
Beautiful.— V. .ÆSTHETICS.