Archives for posts with tag: Beauty

Civilization Is A Conversation

The popular philosopher Stefan Molyneux (https://freedomainradio.com) often reminds his audience that “civilization is a conversation. ” I read about the same idea before in a blog article by John C. Wright (www.scifiwright.com) about the Great Books. A philosopher himself, as well as a novelist, Mr Wright is an alumnus of St. John’s College of liberal arts. I gather the school’s Great Books program was inspired from the writings of philosopher Mortimer Adler on “The Great Conversation” and his editing work for the Encyclopaedia Britannica Great Books series.

According to classical philosophers and other classical writers who had to know philosophy as a general foundation for their field, philosophy and science, literature and arts, civilization in a word, is a great conversation, and philosophy is its common language. It began to spread from Greece some six centuries before Christ.

Metaphysics, or philosophy properly so called, is the conversation about the fundamentals of everything that is or may be, especially the “why”, the causes. The “how” is more particularly the domain of empirical sciences and mathematics.

Ethics is the part of philosophy that examines the use of practical reason, or moral conscience. Why is there a sense of right and wrong? Why is conscience attracted to the good and repulsed by evil? Why is happiness connected to the good? These are some of the main questions of moral philosophy.

The moral questions are of course paramount also to religion and theology. Philosophy is the greatest achievement of the human mind unaided by faith, since it derives its information from the senses, external and internal. But the self-revelation of God being at the same time the revelation of man to himself (e. g. John 2:25), the Judaeo-Christian revelation is a very reliable source of information for philosophy, particularly for natural theology (or theodicy) and ethics.

Christian theologians, philosophers, and authors of literary or scientific writings were the ones who kept the conversation ongoing and timeless. It is timeless because philosophia perennis, the common philosophy of humanity (as philosopher Jacques Maritain would say), known also as Aristotelian-Thomism, or classical theist philosophy, is true in all essentials and those essentials are not subject to time. True philosophy is therefore capable of organic, continuous development upon this perennial basis.

Up to the 1960s, every generation educated by learned masters had access to the great works of the past and to a common philosophical framework. Scholars and writers could thus contribute to build on and transmit the intellectual and moral treasure of civilization, the treasure of human wisdom.

 

Conversation Slows Down

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The following is a slightly expanded version of my comments under the thread “The Empire of Lies”, an essay from John C. Wright (February 13, 2016).

“Either there is truth or there is not.”

After this opening line, Mr. Wright proceeds to demonstrate that the statement “there is no truth” is impossible and self-destroying, an absurdity even if only for the sake of argument. Such an argument is sustained solely for expediency, for moral reasons, in order to pass vice for virtue, virtue for vice, and evildoing for good works. In short, nihilism.

The origin of such extreme moral outlook is sin unacknowledged, unrepented, and conscience stifled accordingly. As Jacques Maritain explained, when we sin, the will (or the “reason of the heart” as Blaise Pascal would put it) listens to emotions and sentiments and averts its inner eye from the sound principles of the practical intellect, that is, the truth as seen by the conscience. By blurring objective truth about the objective good, the will is generally able to trick a poorly formed conscience into taking an evil for a good, or a lesser good for a greater good, or evil means as expedient to attain some good.

But the guilt remains. To evade the guilt efficiently, there is no other way than to attack the principles, the axioms themselves (identity, reason for being, finality, causality, etc.), and ultimately the transcendentals above the principles: no objective beauty, goodness or truth, thus no moral obligation.

Now, what is truth? The shortest and simplest definition is: Truth is the conformity of the mind to things. An honest search for truth makes licit almost any question. For example, the question “Either there is a God (or gods), or there is not” implies that the human mind might be able to discover the truth, or accept the revelation of truth.

If there are things, there is a God, because nothing contingent can exist if there is no necessary being which is the first cause and reason for being of everything else. Hence the same reasoning applies to truth: if there is something, there is truth in the same measure that things do exist and are good and beautiful, and at least partly knowable.

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Beauty is in the Form

Professor Edward Feser quotes a sarcastic passage by Isaac Asimov and asks why plastic objects cannot eventually be admired as antiques.  (“The metaphysics and aesthetics of plastic”  Feb. 14, 2014)

Elsewhere, a commenter quoting from a David Gerrold novel compares moral integrity to that of a plastic balloon, lost when the balloon is destroyed by a pinhole. Philosopher and novelist John C. Wright answers that forgiveness is better than asking for perfect integrity. (“Why the Rats Conquer Empires”, Feb. 27, 2014 )

I looked into the matter in Plato and Maritain.

Perception of form

Beauty, Plato said, is in the form. It is not in the philosophical prima materia, that cannot exist without an essential form. Contrary to Plato’s theory, though, separate forms of material beings do not exist either, except as concepts. For example, human form, or nature, does not exist apart from actual human beings.

Form differentiates individuals only in beings who are pure forms (God and angels). There are as many angelic natures as there are angels. But physical beings are differentiated by matter, and all individuals in a species share a common form.

By the fact it has a form actualized in matter, every physical being, particle, element, compound has the same degree of intrinsic beauty that the form lends to matter. Although an unlearned observer may not perceive anything interesting and pleasing about, say, subatomic particles, an observer possessing even a small knowledge of the thing certainly does.

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Another pearl from David Warren :

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/06/18/the-idleness-of-saint-thomas/

and a development following comments [comments erased since] :

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/06/25/quote-for-the-day/

Other quotes:

Beauty is the splendor of Truth.
Plato

Beauty is akin to the Good.
Plato. The Symposium

The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) […] Consequently, the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions […] is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself […]

Jesus Christ, the “light of the nations”, shines upon the face of his Church, which he sends forth to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Hence the Church, as the People of God among the nations […] offers to everyone the answer which comes from the truth about Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor (Introduction)

Peace from Heavens to Men of Goodwill

It is Advent and a timely season to wish peace to all who have a place in their heart for Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

To an unbeliever who is a man of goodwill, John C. Wright offers his advice on  “How to Find God”  (http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/how-to-find-god/, December 4).

His essay titled “Christ and Nothing” on December 6 is also a very good read (http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/christ-and-nothing-2).

Transcendental Food

Transcendental Truth, Goodness and Beauty are the food of our main faculties, or ‘powers’, as St. Teresa de Jesus called them: intellect, will and imagination. In a previous post, I pointed out that truth is the food of the intellect. It must be added that the will feeds on goodness and imagination mainly on beauty. All three powers are naturally motivated by love to turn towards their natural food.

As transcendentals are nothing else than the being itself seen from different aspects, they are convertible. Everything is true, good or beautiful in the same measure that it is. Thus anything true is also good and beautiful in the same measure that it is true; anything good is necessarily true and beautiful; and nothing is beautiful that is not also true and good.

Beauty is a particular case though, and this reasoning applies properly only to metaphysical and moral beauty. Indeed, aesthetic beauty and imagination are linked to psycho-physical life, and neither the senses nor the sensitive faculties will exist in eternal life, while intellect and will, wherein reside our personality and likeness to God, are forever.
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