Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beauty and Truth

    And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky . . . question all these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?
Thus the CCC quotes Augustine (32), and this idea is taken up by many writers I am sure. 'Tis not, I think, a panacea for the doubts of skeptics, but it does raise an important point: it draws the conversation about teleology (not having taken philosophy in an organized manner, I'm not 100% sure of terminology; I mean here arguments about causality) into the dimension of beauty. I think the beauty of truth is a fairly key component of "Good"; logical relations of facts (which may be actual or hypothetical) are transformed into Truth, and we call this Good (rather than rational, or 'not illogical').

One point of significance for debate (which is not the most important thing of course), is that the skeptic must not only ground morality (or dismiss it as a myth) but he must also ground our experience of beauty...I think this one is harder to dismiss -- one can say the moral claim [love thy neighbor = good] is false or nonsensical, but one cannot say the "beauty claim" [love thy neighbor = beautiful, in opposition to using/hating thy neighbor] is false, because it is perhaps more obviously subjective. But of course, subjective interior attraction to ethics and nature could be tied to pro-life or pro-societal traits of evolutionary fitness.

If nothing else, though, the believer at least can draw renewed inspiration to turn to the Father with delight, for "all Thy works praise Thee, O Lord" (Ps 145:10)