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Transcendental Beauty

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1 TRASCEDETAL BEAUTY Paul Gerard Horrigan, Ph.D. 2010. ature of the Transcendentals Being itself, which is analogical and not univocal, is a transcendental 1 in the sense that it transcends the domain of the categories. Being transcends all limited areas of reality and all distinctions within reality. It rises above all divisions and categories. Joseph Owens writes that “in the first cause, being is a nature. In all other things, being is present not as a nature nor part of a nature but as a participated act. Being, accordingly, is found in all things whatsoever. It is predicable of them all. It is not confined to any one of the Aristotelian categories. Rather, it runs through all the categories and extends beyond them to their first cause. In the sense of both ‘climbing across’ and ‘climbing beyond’ it may be said to ‘transcend’ all the categories. It is therefore called a transcendental predicate.” 2 Being, in fact, is the first of the transcendentals. For “without being, nothing can be apprehended by the intellect.” 3 The firstness of being with respect to the other transcendentals involves a conceptual priority: being is that which is first conceived by the intellect. 4 St. Thomas states: “What the intellect first conceives, on the ground that it is the most known object, is being; and to being it reduces all its conceptions.” 5 But what are the “transcendentals of being?” 6 They are, explains Daniel Sullivan, “other ways of saying being, of describing characteristics of being that are coextensive with being but 1 George Klubertanz writes that “is can be said or predicated of all real things. From our study of being, which we know is common by way of analogical inclusion, we can see that being is not a genus, not even the widest possible genus. For genus is always abstract; and the wider and more universal the genus, the more abstract and potential it is. For example, material substance is a predicate that can be applied to every thing in our material universe; it is also a very abstract concept and is in potency to all the specific determinations – living, sensitive, rational. But being as it is understood in its first and proper metaphysical sense is named from that which is most actual and concrete, namely, the act of existing. Being is not the ‘widest in extension and the least in comprehension,’ because the logical rule of the inverse variation of extension and comprehension holds only for universals. Being is at once the widest in extension – for is can be said of all things – and the fullest in (implicit) comprehension – for any real act or perfection is. Being includes all reality; indeed, all the reality of any and all individuals. Therefore, being (understood as ‘the being of metaphysics’) is a transcendental”(G. KLUBERTANZ, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Being, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1955, pp. 186-187). 2 J. OWENS, An Elementary Christian Metaphysics, Center for Thomistic Studies, Houston, 1985, p. 111. 3 In I Sent., d. 8, q. 1, a. 3. 4 Llano states that “the notion of being is the primum transcendentale, since it is the principle of all intellectual knowledge. ‘It is a concept implicated in any other concept since no other concept can be formulated without formulating – in it and with it – the concept of being as its basis or background. So, in any intellectual knowledge – not only in the first such act – the concept of being is first; just as in any act of seeing – and not only in our first sight – the first thing seen is color. And the sign of this priority in intellectual knowledge is that, when we analyze any object of intellectual knowledge, in its final resolution we meet up with being, which would not happen if being were not there as the first thing known’(J. GARCIA LÓPEZ, Doctrina de Santo Tomás sobre la verdad, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1967, pp. 22-23). We are not speaking, therefore, of priority in time, but of notional primacy”(A. LLANO, Gnoseology, Sinag-Tala, Manila, 2001, p. 114). 5 De Veritate, q. 1, a. 1. 6 Studies on the transcendentals: J. RICKABY, General Metaphysics, Benzinger, London, 1890, pp. 93-165 ; D. MERCIER, Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy, vol. 1, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., London, 1938, pp. 443-475 ; C. BITTLE, The Domain of Being, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1948, pp. 131-217 ; H. RENARD, The
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TRA�SCE�DE�TAL BEAUTY

Paul Gerard Horrigan, Ph.D. 2010.

�ature of the Transcendentals

Being itself, which is analogical and not univocal, is a transcendental1 in the sense that it

transcends the domain of the categories. Being transcends all limited areas of reality and all distinctions within reality. It rises above all divisions and categories. Joseph Owens writes that “in the first cause, being is a nature. In all other things, being is present not as a nature nor part of a nature but as a participated act. Being, accordingly, is found in all things whatsoever. It is predicable of them all. It is not confined to any one of the Aristotelian categories. Rather, it runs through all the categories and extends beyond them to their first cause. In the sense of both ‘climbing across’ and ‘climbing beyond’ it may be said to ‘transcend’ all the categories. It is therefore called a transcendental predicate.”2

Being, in fact, is the first of the transcendentals. For “without being, nothing can be apprehended by the intellect.”3 The firstness of being with respect to the other transcendentals involves a conceptual priority: being is that which is first conceived by the intellect.4 St. Thomas states: “What the intellect first conceives, on the ground that it is the most known object, is being; and to being it reduces all its conceptions.”5

But what are the “transcendentals of being?”6 They are, explains Daniel Sullivan, “other ways of saying being, of describing characteristics of being that are coextensive with being but

1 George Klubertanz writes that “is can be said or predicated of all real things. From our study of being, which we know is common by way of analogical inclusion, we can see that being is not a genus, not even the widest possible genus. For genus is always abstract; and the wider and more universal the genus, the more abstract and potential it is. For example, material substance is a predicate that can be applied to every thing in our material universe; it is also a very abstract concept and is in potency to all the specific determinations – living, sensitive, rational. But being as it is understood in its first and proper metaphysical sense is named from that which is most actual and concrete, namely, the act of existing. Being is not the ‘widest in extension and the least in comprehension,’ because the logical rule of the inverse variation of extension and comprehension holds only for universals. Being is at once the widest in extension – for is can be said of all things – and the fullest in (implicit) comprehension – for any real act or perfection is. Being includes all reality; indeed, all the reality of any and all individuals. Therefore, being (understood as ‘the being of metaphysics’) is a transcendental”(G. KLUBERTANZ, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Being, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1955, pp. 186-187). 2 J. OWENS, An Elementary Christian Metaphysics, Center for Thomistic Studies, Houston, 1985, p. 111. 3 In I Sent., d. 8, q. 1, a. 3. 4 Llano states that “the notion of being is the primum transcendentale, since it is the principle of all intellectual knowledge. ‘It is a concept implicated in any other concept since no other concept can be formulated without formulating – in it and with it – the concept of being as its basis or background. So, in any intellectual knowledge – not only in the first such act – the concept of being is first; just as in any act of seeing – and not only in our first sight – the first thing seen is color. And the sign of this priority in intellectual knowledge is that, when we analyze any object of intellectual knowledge, in its final resolution we meet up with being, which would not happen if being were not there as the first thing known’(J. GARCIA LÓPEZ, Doctrina de Santo Tomás sobre la verdad, EUNSA, Pamplona, 1967, pp. 22-23). We are not speaking, therefore, of priority in time, but of notional primacy”(A. LLANO, Gnoseology, Sinag-Tala, Manila, 2001, p. 114). 5 De Veritate, q. 1, a. 1. 6 Studies on the transcendentals: J. RICKABY, General Metaphysics, Benzinger, London, 1890, pp. 93-165 ; D. MERCIER, Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy, vol. 1, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., London, 1938, pp. 443-475 ; C. BITTLE, The Domain of Being, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1948, pp. 131-217 ; H. RENARD, The

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which the concept of being itself does not make explicit. They are so many ways, in other words, of saying what all beings whatsoever – infinite or finite, actual or possible – manifest in common.”7 The transcendentals of being are transcendental modes of being, convertible and coextensive with being.8 They are, observes William Wallace, “coextensive with being; in them being manifests itself and reveals what it actually is. Just as being is never found without such properties, so these are inseparably bound up with one another in the sense that they include and interpenetrate each other.”9

The transcendentals of being are certain supreme modes or attributes necessarily connected with every being, different aspects of the same fundamental being, but not explicitly contained in the concept of being as such.10 They are modes consequent upon every being, modes, intrinsic to being itself, that refer to being universally and necessarily, to all beings save none. These transcendental modes are called ‘transcendental’ inasmuch as they are not confined to the categories or classification of being, but are rather found in all, affecting each and every conceivable being; they ‘transcend,’ or ‘go beyond’ all the categories. When we use

Philosophy of Being, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1950, pp. 168-192 ; G. P. KLUBERTANZ, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Being, Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., New York, 1955, pp. 186-209 ; R. P. PHILLIPS, Modern Thomistic Philosophy, volume 2 (Metaphysics), The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1957, pp. 174-179 ; D. J. SULLIVAN, An Introduction to Philosophy, Bruce, Milwaukee, 1957, pp. 206-216 ; J. E. TWOMEY, The General (otion of the Transcendentals in the Metaphysics of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1958 ; R. J. KREYCHE, First Philosophy, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., New York, 1959, pp. 167-203 ; R. JOLIVET, Metafisica (Ontologia e Teodicea), Morcelliana, Brescia, 1960, pp. 82-113; G. BERGHIN-ROSÈ, Ontologia, Marietti, Turin, 1961, pp. 75-139 ; H. J. KOREN, Introduction to the Science of Metaphysics, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1965, pp. 48-103 ; H. D. GARDEIL, Introduction to the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Metaphysics, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1967, pp. 119-152 ; P. B. GRENET, Ontologia, Paideia Editrice, Brescia, 1967, pp. 243-260 ; J. DE TORRE, Christian Philosophy, Vera-Reyes, Manila, 1980, pp. 118-125 ; J. OWENS, An Elementary Christian Metaphysics, Center for Thomistic Studies, Houston, 1985, pp. 111-127 ; T. ALVIRA, L. CLAVELL, T. MELENDO, Metaphysics, Sinag-Tala, Manila, 1991, pp. 129-172 ; B. MONDIN, Il sistema filosofico di Tommaso d’ Aquino, Massimo, Milan, 1992, pp. 107-123 ; L. ELDERS, La metafisica dell’essere di san Tommaso d’Aquino in una prospettiva storica: (I) L’essere comune, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1995, pp. 62-169 ; G. VENTIMIGLIA, Il trattato tomista sulle proprietà trascendentali dell’essere, “Rivista di filosofia neoscolastica,” 87 (1995), pp. 51-82 ; J. AERTSEN, Medieval Philosophy and the Transcendentals, Brill, Leiden, 1996 ; B. MONDIN, Ontologia, Metafisica, Edizioni Studio Domenicano, Bologna, 1999, pp. 221-241. 7 D. J. SULLIVAN, op. cit., p. 207. 8 H. D. Gardeil explains that “because they are as universal as being itself, the transcendental modes are spoken of as convertible with being, so that in a proposition where being is the subject and one of the common modes the predicate (or vice versa), we may interchange them. If, for example, ‘being is one,’ then ‘the one is being,’ with no shift of meaning” (H. D. GARDEIL, op. cit., p. 121). 9 W. WALLACE, The Elements of Philosophy, Alba House, New York, 1977, p. 91. 10 “Precisely as essentially given with being, these determinants are called its essential attributes; as transcending all particularities in the order of being, they are called transcendentals; and as belonging to everything whatsoever, they are designated as the most common determinants of all things. Finally, their denomination as properties of being establishes their connection with the fourth of the predicables, i.e., property or proprium, with the following consequences: (1) these are not synonyms for being, but rather characteristics that add something to being and are of necessity found with it; (2) neither are they accidents, such as properties usually are, but rather determinants that are formally identical with being; (3) these properties do not actually arise out of being; being is their foundation, and is otherwise identical with them – it is not their principle, therefore, and certainly not their cause; and (4) the distinction between being and its attributes is a distinction of reason reasoned about; although the distinction originates in the mind that understands or reasons, it has a foundation in reality because the attributes either manifest what being is or add something to it”(W. WALLACE, op. cit., p. 91).

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‘transcendental’11 here when talking about the transcendental modes of being we refer to that which can be predicated of being as such and therefore of every being. The transcendental properties of being are modes which pertain to being universally and necessarily, to every being without exception. When we say “properties” here we do not refer to properties in the strict sense, for then they would express something that is extrinsic to the nature of being, which is impossible. Rather, we mean “properties” in the wide sense, as inseparable from being and designating it under another aspect.12

Transcendentals are not just notions but also realities identical with being, and flow from the act of being (esse) and therefore can be attributed to all things that are. They are not realities distinct from being but are aspects or properties of being. In reality, the transcendentals are identical with being, but as regards human knowing, they are conceptually distinct, and cannot be synonymous with the notion of being, as they express aspects which are not expressly signified by the notion of being.13 The transcendentals are convertible and interchangeable with being in reality, but gnoseologically speaking, though they are interchangeable as predicates of the same subject, they are nevertheless distinct notions. The notions of “one” and “something” add a negation to the notion of being. “One” negates a being’s internal division and “something” negates the identity of one thing with another. The transcendentals truth (verum), goodness (bonum), and beauty (pulchrum) add a relation of reason to our notion of being.

The distinction between the transcendental modes of being and being itself is formally considered a logical distinction. However, we cannot say that it is purely logical since being presents various aspects to the mind of the person who examines it. We can say that it is a “virtual” distinction, that is, it is a distinction that has a basis in reality, even though the terms of the distinction are not really distinct. Also, if one of the terms (e.g. being) implicitly contains the knowledge of the others (e.g. one, true, good, and beauty), the distinction before us is a minor virtual or a minor logical distinction. Let us explain virtual distinction again. A real distinction is a distinction that exists independently of one’s mind, pertaining to elements of reality of which one is not actually the other or others. A logical distinction or a distinction of reason exists only in the mind. It is but a product of mental activity, occuring when the mind forms different concepts of what in itself is simply one. On the other hand, we have what is called the virtual distinction which is a distinction of reason which has a foundation in reality. If there be not a foundation in reality, the distinction of reason is a product of the mind pure and simple; it is a purely logical or verbal distinction. This is not the case with the distinction of the transcendentals from being, for while not real, it nevertheless has a foundation in reality. It is a virtual distinction. But let us be even more precise as regards the virtual distinction. There are two types of virtual distinctions: major virtual distinction and minor virtual distinction. In a major virtual distinction the concepts distinguished may be such that one contains the other or others only potentially (as genus the species). In a minor virtual distinction one concept contains the other or

11 Short histories of the term “transcendental”: H. KNITTERMEYER, Der Terminus Transzendental in seiner historischen Entwicklung bis su Kant, Marburg, 1920; C. FABRO, Il trascendentale tomistico, “Angelicum,” 60 (1983), pp. 534-558; L. ELDERS, op .cit., pp. 62-64. 12 Robert Kreyche notes that when we speak of the “transcendental properties” or “transcendental attributes” of being, “properties” or “attributes” are taken in the “broad sense, as referring not to certain genera of being, but to being as such” (R. KREYCHE, op. cit., p. 169). Henry Koren explains that “strictly speaking, the term ‘property’ applies only to predicates which are consequent on a genus or a species. Since being is neither a genus nor a species, it should be clear that the term is used here in a wider sense to indicate a predicate which is not identical in concept with being but flows from it of necessity” (H. J. KOREN, op. cit., p. 49). 13 Cf. R. TE VELDE, Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas, Brill, Leiden, 1995, p. 55.

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others actually but not explicitly (as analogue does the analogated perfections, and being the transcendental properties or attributes). This latter, the minor virtual distinction, regards the type of distinction of the transcendentals from being.

Every being can be considered in itself absolutely or in relation to others. As regards being in itself, one could consider it affirmatively (as such, it signifies an essence or thing [res]) or negatively (as undivided being, that is, as “one” [unum]). As regards being in relation to others, being has two opposite attributes: 1. Its distinction from all other beings, and 2. Its conformity with certain other things.

1. Being in its distinction from all other beings can be said to be “something” (aliquid) ; 2. As regards being in its conformity with certain other things considered in relation to the intellectual soul (as it encompasses being as such) we can say that (a) Being, in its conformity with the intellect, is true (verum) ; (b) Being, in its relation to the will, is good (bonum) ; and (c) Being, in its conformity with the soul through a certain interaction between knowledge and rational appetition, is beautiful (pulchrum).

Regarding the enumeration of the transcendentals of being, Sullivan, working with the text of Aquinas’ De Veritate, explains that “we can first consider the mode of being ‘expressed by each being absolutely, taken just by itself. In this way the mode of being expresses something in the being either affirmatively or negatively. We can, however, find nothing that can be predicated of every being affirmatively and, at the same time, absolutely, with the exception of its essence. To express this the term thing is used…there is, however, a negation consequent upon every being considered absolutely: its undividedness, and this is expressed by one. For the one is simply undivided being.’14

“Instead of considering every being absolutely, we can also consider the mode of being expressed by every being relatively, according, that is, as it is considered in relation to something else. Here again there is a twofold distinction.

“‘The first is based on the distinction of one being from another, and this distinction is expressed by the word something, which implies, as it were, some other thing. For just as being is said to be one in so far as it is without division in itself, so it is said to be something in so far as it is divided from others.

“The second division is based on the correspondence one being has with another. This is possible only if there is something which is such that it agrees with every being. Such a being is the soul, which, as is said in Aristotle’s De Anima, is ‘in some way all things.’ The soul, however, has both knowing and appetitive powers. Good expresses the correspondence of being to the appetitive power, for, and so we note in the Ethics, the good is ‘that which all desire.’ True expresses the correspondence of being to the knowing power, for ‘all knowing is produced by an assimilation of the knower to the thing known.’’15

“Some philosophers would put in a further addition to being this point, namely, beauty, as ‘the splendor of all the transcendentals together.’ Beauty implies according to St. Thomas a simultaneous relation to both intellect and will. It relates to the will according as it gives pleasure. It relates to the intellect according as it implies a kind of knowledge. Beauty, in short, is good considered under a special relation – according, that is, as it is known.16”17

14 De Veritate, q. 1, a. 1. 15 Ibid. 16 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 5, a. 4, ad 1. 17 D. J. SULLIVAN, op. cit., pp. 207-208.

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Transcendental Beauty

One of the most notable defenders of beauty18 as a transcendental property of being is

Jacques Maritain, who writes in Art and Scholasticism that “the beautiful belongs to the order of the transcendentals, that is to say, objects of thought which transcend every limit of genus or analogy, and which do not allow themselves to be enclosed in any class, because they imbue everything and are to be found everywhere. Like the one, the true, and the good, the beautiful is being itself considered from a certain aspect; it is a property of being. It is not an accident superadded to being, it adds to being only a relation of reason: it is being considered as delighting, by the mere intuition of it, an intellectual nature. Thus everything is beautiful, just as everything is good, at least in a certain relation. And as being is everywhere present and everywhere varied the beautiful likewise is diffused everywhere and is everywhere varied. Like being and the other transcendentals, it is essentially analogous, that is to say, it is predicated for diverse reasons, sub diversa ratione, of the diverse subjects of which it is predicated: each kind of being is in its own way, is good in its own way, is beautiful in its own way.”19 Maritain regards beauty as “the splendour of all the transcendentals together.”20

Umberto Eco believes that, for the Angelic Doctor, beauty is indeed a transcendental: “He (Thomas) did believe that beauty was a transcendental, a constant property of being…He believed that all being contains the constant conditions of beauty.”21 Hans Urs von Balthasar upholds beauty as a transcendental and notes that it received general attention during the thirteenth century.22 Francis J. Kovach not only sustains that beauty is a transcendental, but also states that it “is the richest, the most noble, and the most comprehensive of all transcendentals,” it being “the only transcendental that includes all the other transcendentals.”23 Gunther Pöltner

18 Studies on transcendental beauty: J. MARITAIN, Art and Scholasticism, Sheed and Ward, London, 1939 ; E. CHAPMAN, The Perennial Theme of Beauty and Art, in Essays in Thomism, edited by R. E. Brennan, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1942; H. POUILLON, La beauté, propriété transcendantale chez les Scolastiques (1220-1270), “Archives d’Histoire Doctrinale et Littéraire du Moyen Age,” 21 (1946), pp. 263-329 ; R. SPIAZZI, Towards a Theology of Beauty, “The Thomist,” 17 (1954), pp. 350-366 ; R. E. McCALL and J. P. REILLY, The Metaphysical Analysis of the Beautiful and the Ugly, “Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association,” 30 (1956), pp. 137-154 ; U. ECO, Il problema estetico in San Tommaso, Milan, 1970 (English translation: The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1988) ; E. GILSON, The Forgotten Transcendental: Pulchrum, in Elements of Christian Philosophy, Mentor-Omega, New York, 1960 ; G. B. PHELAN, The Concept of Beauty in St. Thomas Aquinas, in Selected Papers, Toronto, 1967, pp. 155-180; F. KOVACH, Philosophy of Beauty, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1974 ; J. R. SANABRIA, Trascendentalidad de la Belleza en la filosofia de Santo Tomás de Aquino, in Tommaso d’ Aquino nel suo settimo centenario (8) : Atti del Congresso Internazionale: L’uomo, Edizioni Domenicane Italiane, Naples, 1978, pp. 521-529 ; A. MAURER, About Beauty, A Thomistic Interpretation, Center for Thomistic Studies, Houston, 1983 ; L. CLAVELL, La belleza en el comentario tomista al De Divinis Nominibus, “Anuario Filosófico,” 17 (1984), pp. 93-99 ; P. JAROSZYNSKI, On the (ature of Beauty, “Angelicum,” 65 (1988), pp. 77-98 ; M. D. JORDAN, The Evidence of the Transcendentals and the Place of Beauty in Thomas Aquinas, “International Philosophical Quarterly,” 29 (1989), pp. 393-407 ; P. DASSELEER, L’être et la beauté selon Saint Thomas d’Aquin, in Actualité de la pensée médiévale, edited by J. Follon and J McEvoy, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1994, pp. 268-286. 19 J. MARITAIN, Art and Scholasticism and The Frontiers of Poetry, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1962, p. 30. 20 J. MARITAIN, Art and Scholasticism, Sheed and Ward, London, 1930, p. 172, n. 63b. 21 U. ECO, op. cit., p. 46. 22 H. U. VON BALTHASAR, Herrlichkeit. Eine theologische Aesthetik, III/1, Einsiedeln, 1965, p. 335. 23 F. J. KOVACH, Die Ästhetik des Thomas von Aquin, Berlin and New York, 1961, p. 214; id., The Transcendentality of Beauty in Thomas Aquinas, in Die Metaphysik im Mittelelter, Miscellanea Mediaevalia, vol. 2, (ed. P. Wilpert), Berlin, 1963, p. 392.

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notes that the beautiful is the unity of the transcendental determinations of being.24 Aside from explaining the transcendental character of beauty, Winfried Czapiewski writes that transcendental beauty is the original unity of the true and the good.25

For Daniel Sullivan ontological beauty is the radiance of being in all of its transcendental aspects together: unity, goodness, and truth as reflected in the three components of beauty: integrity, proportion, and clarity: “The integrity or wholeness of a thing refers to its completeness, its perfection (and by implication its unity). In other words, a thing is not fully beautiful until it is all its nature calls for – until it fully realizes its kind of being. Proportion refers to the harmonious arrangement of parts within a being in relation to its end. This due order of parts within a being disposing it towards its end is its ontological good. The brilliance of form radiating from a being is its clarity; this is the splendor of its form as knowable, its inner ‘intelligible radiance,’ its ontological truth.” 26

Pulchrum Est Id Quod Visum Placet

What is beauty in general? The Angelic Doctor writes that “the beautiful is that whose

apprehension pleases.”27 Beauty is that which is pleasing when seen (Pulchrum est id quod visum placet). This general definition of beauty formulated by St. Thomas is expressed in terms of the proper effect of beauty. One finds an emphasis on the effect of beauty on the apprehending subject, and the objective reality is mentioned only by implication. The first effect of beauty is pleasure. Thomas’ further elucidations on beauty widen the original general definition beyond the realm of the senses into the domain of the intellect, where the experience of beauty finds its cause and produces its main effects: “...beauty adds to goodness a certain ordination to the cognitive faculty, so that whatever gratifies the appetite simpliciter is said to be good, only that which causes pleasure in being apprehended is called beautiful.”28 Such emphasis on the intellectual character of the experience of beauty does not exclude the concomitant and less specific sensory pleasure, but rather indicates that the principal effect of the perception of beauty is to be sought in the intellectual sphere. The cognitive nature of aesthetic perception admits of varying degrees of knowledge, contributing to the experience of beauty. Aquinas’ general definition of beauty, pulchrum est id quod visum placet, includes the Latin word videre, which properly refers to the function of the sense of sight, but because of the dignity and certainty of this form of sense knowing, the meaning of the term has been extended to include reference to knowledge by means of the other senses, as well as to intellectual cognition: “It is fitting to speak of any name in two ways: first, according to the primary signification; secondly, according to the use of the name. For example the name of sight which was first employed to signify an act of the sense of sight, but because of the dignity and certainty of this sense, its name was extended...to include all the knowledge of the other senses. We say ‘See how it tastes, or smells, or how hot it is.’ The name was further applied to intellectual knowledge, ‘Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God’ (Matthew, 5:8).”29

24 Cf. G. PÖLTNER, Schönheit. Eine Untersuchung zum Ursprung des Denkens bei Thomas von Aquin, Vienna, 1978, p. 76. 25 Cf. W. CZAPIEWSKI, Das Schöne bei Thomas von Aquin, Freiburg, 1964. 26 D. J. SULLIVAN, op. cit., pp. 215-216. 27 Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 27, a. 1, ad 3. 28 Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 27, a. 1, ad 3. 29 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 67, a. 1.

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As regards the general definition of beauty, we see that the word videre refers to both the sensory and intellectual cognitive faculties of man. The human senses are not all equally cognitive and they do not all render equal service towards the formation of the concept of beauty. In the perception of beauty there is a fundamental hierarchy of importance among the human senses. Those senses which are most cognitive are principally concerned with beauty. This is especially the case with the sense of sight and the sense of hearing which chiefly render service to reason. We are able to speak of beautiful paintings, scenery, people, gardens, as well as beautiful symphonies, oratorios, and sonatas. However, in reference to the other senses, such as the sense of taste and smell, we do not use the term beautiful. For example, it is not proper to speak of the beautiful smell of coffee or beautiful Chinese food. We can speak of the good aroma of Columbian coffee and the good taste of Cantonese rice dishes and hot and sour soup, but not of the beautiful aroma or the beautiful taste.30 This explanation emphasizes the role of reason in appreciating beauty. Sight and hearing are the principal senses in aesthetic experience, but their priority over the other senses is due to their proximity to reason. St. Thomas also emphasizes the intellectual nature of the aesthetic experience in his treatise on the moral virtues in the Summa Theologiae, though it is expressed in a different manner: “Beauty consists in a certain clarity and in due proportion. Now both of these are found radically in the reason to which pertains both the light manifesting beauty and the establishing of due proportion in other (things). So beauty is found per se and essentially in the contemplative life, which consists in an act of reason; whence the Book of Wisdom31 says of the contemplation of wisdom: ‘I became a lover of her beauty.’ Now among the moral virtues, beauty exists by participation inasmuch as they share in the order of reason; and especially in temperance which represses those desires which chiefly becloud the reason. So it is that the virtue of chastity best prepares the man for contemplation, because venereal pleasure draws the mind most strongly to sensible things.”32

Beauty is essentially and per se discovered in contemplation, which consists in an act of reason. It pertains essentially to contemplation, where the chief act is a simple intellectual view of truth, which is superior to reasoning and is accompanied by admiration.

The Aesthetic Act an Intellectual Intuition

That one of the objective aspects of beauty is that it consist in due proportion places the

aesthetic experience beyond the senses, for sense knowledge does not attain the sphere where it can consider the proportion between things.33 Only reason is capable of such judgment. But this fact does not exclude the senses from their specific role in the aesthetic experience, but they cannot be the primary factors in the experience of beauty. Henry J. Koren writes that “the words ‘when seen’ do not primarily refer to sense perception. They refer in the first place to intellectual intuition; for only the intellect is capable of formally apprehending the conformity of an object with a cognitive power because conformity is a relation and therefore can be apprehended only by the intellect. Although the external senses, especially sight and hearing, are used in the perception of material beauty, they perceive it only insofar as they are ‘tools’ of the intellect,

30 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 27, a. 1, ad 3. 31 Wisdom, 8:2. 32 Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 180, a. 2, ad 3. 33 Cf. Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 58, a. 4.

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because of themselves they are not capable of formally perceiving the conformity of their object with a cognitive power.”34

Frederick Wilhelmsen explains that the aesthetic act is an intellectual intuition pertaining to the second operation of the mind, namely, judgment, by which the existence of a thing is affirmed: “St. Thomas himself speaks of perfection as being a basis of beauty, which is the object of the aesthetic experience.35 For the Angelic Doctor, perfectio means not simply being, but the fullness of being. Let us recall briefly that it is through its act of being that any being tends to the fullness of its perfection, for the very perfection of all perfections is the act of being.36 Thus when St. Thomas establishes pulchrum in bonum he is establishing beauty in being itself. This is clearly his meaning, since he states that perfectio is of the very ratio of the beautiful; and perfectio for him is bonum simpliciter,37 which is ens secundum quid, the integrity of existence itself. Esse is not only that by which being subsists, but is also that by which being tends,38 that by which being tends to pass beyond itself in order to become itself.

“If beauty is rooted in the act of being and if the aesthetic experience bears on the beautiful as such, then it would seem clear that the aesthetic experience, in its cognitive aspect, must belong to that act through which existence is grasped by man; namely, the judgment.39 This sheds light on the somewhat controverted question as to whether or not the aesthetic experience – or the poetic experience, as it is often called – is conceptual. Since the first operation of the intellect has as its object the order of essence and since the order of essence is known by man as a result of an abstraction, this operation does not bear on the actual existing or the not existing of that which is apprehended.40 Beauty, being linked intrinsically to the act of being, cannot then be contemplated in function of simple apprehension; it is therefore non-conceptual in the sense that concepts are terminal products of the act of simple understanding.”41

34 H. J. KOREN, An Introduction to the Science of Metaphysics, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1965, p. 97. 35 “Nam ad pulchritudinem tria requiruntur. Primo quidem integritas sive perfectio”(Summa Theologiae, I, q. 39, a. 8). 36 Perfectio prima (est) secundum quod in suo esse constituitur”(Summa Theologiae, I, q. 6, a. 3); “intantum est autem perfectum unumquodque, inquantum est actu: unde manifestum est quod intantum est aliquid bonum, inquantum est ens; esse enim est actualitas omnis rei”(ibid., q. 5, a. 1); hoc quod dico esse est inter omnia perfectissimum…Unde patet quod hoc quod dico esse est actualitas omnium actuum, et propter hoc est perfectio omnium perfectionum”(De Potentia, 7, 2, 9). For the equivalence of integritas as well as perfectio with esse, cf. In IV Lib. Sententiarum, d. 26, q. 1, a. 4. 37 “Sed bonum dicit rationem perfecti, quod est appetibile, et per consequens dicit rationem ultimi. Unde id quod est ultimo perfectum, dicitur bonum simpliciter”(Summa Theologiae, I, q. 5, a. 2, ad 1). 38 De Veritate, q. 21, a. 2. 39 For example, “prima operatio respicit quidditatem rei; secunda respicit esse ipsius”(In I Sent., d. 19, q. 5, a. 1, ad 7). 40 Cf. In Boethii De Trinitate, 5, 3; In I Sent., d. 38, q. 1, a. 3. 41 F. D. WILHELMSEN, The Aesthetic Act and the Act of Being, “The Modern Schoolman,” 29 (1952), pp. 278-279. Wilhelmsen also explains: “Normally the predicate, expressing the order of essence, specifies and limits the act of being which is always affirmed or denied in judgment. In the aesthetic judgment no essential determination of being, generic or specific, is predicated. The predicate – ‘is beautiful’ – affirms a transcendental; that is, a mode of being following being simply. Now, the act of being and those perfections following that act are not forms; rather, that very act is the act of all forms. Thus the composition of predicate with subject, of form with matter, is in every judgment consequent upon, and posterior to, the affirmation of an act of existing. The third adjacent judgment itself is dependent upon the second adjacent, expressing as it does the limitation essence puts on esse; but the judgment of a transcendental expresses not limitation but relation. Since the formal intelligibility of this act is not a form limiting an act of being, the contemplated must be the act of existing itself, intuited somehow in and through, and as penetrating and actualizing, that being which possesses esse and which delights the beholder in the vision of the beautiful.

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Gerald Van Ackeren likewise observes that the aesthetic act is an intellectual intuition involving judgment and rooted in the act of being (esse): “The plunge into reality in function of which mind contemplates beauty is intuitive in character, as suggested in the phrase quae visa placent. And as beauty is seen and loved without any consciousness of the terms of judgment but merely with the assent of the mind to the beautiful object, we would be inclined, perhaps, to assign the act as that of simple apprehension. However, beauty like truth follows the act of being which is to be.42 And therefore it is of such character that simple apprehension cannot deal with it, because the object of simple apprehension is essence, not existence. Judgment alone brings the mind to the existence of things.

“Although it is by way of judgment that we experience the beauty of being, we must not think of judgment as a pure perfection. For composing and dividing in cognition is a compensation for the weakness of our human intellect – a weakness which follows upon the composite nature of man, the principle of whose knowledge is sensible, composite things. But does not such a process of joining subject and predicate in judgment destroy its intuitional character? Your known artistic experience perhaps may lead you to deny that in contemplating a beautiful picture or a sunset there is any enunciation made at all. What is subject and what is predicate? However if we recall, the essence of judgment is not composition and division, but the affirmation of an act of being, which is a simple act, we shall see that its intuitional character remains; composition is but the condition of its function, and enters judgment only because material reality presents itself to us with this discursive element.”43

The Role of Delight in the Aesthetic Act

Though the aesthetic experience pertains primarily to the spiritual faculty of the intellect,

there is nevertheless an important element of delight in the knowledge of the beautiful. Pleasure is the proper effect of beauty in the psychological order, as is seen in the simple definition of beauty: Pulchrum est id quod visum placet. Beauty is that which pleases when seen. Beauty must be known as a good of the intellect if it is to be desired, and this desire must find fulfillment in the very knowledge of the beautiful object. Aesthetic delight is a particular type of pleasure which is primarily intellectual because its cause is in the intellect and its end is in knowledge. There is an intellectual delight in the perception of beauty which is accompanied by a corresponding reaction in the sense appetite, for both faculties are delighted in the attainment of their proper objects. The type of pleasure which is presented as the effect of the aesthetic perception must be primarily that of delight or joy (gaudium) which is consequent upon intellectual knowledge. But, we must not forget that the aesthetic experience also entails the presence of a certain sense pleasure or delectatio, concomitant with the superior intellectual delight or joy (gaudium).

The two causes for delight in the apprehension of beauty are love and the activity of the faculties which apprehend beauty. The first cause is love, which is here taken in its broader

“While not conceptual, the aesthetic act nevertheless is a verbum, a verbum of the second operation of the intellect. This intentional act bears on what is too rich for the abstractive intelligible species of man. A poet can point at what he sees; he cannot utter in a concept the being (esse) seen. To conceive the being contemplated aesthetically, one must reproject the experience into the work of art”(F. D. WILHELMSEN, op. cit., pp. 281-282). 42 In Libro de Divinis (ominibus, ch. 4, lect. 5: “Nihil est quod non participat pulchro et bono cum unumquodque sit pulchrum et bonum secundum propriam formam.” 43 G. VAN ACKEREN, On the Contemplation of Beauty, “The Modern Schoolman,” 18 (1941), pp. 54-55.

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meaning, signifying the inclination of a faculty towards its proper object.44 Such a love or inclination causes both the senses and the intellectual faculties to unite with their proper objects.45 This union between faculty and object causes delight or joy (gaudium), which is pleasure in the possession of some good. A proportion or similarity between the faculties which perceive beauty and their proper objects gives rise to the inclination of these faculties towards their objects.46 Such proportion or similarity which inclines the faculty towards its object in the end produces delight.47 For man to be delighted by the beauty of things, there has to be a certain proportion between his knowing powers and the beauty which he apprehends. Beautiful objects are proportioned to the faculties which they delight; such objects of beauty are easily apprehended for they are suitable to the powers of the cognitive faculties.48

The second cause for delight in the apprehension of beauty concerns the activities of the faculties which apprehend beauty. Operation or activity is at the foundation of all delight, and the most delightful operations of both the senses and the intellect are those which are most perfect, i.e., those rational and sensory operations which are perfectly suited for the reception of their most perfect objects.49 Thus, the delight of the experience of beauty is the perfection of those faculties which apprehend beauty.50

Objective Criteria for the Beautiful

As we have seen, the psychological explanation of the experience of beauty has its roots

in the operation of man’s sensory and intellectual faculties. We have been concentrating so far upon the subjective conditions required for the perception of beauty. But this explanation is not the complete picture, for there are certain objective conditions required for the perception of beauty. An explanation of aesthetic delight is properly completed with an analysis of the beautiful object itself which man contemplates. There are three elements to be found in every beautiful object: 1. Integrity or perfection; 2. Proportion or harmony; and 3. Clarity or resplendence. St. Thomas writes that “beauty includes three conditions, integrity or perfection, since those things which are impaired are by the very fact ugly; due proportion or harmony; and lastly brightness or clarity.”51

1. Integrity or Perfection

Perfection and integrity are really the same thing, differing only conceptually: the former

signifies positively what the latter signifies negatively. A thing is perfect in so far as it has attained its full essential and functional stature, while, still with reference to this same thing, the term integrity signifies that no parts are lacking.

St. Thomas explains that “integrity is twofold. One considers the primary perfection which consists in the act of being (esse) of a thing; the other considers the secondary perfection

44 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 26, a. 1. 45 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 27, a. 1. 46 Ibid. 47 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 37, a. 7, sed contra. 48 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 5, a. 4, ad 1. 49 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 32, a. 1. 50 Cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 3, a. 2. 51 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 39, a. 7.

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which consists in operation.”52 In the first type of integrity, integrity based on esse, the entire perfection of the essence of a thing stems of the act of being (esse). Esse is the ultimate act and the act of all acts of a being (ens). The essence of a thing exists only through the act of being (esse). Alvira, Clavell and Melendo explain that the act of being (esse) is the root of the unity of the composite: “Since esse is the ultimate act of a being, which gives actuality to each of its elements (which are no more than potency with respect to esse), these parts are united to the extent that they are made actual by this constituent act, and referred to it.

“It is quite correct, therefore, to claim that ‘the act of being is the basis of the unity of the suppositum.’53 No part of the whole, taken separately, has esse of its own; it is, by virtue of the esse of the composite. To the very extent that the parts of the whole have esse, they must be a unity, since there is only a single act of being that actualizes them. Matter, for instance, does not subsist independently of the form; rather, both matter and form subsist by virtue of the act of being received in them. Operations are no more than an expression of the actuality which a being has because of its esse, and the same can be said of the other accidental modifications as well. In spite of the variety of accidents, the unity of the suppositum can easily be seen if we consider that no accident has an act of being of its own. All accidents share in the single act of being of the substance.”54

Regarding the second type of integrity which considers the secondary perfection which consists in operation, one can say that a man’s virtue and acts of virtue add operational perfection to him giving him a positive fullness typical of authentic and truly human beauty.

The first objective element of a beautiful object is integrity or perfection. A thing is said to be perfect when it lacks nothing according to the mode of its perfection.55 The hallmarks of ugliness are mutilation, privation, diminution. The created things that we see around us are composed of parts. The parts essential to the completeness of a thing are called its integral parts. Integrity is a species of perfection, and perfection is the form of a whole thing resulting from the integrity of its parts. This aspect of completeness, integrity, or perfection, must exist in the beautiful thing, though one should not conclude that the mere presence of integral parts in a thing automatically makes it beautiful, for the perfection characteristic of beauty is, according to J. L. Callahan, “a positive fullness, completeness, a richness of perfection such as can call forth the attention of the cognitive faculties and provoke a lively pleasure.”56 For example, a baby horse, although having the integral perfection befitting a horse, does not so much attract our attention as does an adult one with its overpowering form and gracious stride. The same with orchid buds and fully blossomed orchids. The added life and vigor of the adult stallion and mature orchids constitute the integrity or perfection required for something to be truly beautiful.

We observe that any noticable defect or mutilation in something leaves the beholder with an unpleasant impression. Our minds are dissatisfied with this aspect of incompleteness in the object and attempts to conceptually restore the missing parts. Such a necessary process entails a certain amount of mental movement and that stable state of contemplation needed in the aesthetic experience is lost. Aesthetic delight is marred by a certain amount of annoyance and irritation. Such is the case when we see a bombed out historical monument or building, a damaged classical painting or statue, or when we listen to an out of tune orchestra playing some familar

52 In IV Sent., d. 26, q. 2, a. 4. 53 Quodlibetum IX, a. 3, ad 2. 54 T. ALVIRA, L. CLAVELL, T. MELENDO, op. cit., p. 122. 55 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 4, a. 1. 56 J. L. CALLAHAN, A Theory of Esthetic, Washington, D.C., 1927, p. 58.

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classical symphony. Sometimes a work may contain a certain number of defects; take, for example, the parts damaged in the Sistine Chapel Ceiling fresco by a three hundred year-old gunpowder blast. Certain body parts are missing in a number of the painted figures. Nevertheless, the defects are so undeniably overshadowed by the overpowering resplendence of the beautiful masterpiece that these small mutilations and blemishes almost escape our notice altogether. In such a case we are able to experience beauty to the utmost by a simple concentration of our attention on the object as a whole, the object in its integrity or completeness. But as was mentioned, blemishes and mutilations detract from the beauty of an object, and if such defects crop up constantly upon our sphere of attention, then the object in question cannot be said to be truly beautiful.

2. Proportion or Harmony

This objective element of beauty is a quality noted more by St. Thomas than the rest.57

Just as the mind experiences pleasure in working out order from chaos, it also experiences aesthetic delight in discovering an orderly arrangement in what at first seems to be a chaotic mass. Chaos or confusion is not something delightful. A bunch of marble blocks heaped up in one place is certainly not a beautiful sight. But if they are symmetrically and proportionally so arranged in orderly fashion in the construction, for example, of a classical building or monument, then they form a veritable object of beauty. The tuning of instruments by various musicians of a symphony orchestra is quite irritating, the sounds emitted being annoying noise. But when, under the leadership of a talented conductor, these musicians begin to play a Mozart or Haydn symphony, we experience a very high order of beauty. The many dabs of oil colors in a painter’s palette is not a beautiful sight, but when these colors are employed by a Raphael, a Perugino, or a Leonardo, the resulting painting is a beautiful masterpiece.

The underlying secret of such beautiful objects is harmony, which is unity in diversity. It is order and arrangement in relation to an end. Harmony or proportion is a unity amid variety. A unity without variety cannot be called beautiful, for in such a case the powers of our perceptive faculties would be exercised in a constant, unrelieved strain, which would cause fatigue and tension, not the delight required in the aesthetic experience. Likewise, variety without unity cannot really pertain to the beautiful, for the powers of the perceptive faculties of the human mind would be scattered and spent without being able to rest at a certain point, thus disturbing and hindering the normal, healthy and vigorous function of the faculties, again, essential in the authentic aesthetic experience. Therefore, harmony, which is unity amid variety, functions like a focus, concentrating attention along set lines, bringing a certain order into the manifold elements, making them into a simplified whole. This essential constitutive element of the beautiful object facilitates the human mind’s perceptive activity, endowing it with a feeling of peaceful and restful completeness, thereby producing in it the delight or gaudium essential in the aesthetic experience.

Hart observes that “proportion is given a twofold application: (1) as a particularly harmonious conformity of the being to the intellect and (2) as a unity or harmony of the parts within the being taken by itself. This gives rise to that ‘unity in variety,’ which is so constantly mentioned in all attempts at analyzing the beauty of things. Unity without variety would be boring for human minds dependent on the senses, whereas diversity or variety without unity

57 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 5, a. 4, ad 1 ; I, q. 39, a. 8; I-II, q. 145, a. 2; II-II, q. 180, a. 2, ad 3; In De Divinis (ominibus, ch. 4, lect. 5.

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would be a confusing and therefore irritating to the unitary mind. Such difficulties would make the joy of contemplation, man’s highest prerogative, more difficult, to say the least. This orderliness is itself the perfection of the object, its goodness or desirability. It is both a dynamic order of subordination (or right arrangement of means to end as showing the influence of final causes) and a static order of coordination (or right arrangement of parts to make a systematic whole). It thus expresses that formal causality with which beauty is primarily identified. This demand for unity in variety requires the rhythm in music, poetry, and oratory, the composition and perspective in painting, and the design in architecture in the fine arts, wherein man attempts to communicate his experience of the beautiful.”58

Proportion is the due disposition of the parts of an action or object among themselves, and of the individual parts to the whole. It signifies the perfection of order. The concept of order includes other qualities of beauty: the variety of diverse things is the material cause, while unity is the formal cause, and proportion the efficient cause of order. Proportion unifies and coordinates the diverse elements in a beautiful object in a way which is most perfectly suited to manifest the perfection of the whole. There is in beauty a two-fold proportion, namely, proportion in the components of the beautiful object and proportion between the object and the faculties which apprehend it. Now, we are able to appreciate a beautiful object because it is proportioned to our cognitive powers. Beauty is related to our cognitive powers and that which pleases when seen is said to be beautiful. Beauty consists in due proportion, for the senses are delighted in duly proportioned objects as in things like unto themselves, for our senses and each cognitive power regard a certain kind of proportion.

3. Clarity or Resplendence

Clarity or resplendence59 is the third element of something that is beautiful. In order to be

beautiful an object must possess a vivid presentation, it must be impressive, having a certain compelling force upon the beholder. It should attract by its very appearance. With this the cognitive faculties are caught up and concentrated upon the compelling object in a stable way which produces delight. The elements of a beautiful object cannot be obscure or hidden, for that would give rise to an undue amount of strain and labour on the part of the mind, producing tension and weariness, not joy and delight, essential to the aesthetic experience. Delight and gaudium experienced by man must be spontaneous, which is the case when the clarity of beauty exercises the perceptive powers of man in such a manner that they function with ease and vigor. This is the reason why the arts utilize contrast as a technique to place the splendor of beauty in a sharper light (e.g., the paintings of Caravaggio). In doing so, the elements of artistic beauty are posited in a central position of attention, thereby giving the mind a proper perspective, enabling it to view the parts and the whole in one comprehensive glance.

For Thomists like Maritain the clarity of beauty is the resplendence of form, the effulgence of the form of the object.60 The form is the prime constituent of the essence of a being. It is that by which a thing is and by which a thing is known. The resplendence or

58 C. HART, op. cit., p. 392. 59 For a detailed examination of claritas in the Angelic Doctor, see: M. JORDAN, The Evidence of the Transcendentals and the Place of Beauty in Thomas Aquinas, “International Philosophical Quarterly,” 29 (1989), pp. 393-407. For the history of claritas as a constitutive element of the beautiful object, as well as St. Thomas’ doctrine on the matter, see: U. ECO, op. cit., pp. 102-120. 60 See: J. MARITAIN, op. cit., chapter five.

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effulgence of the form is the splendor of the essence and this splendor manifests the object to the cognitive faculties. In Art and Scholasticism, he explains that “a certain splendor is, in fact, according to all the ancients, the essential characteristic of beauty – claritas est de ratione pulchritudinis,61 lux pulchrificat, quia sine luce omnia sunt turpia62 – but it is a splendor of intelligibility: splendor veri, said the Platonists; splendor ordinis, said Saint Augustine, adding that ‘unity is the form of all beauty’63 ; splendor formae, said Saint Thomas in his precise metaphysician’s language: for the form, that is to say, the principle which constitutes the proper perfection of all that is, which constitutes and achieves things in their essences and qualities, which is, finally, if one may so put it, the ontological secret that they bear within them, their spiritual being, their operating mystery – the form, indeed, is above all the proper principle of intelligibility, the proper clarity of every thing. Besides, every form is a vestige or a ray of the creative Intelligence imprinted at the heart of created being. On the other hand, every order and every proportion is the work of intelligence. And so, to say with the Schoolmen that beauty is the splendor of the form on the proportional parts of matter,64 is to say that it is flashing of intelligence on a matter intelligibly arranged. The intelligence delights in the beautiful because in the beautiful it finds itself again and recognizes itself, and makes contact with its own light.”65

Beauty and Unity

Having treated of the objective elements of beauty, namely, integrity, proportion, and

clarity, let us now proceed to the relationship between beauty and unity, beauty and the good, and beauty and the true. What is the relationship between beauty and unity? There is indeed a close relationship between the two. Unity, amid complexity, is a perfection and comes to the aid of the intellect in grasping the underlying meaning of things without distracting its attention and weakening its powers. The grace of line throughout the Doni Tondo painting of Michelangelo in Florence, the sublimity of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, the intricateness of a Telemann sonata, and the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling – is not their perennial beauty due to their proportion, harmony, rhythm, and symmetry? To admit that this is so is to admit that beauty is indeed closely connected with unity.

Beauty and Truth

What is the relationship between beauty and truth? As was shown the appeal of beauty

regards mainly the perceptive powers, especially the intellect. Every beautiful object possesses an intelligible quality which transcends the level of sense perception. It is not enough just to ‘perceive’ beauty; it must also be ‘understood’ in order for it to be appreciated. This reveals that there is an element of truth in every beautiful object.

There is, however, a difference between beauty and truth. Truth as such merely commands our assent, but does not necessarily give us aesthetic delight. The truth, for example, of an accurate list of wartime casualties (numbers of combatant and civilian dead and wounded) 61 In De Div. (om., lect. 6. 62 Comment. In Psalm., Ps. XXV, 5. 63 ST. AUGUSTINE, De Vera Religione, ch. 41. 64 Opsc. de Pulchro et Bono, attributed to Albert the Great and sometimes to Saint Thomas. 65 J. MARITAIN, Art and Scholasticism and the Frontiers of Poetry, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1962, pp. 24-25.

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is a sobering fact that leaves us unhappy and can even cause us physical and mental pain when dwelt upon. The truth of the undeniable collapse of morality in contemporary industrialized societies is not beautiful, and can often cause upright and virtuous persons many sleepless nights. The truth of a chemical analysis of a gallon of house paint leaves us cold. The truth of an ingredients breakdown of a 1.5 liter bottle of a popular soft drink fails to give us the emotional response associated with the contemplation of something beautiful.

Although the truths, for example, of geometry and algebra leave a great number of students cold and even annoyed – constantly staring at their watches – there is, in fact, beauty in the world of science that modern scientists admit is objective, with objective characteristics. There are indeed scientific systems and theories based on the extra-mental universe and the entities in it that give scientists or intelligent laity elevated degrees of aesthetic delight.66 Famous scientists have acknowledged that the beings they study (e.g., stars, planets, quasars, comets) are beautiful, as well as the physical laws that govern the universe.67

66 For the relationship between beauty and science, see: A. LAMOUCHE, La Théorie Harmonique. Le principe de simplicité dans les mathématiques et dans les sciences physiques, Gauthier-Villars, Paris, 1955 ; H. E. HUNTLEY, The Divine Proportion. A Study in Mathematical Beauty, Dover, New York, 1970 ; E. SOBER, Simplicity, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975 ; S. CHANDRASEKHAR, Beauty and the Quest for Beauty in Science, “Physics Today,” July (1979), pp. 25-30 ; A. PAIS, “Subtle is the Lord…” The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1982 ; H. O. PEITGEN and P. H. RICHTER, The Beauty of Fractals. Images of Complex Dynamical Systems, Springer, Berlin, 1986 ; S. CHANDRASEKHAR, Truth and Beauty. Aesthetics and Motivations in Science, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987 ; J. W. MACALLISTER, Truth and Beauty in Scientific Reason, “Sinthese,” 78 (1989), pp. 25-51 ; J. W. MACALLISTER, Dirac and Aesthetical Evaluation of Theories, “Methodology and Science,” 23 (1990), pp. 87-100 ; I. STEWART and M. GOLUBITSKY, Fearful Symmetry. Is God a Geometer?, Blackwell, Oxford, 1992 ; H. WEYL, Symmetry, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1992 ; W. DERKSE, On Simplicity and Elegance. An Essay in Intellectual History, Eburon, Delft, 1993 ; J. D. BARROW, The Artful Universe, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995 ; F. BERTOLA (ed.), La bellezza nell’universo, Il Poligrafo, Padua, 1996 ; S. HILDEBRANDT and A. TROMBA, The Parsimonious Universe. Shape and Form in the (atural World, Copernicus, New York, 1997, E. TIEZZI, La bellezza e la scienza. Il valore dell’estetica nella conoscenza scientifica, R. Cortina, Milan, 1998. 67 Writing about the famous physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and his discovery of role of beauty in physics, Wil Derkse observes the following based on the research of Einstein scholar A. Pais: “One of Einstein’s best known biographers, Abraham Pais, claims that, both the special and general theories of Relativity, as well as his constant search for a ‘unified field theory,’ originated from a well defined aesthetic concern: ‘Einstein was driven to the special theory of relativity mostly by aesthetic reasons, that is, arguments of simplicity. This same magnificent obsession would stay with him for the rest of his life. It was to lead him to his greatest achievement, and to his noble failure, unified field theory’(A. PAIS, “Subtle is the Lord…” The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1982, p. 140). Contemplating Einstein’s remarks on beauty and simplicity, scattered over a period of 45 years of scientific activity, one can discern a number of aspects which are however closely related and are all based on a common ontological assumption. For Einstein simplicity was perhaps foremost a heuristic guide, both in terms of method and principles. According to him, good theories have ‘simple’ origins. “He was particularly attracted by the high aesthetic value of Niels Bohr’s atomic theory, used in physics from 1910 to 1920. He thought that the fact that Bohr skillfully and instinctively succeeded in discovering the principal laws of the special lines and of electronic orbitals, relying on the meaning and the explicative power his theory had for chemistry, was ‘like a miracle’ and it represented ‘the highest form of musicality in that sphere of thought’(A. PAIS, op. cit., p. 416). Einstein had an analogous appreciation towards Planck’s theory of thermal radiation, justified on the basis of its simplicity and its analogy to the classical theory. Looking for a complete unification between the electromagnetic and the gravitational fields, he was supported by the total confidence that the link ‘must’ have been present in nature, because the experience carried out until then justified the intuition that the ideal of simplicity applied in nature. This assumption was basically of an ‘ontological kind,’ one which would have certainly pleased both Plato and Aristotle. Simplicity seemed to guarantee a threefold function: as a signal of validity, as a heuristic and methodical tool, and as a road towards the unification of the laws. This was nothing but a new proposal in modern terms of the ancient rule simplex ratio veritatis, simplicity has the value of truth.

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In his book, The Evidential Power of Beauty, Thomas Dubay notes that “when the best of modern physicists come to explain what they mean by beauty, their views are remarkably like those we have discussed in the perennial philosophical tradition…First of all, for science beauty is objective, ‘out there…’ The awareness that the universe is stunningly beautiful wherever we turn our eye is now so much a conviction of our most productive scientists that objective grandeur is considered a warrant of truth…Physicists today are much taken with the conviction that objective beauty is a powerful aid to them in their work of discovering and explaining…

“For contemporary science the first trait of beauty is an elegant simplicity. In this context simplicity refers to an essential purity, a freedom from superfluities, useless accretions, and needless complications. Einstein’s theory of gravitation possesses this grace and propriety, whereas competing theories do not, and thus ‘none of them are taken seriously.’68 Astrophysicist Roger Penrose commented that ‘no rival theory comes close to general relativity in elegance or simplicity of assumption.’69 For the scientist simplicity implies both completeness and economy: ‘It must take into account all the facts and must include only what is necessary. Nothing lacking, nothing superfluous.’70 Notable in the field of mathematical physics, Henri Poincaré commented that ‘it is because simplicity and vastness are both beautiful that we seek by preference simple and vast facts.’71 We notice in this requirement for valid scientific discoveries, namely, that they be elegantly simple and yet vast, the classical philosophical traits of the beautiful: unity and wholeness.”72 This corresponds to the first objective characteristic of beauty, namely, integrity.

Dubay then goes on to describe the second and third objective characteristics of beauty acknowledged by modern scientists, namely, proportion or harmony and clarity or resplendence: “The second scientific element is harmony. Albert Einstein went so far as to assert that ‘without belief in the inner harmony of the world there could be no science.’73 This harmony is a satisfying accordance and combination of differing elements making up a whole or found in a whole. There will likewise be symmetry, as a solid scientific theory ‘will harmonize many previously unrelated facts.’74 Werner Heisenberg adds that ‘the symmetry properties always

“The ontological assumption of simplicity is accompanied, and somewhat caused, by an aesthetical impulse. Commenting on his work towards a unified field theory, Einstein stated that ‘its purpose was neither to incorporate the unexplained nor to resolve any paradox. It was purely a quest for harmony’(A. PAIS, op. cit., p. 23). Motivations of aesthetic and emotional nature have undoubtedly played an important role in the origin and development of Einsteinian theories. In his letters and speeches he repeatedly underlined the influence of these aspects, and he assumed that this motivation was overtly and secretly recognized by his colleagues. Addressing Max Planck on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Einstein said: ‘The longing to behold…pre-established harmony is the source of the inexhaustible persistence and patience with which we see Planck devoting himself to the most general problems of our science, without letting himself be deflected by goals which are more profitable and easier to achieve. I have often heard that colleagues would like to attribute this attitude to exceptional will-power and discipline; I believe entirely wrongly so. The emotional state which enables such achievements is similar to that of the religious person or the person in love; the daily pursuit does not originate from a design or program but from a direct need’(A. PAIS, op. cit., pp. 26-27)”(W. DERKSE, Beauty, in Dizionario Interdisciplinare di Scienza e Fede, Milan, 2001, paragraphs 17-19). 68 R. AUGROS and G. STANCIU, The (ew Story of Science, Regnery Gateway, Lake Bluff, IL, 1984, p. 42. 69 R. PENROSE, Black Holes, in The State of the Universe, edited by Geoffrey Bush, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, p. 128. 70 R. AUGROS and G. STANCIU, op. cit., p. 43. 71 H. POINCARÉ, Science et Méthode, Flammarion, Paris, 1949, p. 167. 72 T. DUBAY, The Evidential Power of Beauty, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999, pp. 39-40. 73 A. EINSTEIN and L. INFELD, The Evolution of Physics, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1938, p. 313. 74 R. AUGROS and G. STANCIU, op. cit., p. 43.

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constitute the most essential features of a theory.’75 We obviously have here what philosophers have through the centuries called proportion: in actuality the two ways of speaking are identical. Science, like metaphysics, sees the universe saturated with beauty.

“Brilliance is the third element in science’s view of the beautiful. Augros and Stanciu explain that ‘a theory with this quality has great clarity in itself and sheds light on many other things, suggesting new experiments. Newton, for example, astounded the world by explaining falling bodies, the tides and the motions of the planets and the comets with three simple laws.’76 George Thomason adds that ‘in physics, as in mathematics, it is a great beauty if a theory can bring together apparently different phenomena and show that they are closely connected; or even different aspects of the same thing.’77 This is exactly what Einstein did with his theory of general relativity…”78

Beauty and the Good

What is the relationship between beauty and the good? The element of good is present in

the beautiful. Beauty pleases, satisfies, delights us, and pleasure, satisfaction, and delight have a natural reference to an appetency, because an object which has these characteristics is a delectable good. Such emotions like pleasure and satisfaction are naturally a subjective element in aesthetic enjoyment, but they are elicited by the thing itself when contemplated by the knowing subject. Thus, as was stated, the element of goodness is present in the beautiful.

But there is a marked difference between beauty and goodness. While the good satisfies the appetites in a direct manner, as something to be acquired, possessed and retained, not because it is known and perceived, beauty, on the other hand, is the good insofar as it delights the beholder through its perception and contemplation. The good is always something suitable to a striving power, and for that reason it is desired by an appetency. Thus, appetency is something rather self-interested in its striving. In contrast, a beautiful object gives the beholder satisfaction and pleasure through the simple contemplation of it, without the presence of any acquisitive tendency. One can enjoy listening to impressive renditions of Bach or Mozart by a Glenn Gould or an Anne Sophie Mutter at the Royal Festival Hall in London without either desiring their musical talents or their musical instruments.

Kenneth Dougherty writes that “beauty is more closely related to the good than to the true. The beautiful is the good that affords contemplative delight apart from the desire of appropriation. Whereas the good is sought to be possessed, the beautiful is sought to be contemplated with complacency. We can perfectly enjoy the beautiful without wanting to possess it. The visitor at an art museum can stand in awe before Rodin’s Thinker and admire the splendor of form of this artistic work without ever thinking of having it as his own property. The good, however, precisely as the good is sought to be possessed. Once an art work is considered as an object for sale, it is viewed as a useful good rather than in the esthetic experience of the beautiful. Once the actor fixes his attention on the applause to his art, he is viewing it as a good for himself rather than as a work of beauty.”79

75 W. HEISENBERG, The Meaning of Beauty in the Exact Sciences, in Across the Frontier, Harper and Row, New York, 1974, p. 167. 76 R. AUGROS and G. STANCIU, op. cit., p. 44. 77 G. THOMASON, The Inspiration of Science, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1961, p. 18. 78 T. DUBAY, op. cit., pp. 40-41. 79 K. DOUGHERTY, Metaphysics, Graymoor Press, Peekskill, NY, 1965, p. 81.

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Thomas C. Donlan explains that “the good and the beautiful are materially identical and formally diverse. The good is the end of the appetite; it pertains to the final cause. The beautiful is a special good of the cognitive faculties, ‘and because cognition is by way of assimilation which regards the formal cause, beauty properly pertains to the nature of a formal cause.’80 In the possession of good there is complacence but not contemplation; in the apprehension of beauty there is both complacence and contemplation. The good pleases when possessed; the beautiful pleases when seen. Beauty does not beget the desire for dominion. ‘To consider (or, contemplate) pulchritude is delightful in itself.’81 The love of beauty is of its very nature disinterested.”82

Ontological Beauty

All things are beautiful in themselves. “There is nothing that does not participate of the

beautiful and the good, since every one is beautiful and good according to its own form.”83 “Every being therefore,” explains Renard, “is beautiful because of its form that is appropriate (conveniens) to itself, since that form is a faint participation of the one (God) who is beauty itself.”84

Beauty consists in an effulgence of actuated form in beings. It is the splendor that emerges from actuated form, present whenever form is actual, that is, whenever something is. This is ontological or transcendental beauty, which is convertible with being. The ultimate metaphysical foundation of beauty lies in the act of being (esse), the act of acts and perfection of perfections. All things, in so much as they are, are beautiful. St. Thomas, commenting on Pseudo-Dionysius’ On the Divine (ames, writes: “…every form, through which a thing has being, is a participation of the divine splendor; and this is what he adds, that ‘all things’ are ‘beautiful according to their proper notion,’ that is, according to their proper form”(In De Div. (om., IV, lecture 5, ed. C. Pera, no. 349). Commenting on this passage, Gerald Phelan observes: “The relational character of beauty is thus rooted in existence, in being. It belongs to all things which are, in any manner whatsoever.”85

In Summa Theologiae, I, q. 5, a. 4, St. Thomas explains how transcendental beauty and transcendental good are really convertible but nevertheless differ conceptually: “Beauty and good in a subject are the same, for they are based upon the same thing, namely, the form; and consequently good is praised as beauty. But they differ logically, for good properly relates to the appetite (good being what all things desire), and therefore it has the aspect of an end (for the appetite is a kind of movement towards a thing). On the other hand, beauty relates to the knowing power, for beautiful things are those which please when seen. Hence beauty consists in due proportion, for the senses delight in things duly proportioned, as in what is after their own kind – because even sense is a sort of reason, just as is every knowing power. Now since knowledge is by assimilation, and likeness relates to form, beauty belongs to the nature of a formal cause.”86

80 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 5, a. 4, ad 1. 81 In I Polit., lect. 8. 82 T. C. DONLAN, The Beauty of God, “Thomist,” 10 (1947), p. 201. 83 In Dion. De (omin. Divin., 4, lect. 5. 84 H. RENARD, op. cit., p. 190. 85 G. B. PHELAN, The Concept of Beauty in St. Thomas Aquinas, in Aspects of the (ew Scholastic Philosophy, edited by C. Hart, New York, 1932, p. 131. 86 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 5, a. 4, ad 1.

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The above passage shows that St. Thomas considered beauty to be a transcendental: “Beauty and goodness in a thing are identical fundamentally…but they differ logically…”87 With respect to transcendental being and transcendental good, the Angelic Doctor states in an earlier article of the same fifth question of the Prima Pars: “The good and being are identical according to the thing…,”88 while also saying that they differ only logically.

The objective formal condition of beauty is found in the perfection of the form: verum is found in the form as intelligible, while bonum is found in the form as appetible; pulchrum is also founded in the form of a thing, the contemplation of which pleases. Every being God created possesses the perfection of its substantial form. Now such beings are completely beautiful when they possess not only the perfection of their substantial form but also the perfection of all accidents due to it. They are relatively beautiful if they possess only some of the perfections owed to it. A person, for example, may have great spiritual beauty because of a life of heroic virtue yet lack physical beauty due to some physical deformity. Another person, for example, may be relatively beautiful physically, yet ugly due to many vices.

As a transcendental perfection of being, beauty embraces every being as being. Yet the fact that every being is beautiful does not contradict the common sense truth that certain beings around us are ugly. One may also affirm that every being is good and at the same time without contradiction affirm that evil exists in the world. Certain beings are deficient in integrity, proportion and splendor of form in some way and are therefore deprived of a certain beauty. They are ugly in a certain way. But no being is ugly without qualification for that being will still be participating in the act of being, will still be, and therefore be still endowed with a beauty secundum quid. Being and beauty are convertible, and inasmuch as a being has esse there is beauty in that thing. Beauty is participated in varying degrees by all finite beings that are actuated by varying degrees of esse.

Degrees of Beauty

Beauty simpliciter is to be distinguished from beauty secundum quid: “Something is

beautiful in the fullest sense (simpliciter) if it possesses all the perfections that correspond to its own nature. For example, we say that the gazelle is a beautiful animal to the extent that it has the harmony and perfection proper to its nature (we can call this pulchrum simpliciter) and not only because it has the act of being (pulchrum secundum quid).”89 Pulchrum simpliciter is the principal meaning of beauty and is manifested by means of objective criteria (integrity or perfection, harmony or proportion, and clarity or resplendence) which produce aesthetic pleasure in the one contemplating the beautiful thing.

There are various degrees of beauty simpliciter and beauty secundum quid. The beauty secundum quid, for example, of a dog is less than the beauty secundum quid of a man, because a man has a much more intensive participation in the act of being (esse) than a dog. But the beauty simpliciter of an apple tree can be higher than the beauty simpliciter of a lion because of some physical deformity in the latter. Alvira, Clavell, and Melendo explain for us the various degrees of beauty, writing: “Divine beauty, which is unique and supremely simple, is reflected in creatures in varying degrees. Because they only participate in the act of being, creatures possess a limited beauty. No one of them possesses beauty in its entirety; rather, each one is endowed

87 Ibid. 88 Summa Theologiae, I, q. 5, a. 1. 89 T. ALVIRA, L. CLAVELL, T. MELENDO, op. cit., p. 168.

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only with that beauty in accordance with its own particular mode of being, which is determined by its form. We shall now consider separately the two main divisions of the created universe, that is, the spiritual world and the world of material beings, in order to analyze how beauty is found in each of them.

“a) Spiritual substances, whose forms are not limited by matter, have the full beauty which pertains to their degree and mode of being. To the very extent that an angel has esse, it is good and beautiful. Consequently, there is a gradation in the beauty of pure spirits, which is a faithful reflection of the hierarchy formed by their degrees of being (pulchrum secundum quid).

“The beauty simpliciter of angels is identical with their beauty secundum quid. This is so because every angel is a species in itself, and has all the perfections (quantitas virtutis) proper to its nature in their fullest possible degree.

“We can also consider the beauty of an angel with regard to its transcendental end (God), which it attains through its free acts. Here lies the real beauty simpliciter of an angel, since, as mentioned above, its beauty in accordance with its nature is resolved into its beauty secundum quid. The characteristics of beauty simpliciter (harmony, integrity, and clarity) are lost by an angel through sin, which separates it from its last end.

“b) Within the realm of material beings, beauty is more fragmentary and scattered, because at this level, the limitation of the substantial form by matter hinders any individual from possessing all of the perfections of its species.

“No material being manifests beauty in all of its extension, not even all beauty which pertains to its genus or species, since in different individuals the substantial form is affected by various accidental forms, which are adapted to its nature in different degrees. Besides, any given individual will hardly be beautiful in any every aspect. A horse may have a marvelously elegant figure and may show astonishing gracefulness in racing or jumping, and yet its color may leave much to be desired. A poem may have very suggestive stanzas and still have relatively less accomplished lines.

“Like spiritual beings, material substances also have degrees of beauty secundum quid, in conformity with their degrees of being. With regard to beauty secundum quid, the more perfect species are naturally more beautiful. However, with respect to beauty simpliciter, an individual of an inferior species may be more beautiful than another of a superior species. A perfectly formed rose, for instance, would be more beautiful than a deformed horse.

“What has been discussed above refers only to the interior perfections of spiritual and material beings in their natures. There is, however, a higher level of beauty which is attained when a being directs itself towards its transcendent end (God). Truly, this constitutes the summit of creatural beauty, for the attainment of the transcendent end is the summit of creatural perfection. Especially in the case of man, bodily beauty pales in comparison with that beauty acquired through free actions that lead to God. Hence, when we talk of the ugliness of sin, we are not merely using a metaphor; on the contrary, we refer to a real disharmony and darkness produced in a soul that has freely committed a sin. Such discordance and ugliness surpasses any ugliness due to physical deformity.”90

Writing about the spiritual beauty of proportion of actions to an end, Charles Hart observes: “Spiritual beauty is apprehended by the intellect and is directly concerned with man’s soul and, by inference and analogy, with the beauty of angelic and Infinite Being. The beauty of the soul will be that of the natural endowments of intellect and will and its corresponding virtues. As most properly human, such beauty is of incomparably more value than any which man shares 90 T. ALVIRA, L. CLAVELL, T. MELENDO, op. cit., p. 170.

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through his body with the lower orders. It should be emphasized, however, that the physical beauty of man’s material principle receives much greater value by reason of its relation to the spiritual soul. Truly it is designated by inspired writers as the very temple of the Holy Spirit. Yet because of its influence on man’s passions, to the detriment of the spiritual beauty of his virtues, it is also called, paradoxically, a vain and deceitful beauty.”91

Joseph Pohle states that “the infusion of sanctifying grace, the formation in the soul of the image of Christ, the immersion of the spirit into the beatific light of the Divine Substance – produce in man a degree of beauty which no tongue can utter and no pen is able to describe. Therefore ascetic writers justly claim that the attainment of moral perfection is the noblest of all arts, and that no masterpiece of art can be compared to a holy soul. The most beautiful product of Divine Art is the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in whose person innumerable privileges and perfections are harmoniously blended. Jesus Christ Himself (as the Word made Flesh) would have to be called the apex of creatural beauty, and therefore the most faithful image of Divine Beauty, were it not for the fact that we must admire in him rather the Hypostatic Union of created with Uncreated Beauty. For in His Divine Nature Christ is Substantial Beauty, while created beauty shines forth in His human nature only.”92

In her book Finite and Eternal Being, St. Edith Stein writes about the beauty that is above bodily beauty, namely, spiritual beauty: “There is spiritual beauty. There is the beauty of the human soul, whose ‘ways and actions are duly measured and ordered in accordance with the intellectual clarity of reason.’93 The closer a created being is to the divine Urbild, the more perfect it is. This is why intellectual and spiritual beauty range above sensuous beauty. And because the human soul by divine grace is drawn near to the divine being in an entirely new sense, the splendor which grace pours out over a human soul surpasses all purely natural brightness and harmony.94 However, that which imparts being and beauty to all created things and beings must be supreme beauty – beauty as such.95 God is perfect being without any want, fault, or flaw. …He is His own measure, determined in Himself in ‘duly proportioned’ accord with Himself, and wholly luminous in and for Himself: that eternal light ‘in whom there is no shadow of darkness.’96”97

The Beauty of God

Beauty is closely allied with perfection. There is no admixture of imperfection in the

beautiful, as beautiful. Therefore, beauty is an absolutely simple, and not mixed, perfection. In God, nature and supposit are one. Hence we are able to affirm that God is Beauty. Beauty is identified with His Essence. As perfection is the basis of both goodness and beauty, God, who is Pure Act of Being, the Ipsum Esse Subsistens, is therefore Goodness and Beauty without limit. The divine attributes exist in God both formally and eminently, and because of such eminent perfection, the beauty of God can only be ineffably delightful and infinitely more perfect than any created finite beauty which can only be but a faint and feeble reflection of the Divine Beauty, God. “In Him,” explains Hart, “there is an absolute fullness of being, an absolute 91 C. HART, op. cit., p. 394. 92 J. POHLE, God: His Knowability, Essence and Attributes, B. Herder, St. Louis, 1911, p. 272. 93 Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 145, a. 2, c. 94 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, Commentary on the Psalms, Psalm 23. 95 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, In Dionys. De Div. (om., 4, lect. 5. 96 1 John 1:5. 97 E. STEIN, Finite and Eternal Being, ICS Publications, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 323.

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integrity. As to proportion or harmony of parts, or unity in variety, God has no variety which would be a mark of imperfection. Rather, He has a unity so infinitely rich as to suggest variety without its imperfections (as witness our mode of knowing him through a composition of, what is for us, many perfections). Finally His complete separation from matter, as the root of unintelligibility, makes Him Intelligibility or Truth Itself (Ipsa Intelligibilitas) to Himself, the one source of intelligibility of all other things outside Himself. Thus is He the Beauty ever ancient and ever new, of which Augustine complained he knew too late, and loved too late.”98 Deploring his own defection from the Absolute Beauty, God, before his conversion, the Bishop of Hippo and Father of the Church St. Augustine wrote of God in his Confessions: “Too late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new, too late have I loved Thee! And behold Thou wast within, and I was abroad, and there I sought Thee, and deformed as I was, ran after those beauties which Thou hast made.”99

98 C. HART, op. cit., p. 393. Dougherty writes: “The beauty of God is all perfect because He is pure act and act is perfection. God in the splendor of His perfection is the efficient cause by which every beauty is made. Divine beauty is the exemplary cause according to which every beauty is patterned and the final cause on account of which everything beautiful exists. For God in contemplating Himself beholds all beauty. He possesses integrity most perfectly because He is perfectly complete in act. He possesses proportion not between parts, because in God there are no parts, no composition. He is pure act, simply perfect. He possesses the proportion of perfect harmony in intelligibility, since matter is the root of unintelligibility and He is purely act. He has the perfect harmony of pure simplicity in being”(K. DOUGHERTY, op. cit., p. 85). 99 ST. AUGUSTINE, Confessions, X, 20.


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