Plato said, beauty is the “object of love;” Aquinas, that beauty is that which “pleases when seen…” Both believed that beauty is universal, true for all and everywhere, unchanging, immutable; As if it went according to the plan of Plotinus’ Cosmic One. Or, if you will, the will of God or the gods, depending on your persuasion.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
History differs who said it first. Perhaps Plato, Shakespeare, or Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, who wrote of it in a book, according to the Net.
But beauty, if you went by the Modernist philosophers, is not subjective. It is still as universal as the Classical philosophers claimed. Beauty results from an immediate and unmediated judgment humans make when confronted by a beautiful or ugly thing.
The judgment comes from the “faculty of taste,” which is the mind’s ability to feel good when confronted by the thing of beauty, be it sight, sound, smell, feeling or taste.
It does not follow after reason.
Reason comes after the judgment.
And when this judgment is made from a disinterested perspective, then this judgment can only be universal. I learned all these from the book by George Dickie, “Aesthetics: An Introduction.”
It should be required reading for artists. But also good general reading for all who want to understand why and how useful is our ability to make judgments from the look of things. Imagine yourself, walking down a half-dark hallway.
There is no one there.
The hall is empty.
And yet, you hear a sound.
What do you feel?
A bit of fear would be appropriate and for good reason. Perhaps the prudent thing is to turn around and find a better way to where you’re going. Or, perhaps to arm yourself, a gun, a big stick might be good.
Or you could be in wide grassland when you see in the distance a pride of lions.
Lions would seem beautiful creatures on a magazine page.
But you would be excused if your aesthetic judgment moves you to run away at the first growl.
Aesthetics could be human adaptation resulting from millennia of surviving a difficult, threatening, and oftentimes ugly world.
Reason results in a more reliable judgment.
But whenever quick complex judgment is required, nothing beats aesthetics.
Thus, I am within reason for applying aesthetic judgment into the current move to have Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno impeached or resigned. It gives no universal “beauty feeling” to the “disinterested.”
To be perfectly plain, it is looking uglier and uglier the more it is talked about especially by those who would have the Chief Justice impeached or resigned.
The optics says all. On the one hand, the CJ looking dignified and quite beautiful, calmly propounding her side of the question. And at the opposite end, her enemies, looking quite, well… What am I supposed to say besides, ugly? Look again, and carefully.
Like intelligence, aesthetics is a predictive human ability. The dark hallway, the pretty lions in a grassy field, are omens of likely danger.
And we should read it that way in this instance.
Sereno’s enemies are right to pressure her to resign if only to deflect from this possible nightmare: Recall the television coverage of the previous Chief Justice Corona’s impeachment and before that, Erap. Now imagine Sereno in their place, in front of daily coverage through television cameras.
Her, looking quite dignified and beautiful, propounding legal arguments as only she can propound. And across from her, her enemies. What possible arguments could they put forward that could overturn the optics? Or cover up the obvious ugliness?
Such drama as could present itself for daily telenovela. Such drama as people would follow daily at great cost to the ennui of their lives’ daily grind.
Such drama could bring out in vivid light the most beautiful and ugly things about us and our leaders.
Such drama would give us a big unifying narrative to talk about between each other.
Such drama as could bring down a government…
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