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The Abuse of Beauty Author(s): Arthur C. Danto Source: Daedalus, Vol. 131, No. 4, On Beauty (Fall, 2002), pp.

35-56 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences Stable URL: Accessed: 08/09/2009 06:05
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Arthur C. Danto

The abuse of beauty

It is self-evident ing art is self-evident


nothing any more,

concern not its

For example, shortly after the terrorist attack on theWorld Trade Center in New heinz greatest guage was most. York in 2001, Stockhausen work conveyed the composer Karl it "the

inner life, not its relation to the world, not even its right to exist. - Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 1969

proclaimed " of art ever. Since his lan extreme admiration, in the minds could be made he of

instantly disgraced That such a claim

1 of the contemporary peri od in the history of art that no con straints govern the way works of visual art should look. An artwork can look like and be made of anything anything, is possible. anything It is the mark

the total openness of the contemporary of how art, concept ever monstrous the consequences of art in that way. conceiving nates The philosophical history of art culmi in the recognition that there is no

at all underscores

Arthur C. Danto, art critic for "TheNation" magazine and Emeritus Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, has been a Fellow of theAmerican Academy since 1980. He is the author of numerous books, including "Niet zsche as Philosopher" (1965), "The Transfigura
tion of the Commonplace" (19Si), and "Encoun

merit in asking any longer whether this or that can be art, for the answer will al ways be yes, noting that limits external to the definition of art moral consider ations above all always remain. The de finition of art must accordingly be con as far sistent with an absolute pluralism as works of art are concerned. I am al most certain that Adorno's cultural de spair derived from this perception, though not even that paradigmatically thinker, whose pessimistic thought was darkened by the Holocaust, would have a statement been able to imagine like Stockhausen's, it. occasioned let alone the horror that

ters and Reflections : Art in the Historical Pre a art collection criticism thatwon the sent," of National Book Critics Circle Prize for Criticism in 1990. "The abuse of beauty" isbased on the Cams Lectures presented to theAmerican Philo in December of 2001. Danto is currentlypreparing a revised and greatly ex panded version of these lectures thatwill be pub sophical Association lished as a book by Open Court Press in 2003.

' sAesthetic of Adorno A he publication Theory in 1969 coincided with the end of a decade of intense inquiry, remarkably




Arthur c. Danto beauty

as philoso in of independence phers, though largely an one another. Indeed, essay with which the decade properly began Clement Greenberg's i960 "Modernist remarked upon a parallel be Painting" tween modernist art and a certain form conducted by artists as well of philosophical practice. Comparing art with a form of self contemporary criticism in the Critique of exemplified

against either the standards of ordinary we discourse where we know whereof - or a of scientific discourse gov speak erned by strict considerations of verifi It is difficult ability and confirmability. to resist the impulse to see a cultural equivalence between the canonization by the Ox of ordinary language cultivated ford School of Linguistic phenomenolo of everyday gy and the studied aesthetic or in Warhol's Claes objects Factory 1962 Store on East Second Oldenberg's Street inManhattan, where one could of gym shoes, auto buy painted effigies mobile tires, and women's underpants.

Pure Reason, Greenberg called Kant the in the arts, first modernist. Self-criticism as understood consisted by Greenberg, in purifying the relevant medium of the was art form. Thus three-dimensionality to painting, which was essen extrinsic in Greenberg's view. flat, tially painting Accordingly, of any kind, and be purged of illusionism over depth given by right to sculpture. was one of art de Greenberg's agenda and there can fining itself from within, be no question that this quasi-Kantian endeavor was pursued, often with a cer tain puritanical fervor, by a number of art in its concep artists bent on making This was par condition. tually purified case with the so-called min ticularly the But in truth, philosophy and a great many atti art shared avant-garde tudes in the 1960s. One aim of pop, for example, was to imalists. ironize vernacular the distinction between high and art - between the heroized he believed should

AAow much of any of this fellwithin

the horizons torically of official problematic, philoso that the defini grasped at issue as never before. aesthetics but some is his

phers certainly tion of art was

In 1965, the British philosopher Richard an Wollheim essay published important on "Minimal Art." Though Wollheim was credited with coining subsequently the term having finally

'minimalism,' known nothing so

essay, rather,

he admits of the works His


to that con

in his


there are minimal being designated were monochrome


for something

of the previous of generation painting the Abstract and artists, Expressionists, the popular imagery of the comic strip advertisements the and commercial a controversial of exhi and Low' 'High Art in bition at the Museum of Modern 1992. But comparably, analytical itwas an effort of the philosophy we what call of pretensions might 'high' - the visions cosmo-tragical philosophy or of the towering of the Existentialists titans of metaphysics who loomed be its language hind them by criticizing 36 D dalus Fall 2002 to overcome

generally regarded cal joke until perhaps 1915, and the that Marcel Duchamp put ready-mades forward as art at about that same time. In addressing this concern, Wollheim followed the official philosophical mod to which having a concept el according requires criteria for picking out its in stances. Itwas monplace out successfully a com Wittgensteinian can be culled that instances

art. His paradigms painting, which was as amere philosophi

without benefit of defi as case in the of nitions, games. In fact there can be no criteria for distinguish a comb ing ready-made metal grooming an met from indiscernible by Duchamp

comb that was not a ready al grooming white paint made, nor amonochrome over which white a from all ing panel - so the ques paint had been slathered tion of definition became urgent after all. Indeed, with the advent of conceptual art at the end of the 1960s, the material - nor no did object was longer required it necessarily have to be made by the art the ist. "I've stopped making objects," artist Douglas Huebner said in a 1969 in terview. "And I'm not trying to take any am I try thing away from the world. Nor I'm not try the world. ing to restructure to world the tell really. I'm anything, ing not trying to tell the world that it could be better by being this or that. I'm just, the world by doing you know, touching these things, and leaving it pretty much " the way it is. Leaving the world as we found it, we had been told by Wittgen stein,

vanced vanced as well. nition work,

art of the 1960s, but from the adof art of that decade philosophy Nor could it be part of the defi can be an art of art if anything since it is certainly not true that

The abuse ?f beauty

is beautiful. anything Not long after the John Simon Gug was Foundation genheim Memorial saw as in 1925, the founders established its immediate beneficiaries women to pushing devoted boundaries "Men and forward the of knowledge and to the cre ation of beauty." Art in that era was tac in terms of creating beauty, itly defined and that creation was in turn put on equal footing with efforts at expanding of knowledge. to the cre Forty years later, reference ation of beauty was omitted from the enabling language for the National for the Arts, presumably Endowment because beauty had largely disappeared the boundaries agenda in 1965. But a role in the still beauty played thinking of the era's politicians, many of whom art as depraved and dismissed modern destructive. Congressman George A. from the artistic Dondero of Michigan ern art is communistic wrote because that "Mod it is dis

is the way follows erasure

it iswith from


this history of con and the concomitant ceptual - is not I began by remarking pluralism that art is indefinable, but that the con to be art ditions necessary for something What will to be fairly abstract to fit all that cases, and in particular imaginable remains art' of 'our of little very concept can that the framer of a real definition have rely

on. In The Transfiguration of the Com con monplace (1981) I came up with two as "x is an art work if ditions, condensed a it embodies The chief merit meaning." in its of this definition weakness. lay as from my proto-definition, Missing of from all the philosophical definitions art put forth during the 1960s that I can to beauty, recall, was any reference which would surely have been among to have been ad the first conditions vanced by a conceptual analyst at the had disappeared turn of the twentieth century. Beauty not only from the ad

torted and ugly, because it does not glo our beautiful country, our cheerful rify and smiling people, and our material progress. Art which does not beautify our country in plain simple terms that can understand breeds dissat everyone isfaction. government

It is therefore
it are our

to our opposed and those who create and


The newspaper magnate William Ran Hearst artis form of dolph "equated any with communism, and in a that the work produced manner a was non-traditional disguised " means of communist This propaganda. is but one instance, as we shall see, of the assumed of beauty. politicization In the early 1990s, the art critic Dave tic radicalism





Arthur C. 0?nt0 beauty

Hickey central


asked what he thought the issue of the decade would be.



from my reverie, I said 'Beau and then, more firmly, ''The issue of ty,' " This was the nineties will be beauty. a "total uncom greeted, he recalls, with ... I had wandered silence. prehending into this dead zone, this silent abyss." "Snatched ?-jet me certain begin to put this silence into a the

"brings beauty cast and forsaken."

the fate of Metaphysics, a out only scorn ; matron

A he twentieth century did not begin

with such disdain for the concept of a in beauty. In letter to Thomas Monro wrote his of 1927, George Santayana gen eration that "We were not very much later than Ruskin, Arnold.

perspective by considering of Robert Mapplethorpe, photography in 1989 when who had become notorious The Perfect Moment was his exhibition of cancelled by the Corcoran Museum move Art in an ill-advised preemptive the that against funding for the danger National be voted what down Endowment if our for the Arts might saw legislators The fear supporting.


and Pater, Swinburne, was Our atmosphere that of poets and persons touched with or sad enthusiasm religious religious ness. Beauty (which mustn't be men tioned now) was then a living presence, or an aching absence, day and night." It was its beauty that justified the precisely art was held in San esteem in which
tayana's time. Here, for example, are

the fund was was based on the charged sexual content was of his signature images though it that his work central to his achievement as well. It was beautiful self-consciously was this, rather than its content, that the photographic alienated avant-garde Iwas writing my book on Map I asked an artist who was at plethorpe, the time experimenting with pinhole cameras what he thought of him. He dis missed artist have Mapplethorpe so concerned with lost touch with imperatives pompier-an as to elegance the limits of his me of modernism, to make as as a against When him.

some gible

thoughts today, from

that are almost


Santayana's "I cannot see but what meant

the early writing of G. E. Moore: contemporary that which is

is simply and solely by beautiful is an end in itself. The object that which the of art would then be that to which are means, of Morals and the objects are means. The only thing to which they reason for having virtues would be only " to produce works of art. In his early text Art, Morals, and Reli

dium. The defined

tended by Greenberg, the paradigm the simple grainy snapshot the charge of photographic And purity. was that his work against Mapplethorpe was too beautiful to qualify for critical endorsement. "One writer Gerhard claimed Richter recalls, sex that if I painted have been okay, to paint anything

a ismerely wrote, "Religion of art," which he explicated this way: "Every valuable purpose which serves is also served by Art; and religion serves more Art perhaps ifwe are to say gion, Moore subdivision that its range of good tions iswider." There that Moore ligion's beauty emo objects and can be no doubt that art can take re of the

believed over because purposes possesses.

it essentially

itwould and violence, but one isn't allowed beautiful." "The changed may appropriate
38 D

JLNow Iwould

of the time," if I Ian Kant's mournful fashion

speculation. to be held teem in which art continues an is inheritance of this exalted today view of beauty. It iswidely and some

like to offer a historical es It is that the immense




said that art has replaced cynically consciousness. religion in contemporary times My speculation attitudes have beauty itself. is that these Edwardian survived Iwill of the abjuration even to further go that if there is a place for beauty it is connected with these are which deeply embedded in

error. a conceptual place in virtue of a we are to in Once position perceive that mistake, we should be able to re deem use once beauty for artistic again. But conceptual analysis by itself, with out the reinforcement of a kind of Fou cauldian is insufficiently archeology, to help us in this task. Had

The abuse ?* eauty

suggest in art today, survivals,



Beauty's place is not in the definition or - to use the somewhat idi discredited om - the essence of art, from which the it. That has rightly removed avant-garde was not the removal, however, merely as a I shall ar result of but, conceptual And it is gue, a political determination. that lin the residue of aesthetic politics we on in atti in the find gers negativity tudes toward beauty in art today. The idea of beauty, the poet Bill Berkson wrote me recently, is a "mangled sodden thing." But the fact of beauty

it powerful not, for example, been for the artistic in the twentieth century, avant-garde almost certainly would philosophers to teach that the connection continue between tight. An the latter sections of Principia Ethica, in 1903, Moore wrote, first published we most the far valuable "By things or are can certain states know imagine, of consciousness, which may roughly be described intercourse as the pleasures of human of beauti and the enjoyment art and beauty is conceptually

is quite


In a passage near the beginning of Proust's Within a Budding Grove, Marcel (the Narrator), traveling by train to Bal the bec, sees a peasant girl approaching station in the early morning, offering "I felt on seeing her that coffee and milk. desire
ever we

ful objects." Moore thought the point "so obvious that it runs the risk of seem a ing to be platitude." No one, Moore that personal claims, "has ever doubted beautiful of what is and the appreciation are in Art or Nature, in good themselves." "does it Nor, he continues, one that think will appear probable any that anything else has nearly so great a are included value as the things which affection under

to live which

is reborn

in us when

" beauty and of happiness. I believe Proust's psychology



profound in connecting of the consciousness we with beauty happiness providing are not conflicted because of a negativity that had yet to inflect the idea of beauty in the generation

these two heads." seem al Moore's confident appeals most I'll sup but shockingly parochial, were in his pose they commonplace world. What would not have been com iswhat he next goes however, monplace, on to claim, namely that "this is the ulti mate and fundamental truth of Moral and that these two values Philosophy," "form the rational ultimate end of hu man action and the sole criterion of come to social progress." People might as but these truths, accept they appear, Moore said, to be "truths which have been generally overlooked."
D dalus Fall 2002

of Proust, Moore,


like to press this further. Itwas to that was assigned weight us understand beauty that helps why the first generation of the twentieth-century it so urgent to dis found avant-garde Iwould the moral place in lodge beauty from its mistaken of art. It occupied that the philosophy


Arthur C. ^anto beauty

I think Moore thsit if truths, looked, since

having entire philos circle, whose Bloomsbury were derived from art and of of life ophy Moore's "A great new freedom teaching. to seemed about to come," according on the Vanessa Bell. Love and friendship, one hand, and what Moore speaks of "as the proper appreciation of a beautiful were to suffice, without the need object" in satisfying for religion, needs of modern human With the main moral beings. of Hume and drew art and

must have been correct these were generally over were as they perceived the force of revelation the by

aim in this is to "release the people of his native state from the bondage of ugli " - or no ness. There would be no way - to or Pitts transform Detroit easy way or the Grand burgh into the Catskills was porta artistic But Canyon. beauty citi ble, so if the aesthetically deprived zenry of American City could be put in the presence of "treasures sifted to posi tive sanctity," itwould benefit immense ly from objects, highest the contemplation of beautiful as the which Moore endorsed moral good.

Hegel, no crucial nature

the exception the classical aestheticians distinction between

in regard to the appreciation of must it in and be borne mind beauty, that that indifference was but rarely con nor in tested in philosophical aesthetics com artistic practice itself when Moore I posed Principia Ethica. If anything, the appreciation think, Moore supposed of natural beauty superior to the appre ciation of artistic beauty, largely because con "We do think that the emotional of a natural scene, supposing templation its qualities is in some equally beautiful, a state better of than that of a way things we would think that ; painted landscape the world could would substitute ifwe be improved for the best works of art real objects equally

A he problem was that modernist paint ing, in the period James's novel was first was to veer, some published, beginning what starkly, away from the mimetic In 1910 and 1912, modernist model. painter and critic Roger Fry organized exhibi postimpressionist tions at the Graf ton Gallery in London. As it happens, the Bloomsbury circle, and Moore himself, praised the objective works on beauty of the unprecedented But a great display in these exhibitions. art critics many professional disagreed. so deviated The artistic representations from the motifs that they transcribed saw no way of many viewers dealing wrote Fry, with them. "One gentleman," "is so put to it to account for his own in these pictures that ability to understand he is driven to the conclusion that it is a colossal hoax on the part of the organiz ers of the exhibition in par and myself

two notorious

representative beautiful." Moore

believed that so far as the picto a beautiful rial arts are concerned, paint a beautiful a is of ing painting subject. And this I think gave a certain impor tance to the museum of fine arts as a site to experience beauty in those years. In Henry James's The Golden Bowl (1905), his character Adam Verver, a man of immense wealth living abroad, a the idea of building has conceived
"museum of museums" for American

to explain the incapacity Attempting to appreciate of such gentlemen objec tive beauty, Fry blamed and ignorance unfamiliarity: Almost without
sume that the yet sentation, show any

in which

aim none for of of art them

they tacitly as
repre to has a curious tried

is imitative




City, where

he amassed

his fortune.


sition. A great deal has been said about

40 D




these artists searching for the ugly instead of consoling us with beauty. They forget that every new work of creative design is ugly until it becomes beautiful ; that we usually apply the word beautiful to those works of art inwhich familiarity has en abled us to grasp the unity easily, and that we find ugly those works inwhich we still perceive beauty only by an effort. of these artworks as ugly The perception onto them was, in effect, the projection that a course in confusion of amental education will remove. Postim aesthetic on to say, painters, Fry goes pressionist of affirm "the paramount importance imi the which necessarily places design, tative side of art in a secondary place." This is the basis of Fry's formalism. even But Fry himself made amistake more critics who than those profound was the aim of painting to it supposed imitate nature. His mistake was suppos was the aim of to be beau ing it painting tiful. I give Fry great credit that something needed in order perceive that those who for recognizing to be explained scoffed might to



this happen

? Fry believed

that it happens through critical explanato un tion. People have to be brought the work, and the way in which derstand it is actually beautiful. That, more than is the actual explanations his gave, Fry For itmakes clear great achievement. that artistic beauty often requires expla some nation if it is to be appreciated, Hume understood that completely. thing orders of beauty, particularly in those of the finer arts," Hume writes the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of to employ much "it is requisite Morals, in order to feel the proper sen reasoning timent ;and a false relish may frequently and reflec be corrected by argument tion." Hume "moral beauty
ter species."

The abuse ?* eauty

"In many

is eager

to point partakes much

out that of this lat


I accept Fry's qualification, as well as the spirit of Hume's point, Iwant What marvelous observation.


the beauty of postimpressionist painting, but I draw special attention in the a priori view that the painting was beautiful, if only question really viewers knew how to look at it. a common Since Fry, it has become

is that the history of ap deny, however, in the ap preciation always culminates as see it, is I o? beauty. That, preciation the assumption of Edwardian aesthetics, which Grafton have the kind of art selected exhibitions for the Gallery ought to called into question. The Edwar dians, for example, were entirely right to art. They begin to appreciate African were even right in thinking that, on for it could be seen as beauti mal grounds, ful. The Victorians 'primitive peoples' were, trying to make beautiful had thought that inmaking art,

is place that the history of modernism This story is the history of acceptance. and lectur told over and over by docents ers in art appreciation. In this view, the a happy ending. history of art always has in 1865, became vilified Manet's Olympia, aworld treasure two generations later: in The Guermantes Way, Proust writes of the way "the unbridgeable gulf between amasterpiece what they considered by must for and what they supposed Ingres ever remain for example) vases seemed a 'horror' (Manet's Olympia, shrank until the two can like twins."

objects, only hence they did not know exactly how their 'primitivity.' The Edwardians advanced because thought themselves formalism enabled them to see what Fry "Negro sculpture" as beautiful. in thinking that But they were wrong to had learned through formalism they see the beauty that was the point of called
African art.





Arthur C. o ^an beauty

That was beauty today.


the point It is very rarely the point art. great

its point, nor was of most of the world's of art

lived through the Sensation ex Having in at the Brooklyn Museum hibition of what its crude exploitation 1999, with or offend, I can sympathize shock might to a with Fry. The critics, pretty much were the and condemned art, person, certain they were being put upon. But some of us were ready to see it as a First rather than aesthetic mat Amendment ter, and in this we were perhaps more someone would have been right than they hoped that through argument see the beauty itwas in some would measure the object of the art to injure. This is not to say that beauty does not have a role to play in the art of our own to find out what that day. But in order role might be, we shall have to free our axiom that all selves from the Edwardian if only art is categorically beautiful, good how. We we have learned to recognize who will to find ways of justifying art than those with which my narra tive of the decline of beauty began. It is histo an achievement of the conceptual we that in art twentieth the of century ry artis more idea of a much have complex than the early modern tic appreciation in general, down to ists or modernism of Clement in the writing its formulation have other as late as the 1960s.

this in 1873, when Rimbaud published group portrait poem. In Fantin-Latour's of the previous year, Un Coin de Table, is shown seated with Verlaine Rimbaud in a and a number of other bohemians The Les Villains Bonhommes called group Rim and Verlaine of whom Bad Eggs baud were, one might say, the 'baddest.' the only por The portrait of Rimbaud is of a singular trait of him we possess almost angelic looking ly beautiful, state. He was in a pensive shown youth, a the dispari and and rakehell, eighteen, his his character and appear ty between ance, as in Dorian Grey, is a familiar fail ure of fit that has come to give beauty a extends even to bad name. His badness which he cata preferences, of his poem : section Delires in the logs "Idiotic pictures, shop signs, stage sets, bill for street-entertainers, backcloths fashioned old boards, vernacular images, his aesthetic church Latin, badly spelt por romance novels for elderly nography, ladies, fairy tales, little books for chil dren, old operas, silly refrains, na?ve would not rhythms." What Rimbaud have known was that his inventory was stories,
to become the substance of an alterna


a century later. tive aesthetic no wish to lose myself I have Though it can, Rimbaud's in interpreting poem, a to the as tribute be read perhaps must, notwith the disparities power of beauty, abused Beauty in the Having standing. third line, it is as if the poet were sen - a season in hell - in tenced to madness titles the section of penalty. He explicitly the poem in which he declares his anti as Ravings. That aesthetic preferences section ends with what feels like Rim baud coming to his senses, though it can be read as heavy irony: "All that's be hind me now. Today I know how to bow down before beauty." intuited a thought I It is as if Rimbaud can hardly suppose he could have read in

2 Near the opening of Une Saison en Enfer account of his an allegorical allegedly with the poet tumultuous relationship : "One eve Rimbaud writes Verlaine on my knees ;and" I ning, I sat Beauty found her bitter, and I abused her. The demic -

'bitterness of beauty' became epi art of the fol in the avant-garde was a rare thought lowing century, but it
42 D dalus Fall 2002


that "the Critique of Judgment is the symbol of the morally beautiful good." Kant's thought is not entirely to say easy to follow, but he clearly wants more is that finding beautiful something in experi than simply taking pleasure

iXant interestingly aesthetic differences He




parallel ways. South Seas from reading Captain Cook's and clearly he was struck by the voyages, of the societies Cook de otherness scribes. whether would The question those other comes up for him lives are ones we


in systematically about the

The abuse ?* eau y

encing it. The beautiful "gives pleasure with a claim for the agreement of every one else." For this reason, "the mind is made ment conscious of a certain above ennoble the mere sen and elevation

through sibility of pleasure received sense, and the worth of others is esti in accordance with a like maxim mated of their judgment." And Kant goes on to in claim that "the subjective principle as is represented judging the beautiful universal, i.e., valid for every man." The abuse of beauty in this view is the sym of an offense against bolic enactment morality and hence, in effect, against hu "I had armed myself manity. against jus tice," Rimbaud says just after confessing his crime. It is not clear, even if itwould have for him to have imagined been possible that the abuse of beauty would be re it, as a Kant ipso facto moral evil, garded by since beauty and between only symbolizes morality, moral and aesthetic judg

be able to live. In the morally schedule of cases in which he attempts to illustrate the working of the categori a talented cal imperative, he considers in comfortable circumstances individual to in pleasure "prefers indulgence himself with and troubling broadening improving his fortunate natural gifts." It be entirely consistent laws of nature that everyone with should the live



like "the inhabitants of the South Seas," one formulation so of the categorical by it would be that imperative, permissible aman "should let his talents rust and re solve to dedicate his life only and propagation." indulgence, "cannot possibly will that this should a universal become law of nature," for "as a rational that all one's to idleness, But we

one wills necessarily being, faculties should be devel as are oped inasmuch they given to one for all sorts of possible purposes." is that the South Sea The implication islanders are not quite rational, but even so with the ought to live in conformity we Protestant and that is what ethic, must teach them as moral missionaries. Kant was in no sense amoral relativist. What relativists culture Kant in regard as differences as but differences regarded on the model of the dif children contests and adults. South

ments there is only the kind of analogy, to use his example, that may hold be tween a commonwealth and a living are moral So aesthetic imperatives body. rec Kant imperatives only symbolically. not that will everyone agree, ognizes case by case, on questions of beauty, but the analogy requires the belief that they the force of the to, whatever was an ten There ought. Enlightenment same moral to that the believe dency the golden rule for exam principles - were to be found in every society, ple so must have seemed co universality ought extensive have been beauty? with humanity. Would there a in view parallel regard to

in development, ferences between Kant

Sea aes similarly as he them. understands Pre thetics, on an based sumably anthropological he must have seen, Kant was illustration aware that there are parts of the world in which men spiral tattoo are covered with a kind of : "We could adorn a figure





Arthur C ato
on '

with uj


all kinds of spirals and light but reg as j.]^ ]sjew Zealanders do with if only itwere not the their tattooing, a In figure of human being," he writes. same section of the Third Critique, he this jjnes

They just don't know what which he would have defined is, beauty in terms of what we may as well term the Protestant aesthetic. the first major philoso pher actually to have gone out of his way to look at paintings and listen to music art and, as we shall see, an extraordinary critic had a difficult time with other in traditions. "The Chinese," he writes a as the Philosophy of History, "have gen a remarkable eral characteristic, skill in is exercised not merely imitation, which in daily life but in art. They have not yet in representing the beautiful succeeded as beautiful in their for ; per painting, are (Ma spective and shadow wanting." to the side, as shadows net, who pushed we find them in photographs, inevitably his figures, which in flattened explains some measure the outcry against his is that the Chi work.) The implication nese have either no idea of or a beauty one. But Chinese culture had a wrong idea of visual truth than very different and hence a different view of had, Hegel the aims of representation. No one could count their art as ugly, which is the oper ative thought in Fry's dictum that things as are will be perceived until ugly they as was It beautiful. perceived Hegel who fixated as education, required aesthetic he was

are wrong.

Even Hegel,

to a building, says, "We could add much the eye which would please " immediately if only itwere not to be a church. These are imperatives of taste, and it is that considers the tattoo as Kant striking a form of ornamentation, like merely on a church, rather than gilded statuary a set of marks to that may have nothing do with beautification, but serve rather person larger scheme of the world. The to admiration tattoo may conduce of its reasons so bearer but not for aesthetic it is in a person the much as for whatever tattoo signified - military prowess, say, or cosmic rank. Similarly with the brass some neck coils affected by the Paduang women of Burma. And something same sort may be true of ornament the German finds baroque offensive of the in to connect the tattooed with

dently icono of northern European passions aes clasm were merely of expressions So it iswith reference thetic revulsion. cognitive ments that both Iwould so-called rather hesitate than aesthetic judg ought to be assessed.

church Kant evi to taste - as if the



to say that all cases of can be deflected

on the Renaissance



in this way, but the possibility suggests that a universal beauty may be entirely our consistent with cultural differences, in certain mistake consisting regarding things as aesthetic when they have some func and more cognitive quite different tion. The aesthetic diversity of the art is consistent with beauty as world's such being everywhere the same, if one cared to defend that thesis. in the If, on the other hand, tattooing South of the South Seas really is beautiful "in the eye Sea Islander," Kant must feel himself entitled to the view that they 44 D dalus Fall 2002

as amodernist, But Fry understood, that the ligature between beauty and mimetic been irre had representation in his time. He knew loosened versibly one that could not argue his critical au into agreeing diences that C?zanne or as we Picasso shows the world really see it. He had instead to argue that this is not relevant, and that the emphasis must - to use on on not be vision but design the terms of his famous title. Then we nese can see the beauty of African art, having surrendered and Chi the mis

criteria so compelling leading mimetic to Hegel. the beauty-mimesis Loosening liga a ture made it possible for Fry to become art he formalist but because critic, great art to see the ligature between so and beauty as a necessary connection, art is always beautiful, that of necessity it failed to occur to him, as a theorist, continued that whole ed in which at all. Beauty was not the rainbow that awaited us as the reward of sustained was never the case that the looking. It was that only proper way to address art To put it an of aesthetic contemplation. to Fry, any other way, it never occurred more than it had occurred to Ruskin, that the beauty that was incontestably the great cathe in, for example, present means a drals may have been rather than
an end.

on another art and morality, was "all great art Ruskin that plane right as we In ismorality." have seen, 1903, Moore that the con seriously argued sciousness of beauty was among the su preme moral goods. We are safe, I think, at the be in speaking of an atmosphere between century in ginning of the twentieth which Rimbaud's of image abusing seen as an beauty could still have been vivid a gesture of abusing beauty by abusing great art than Duchamp's 1919 work in which he on a postcard of drew a moustache Mona Lisa, and scribbled amild obscen that paradigm of great art. ity beneath That work, like everything by Du a field of is champ, fiercely competing but Iwant to use it as a interpretations, a signpost of deep change in a that calls for historical expla Iwant to focus on an art-histori great un de abuse of morality. I can think of no more

The abuse ?* eau y


traditions have exist never the was beauty point

historical attitude nation.

The point was not to stand in front of the church and gape at its ornamenta tion, but to enter the church, the beauty as it so often is in enter being the bait, into sexual ing relationships. one contemporary who appears Fry's to have understood this was Marcel it's been be "Since Courbet, Duchamp. to the is addressed lieved that painting
retina. That was everyone's error. The

in the course of which, cal episode to the benefit of the philosophical ly derstanding finitively beauty. Itwas of art, a logical gap was art and opened between

a gap that remained invisible to the denizens of Bloomsbury, who re for all their modernist mained, ideals, late Edwardians. Itwas invisible to them because in they had the idea, expressed are art that works of per Fry's dictum, as ceived as ugly until they are perceived Itwas a gap that remained beautiful. in visible until of the 1960s contribution the great conceptual efforts to define art. That gap is the inmy view of what I shall



ably overlooked quite historical: other cal, religious, is completely Surrealists,


functions, moral.

argument, by aesthetic theory, is "Before, painting had it could be philosophi Our whole



retinal, except who tried to go outside

century for the it

on the somewhat 1905, ruminating farcical contest between Whistler and a to letter Ruskin, Proust wrote (in An Marie that while Whistler Nordlinger) had been right that there is a distinction

term the intractable avant-garde. Iwant, in setting the scene for my his torical explanation, briefly to return to - in to Moore's philosophy particular the connection between the two su preme goods he holds up for examina sees a clear connection tion. Moore be tween goodness and beauty: "It appears





Arthur c. ? on" beauty

that the beautiful should be de probable as that of which con the fined admiring " two is in itself. The templation good values, Moore claims, are so related to one another "that whatever is beautiful is also good." He goes further: "To say is to say, not in that a thing is beautiful deed that it is itself good, but that it is a in something which element necessary is :to prove that something is truly beau to which tiful is to prove that awhole, it bears a particular relation as a part, is sees some near truly good." So Moore art and beauty, and between entailments And beauty and goodness. was on the principle beauty indeed was which Bloomsbury friendship based: It consisted almost entirely of those who moral assigned to beauty the highest priority. saw themselves as The Bloomsburys true the And they vessels of civilization. a civi it the mark of perhaps supposed of the lization that it create individuals sort they exemplified. In this, I think, were not so far from Kant, in they light of his concluding that beau proposition even if con ty is the symbol of morality, in his view, by way of a kind of nected, analogy. There is in aesthetic an entailed disinterestedness universality, was sine qua person who has amoral judgment as well as a between

this question that the con of became cept beauty abruptly politi cized by avant-garde artists around 1915,

Itwas with

which fellmidway in the period of the

ready-mades in Duchamp's career.

a device A he 'abuse of beauty' became for dissociating artists the from the soci ety they held in contempt. came an artistic and moral et everyone "I believe wanted to be. Rimbaud be hero the po

in the genius of Rimbaud," the young Andre Breton wrote Tristan Tzara, the author of the dada manifesto re of 1918. It is dada to which I primarily fer in the project of disconnecting beau re of moral ty from art as an expression vulsion against a society for whom beau value and which cher ty was a cherished ished art itself because Here is a recollective Ernst:
To us, Dada Our was rage above aimed all a moral at total reac A

of beauty. account by Max




futile war had robbed us of five

existence. We had experi

of our

enced the collapse

of everything and true, beautiful. not meant scream.

into ridicule and shame

to us works of but as just, that peri

represented My to attract,

od were people

to make

in Kant's philosophy which non for moral conduct. The values fineness aesthetic experience in that she or he is

Ernst knew

he had been an ar was aggressive, art and his tilleryman as his as of the war-makers perception -

the war

ennobled through the disinterestedness. Remember, further, that Kant defined as mankind's the Enlightenment coming - a of age cultural stage he would have believed the South Sea Islanders have not and perhaps for a long time will not have attained. And now the question was :how is it by civilized the made have high-mindedness war most and his that savage protracted tory up to that point had known ? should 46 D dalus Fall 2002 that those nations defined

it to be. hateful required In some measure this was true of Ger man dada in general. The First Interna tional Dada exhibition in Berlin had was art that dead "Der signs declaring to Kunst ist Tot" the adding "Long life maschinen were Kunst Tatlins." Its members not out to vilify German values ; on were bent them they destroying by an consciousness forcing upon German art it could not swallow. Its means were foolishness.

a kind of aggressive

The original of exaggerated war, a way of tempt for the fantile actions

was a kind spirit of dada play in the shadow of the its con demonstrating by in clashing patriotisms :the term itself was infan



tile for 'rocking horse,' and the Zurich their protests dadaists registered against what Hans through buffoonery for author Arp called "the puerile mania itarianism which the stultification While of mankind" could use art itself for : in

quality acknowl in the Critique of Aesthetic was noticed by Kant as Judgment. Disgust amode of to the kind resistant ugliness of pleasure that even the most displeas "the Furies, diseases, the ing things - are devastations of war" capable of as beautiful when causing represented art. of "That excites dis works which by edged by Kant "cannot be rep gust [Ekel],99Kant writes, in accordance with nature resented all aesthetic satisfac without " destroying tion. Since the purpose of art is taken to most be the production of pleasure, only the artists of would under perverse the disgusting, which take to represent cannot "in accordance with nature" pro

disgusting, cally unredeemable

that his work be found which was the one aestheti-

The ?*

the thunder of guns sounded

we pasted, we recited,

the distance,

versified, we sang with

searched for an elementary

all our soul. We

art that

would, we thought, save mankind from the furious folly of these times. We
aspired to a new order.

xVada posters,

art was book

vehemently ephemeral pam

phlets, from amovement as artists. These ephemerality, ed as "means

jackets, calligrams, - as we recitations would made

expect of poets as well in their very ephemera, were what Tzara celebrat of combat."

in normal viewers. duce pleasure There are, to be sure, those who derive a in experiencing perverted pleasure what the normal viewer finds disgust one say, 'special ing: who have, might in representing tastes.' Artists interested the disgusting would not have this spe in view. Their aim is pre cial audience cause sensa to cisely through their art tions that, in Kant's phrase, "we strive our against with all might." The psychobiology of disgust is as yet not well understood, but the early writ ers on it followed Darwin in thinking of as a it concerned product of evolution " the with rejection of food. "basically for the centrality of food "in Evidence cludes the facial expression, which fo cuses on oral expulsion and closing of con the nares, and the physiological comitants of nausea and gagging." Re cent research has widened "disgust elicitors," ing the connection iswith items that disgust the scope of somewhat weaken with survival and it

Dada refuses to be found beautiful, even today, after the passage of time and that is its great philosophical signifi cance. Dada

since its works

the intractable
are misper

as beautiful. That is ceived if perceived not its point or ambition. The narrative of aesthetic redemption assures us that sooner or later we will see all art as beautiful, however ugly it ap as at first. Try to see this beautiful ! peared a sort of for those becomes imperative who look at art that does not appear beautiful at first at all. Someone told me that she found beau

ty in the maggots infesting the severed head of a cow, and seemingly putrescent set in a vitrine by the Young British Art ist Damien Hirst. It gives me a certain wicked tration to imagine Hirst's frus pleasure if hers were the received view.

in this augmented schedule an artistic op has become for those eager to hold beauty portunity at bay. Kant would have no recourse but to regard this as the perversion
D dalus Fall 2002

of art. It

Arthur c. ^anto beauty

be of no value to the artists in if a taste for the disgusting question were to be normalized. to It is essential would remain that the disgusting not that audiences learn to disgusting, in it, or find it somehow take pleasure beautiful. I have seen a sculpture from Nurem era of a berg from the late Gothic figure known as "The Prince of theWorld," which looks comely and strong from the in a state of wormy front but is displayed the body is shown decay from behind; the way the grave. itwould Such look decomposing in we sights explain why the dead. There can be no their aims

Kant does make

plain that the disgusting is the antonym of the beautiful. So the case in not is any disgusting conceptual ly connected with the sublime. The ant ob onym of the sublime, he deliciously is which that the serves, suggests silly, the effect of dada was less the abuse of

beauty Ajut

than the rejection

of the sublime.

as the disgusting, just possibly logi can also cally connected with beauty, have the connection with morality that recognized

actually bury is the intended func of what question tion of showing bodily decay with the stone carver - it is skill of a Nuremberg : it is, not to give the viewer pleasure rather, to disgust the viewer, and in so us as a vanitas, reminding doing, to act is flesh that the through presentation a its distraction and corrupt, pleasures to from our higher aspirations namely and achieve everlasting blessedness avoid human violate were eternal body good To show the punishment. as to is certainly disgusting artists taste, but Christian to pay this price for what as our regards highest moral have a concept of I suppose has to tran between of the close par moral so without

they desig nated 'abject art.' "The abject," writes the art historian "is a Joseph Koerner, in the history of art nor novelty neither to write that history." in the attempts Koerner cites, among other sources, a characteristically profound insight of : "The of and Christian Hegel novelty art consisted Romantic of taking the ab as its privileged ject object. Specifically, the tortured and crucified Christ, that in whom divine ugliest of creatures beauty basest became, through human evil, abjection." Rudolph Wittkower begins his great text on art and architecture in Italy after the Council of Trent by recording the de of that council in to

beauty does. In the early 1990s, curators a genre of contemporary art



Kant did of course


the sublime, which because scend morality, allels he insisted upon

to display the and agonies of the martyred, order, through this display of affect, elicit the sympathy of viewers and cision

and aesthetic judgments, and in what de much as asking whether of the gree beauty itself production serves or can serve some higher moral ends. It is quite as if beauty were its own the practice of art end, justifying existence its alone. through the purpose of the disgusting might be in awork of art, or of beauty might why the dereliction a a means. In precritical be moral text, asks what 48 D dalus Fall 2002 Kant never

threatened through that to strengthen 'af faith. "Even Christ must be shown flicted, bleeding, spat upon, with his skin torn, wounded, deformed, pale and if the calls for it." The unsightly' subject to beautify in the Renaissance tendency the crucified Christ was in effect amove Christianity by returning a body to kind of athletic the basic message of grace, denying is at Christian that salvation teaching the tortured tained through abject suffering. to classicize

aestheticism of the eighteenth was a century corollary of the rational ism of natural religion. Itwas Kant's to situate aesthet stunning achievement as a form ics in the critical architectonic of judgment
pure reason.



two small

steps away from

Bloomsbury. I regard the discovery that something can be art without good being beautiful one of the great clarifications conceptual of art, of twentieth-century philosophy was it made though exclusively by art ists, and itwould before monplace gave beauty to enjoy. That have been seen as com the Enlightenment it has continued the primacy

views we find ?fheauty



The abuse

of the vast human suffering one salient aspect of the twenti eth century, it is astonishing how dispas In view that was rational, how distancing, so much of twentieth-cen tury art really was. How innocent dada was ! In its refusal to gratify the aesthetic sensibilities World War for responsible the dada world bab I, gave in place of beauty, silliness instead of those sionate, how how abstract

to clarification managed to out of any pro push reference beauty even of if the new definition art, posed situation dawned very slowly in artistic

When Nelson order

bling If it injured beauty, itwas of sublimity. a kind of punitive clownishness. through so in its inca What art, abject pathetic or di to to do much deflect pacity finally minish the degradations of the body that the politics of our times has used as its has done is to seize upon the em means, blems as away of of degradation crying out in the name of humanity. "For many or

a of art such as philosopher sets aesthetics Goodman aside to talk about and representation this is not done with the ex that we will return to the con an enhanced under



pectation cept of beauty with

It is done, rather, with the standing. awareness that beauty belongs neither the essence nor the definition of art.


in contemporary culture," Hal Foster "truth resides in the traumatic writes, or dam abject subject, in the diseased

3 On principles of Renaissance theory, were on the world windows paintings pure,


aged body. Thus body is the evidentiary to truth, basis of important witnessings
of necessary witnessings against power.

or My aim is not to judge the success failure of artistic abjection, but rather to to resist that it is intended emphasize the prediction that art is ugly until seen as beautiful. It is amisperception of art con to see it as always and necessarily the creation and apprecia tion of beauty. With dada, a deep con ceptual shift took place. This perhaps cerned with justifies the claim that I have often made that in the twentieth century, the artists were forward the philosophy of carrying art in away that could not have been achieved by philosophers themselves, intuitions were colored by the whose

transparent apparently openings one saw the world as if through which from outside. So a picture drew its beau none of ty from the world, ideally having own one to contribute to what its saw, as itwere, through it. (This of course over looks the contribution of the frame in itself the shaping the way the world presents to the eye in a painting.) The stereotypical painter crooks

index finger against the thumb, framing the world until it resolves into a picture until it looks the way she wants her like Lily Briscoe in To picture to look the Lighthouse, or, we imagine, any of the the south painters Bloomsbury scouting of France schools for what designated the traditional motifs. art





Arthur c. ? o?n beauty

a Kant was famously but stay-at-home, tourism. he lived in an era of aesthetic went abroad to see the The well-to-do as :the Alps, the Bay of Naples, sights as Piazza of the San course, Marco, well, the Leaning Tower, the the Pantheon, A pictorial industry grew up Acropolis. memo to provide souvenirs objective ries of what one took in. This I take to of Kant's somewhat be the background remark, at ?45 of the Critique surprising of Judgment, that "Nature is beautiful it looks like art," when one because would asser the opposite expected Kant seems to be saying it looks is beautiful when that the world one it. the way painters When represent a an scene artist represented be thinks cause itwas beautiful in the first place, have tion instead. rightly the Renaissance idea that what one sees pictured on a a canvas or a view of panel is transparent

century, in France especially, eighteenth a close was drawn between parallel faces, so painting pictures and painting in Pom his of Madame that, portrait shows the padour at her Vanity, which before a great lady with her rouge-brush a is virtually mirror, Boucher saluting fellow artist. With the made-up face, Kant's follow-up would be ex thought act - "we are conscious of it as art while yet it looks like nature." Beautification has tended certain puritanical traffics in causing liefs that constitute to incur a : it


the kind of false be

one understands

a scene's

the cognitive basis for the great cosmetic fortunes of the modern world. The French term for 'to make up' isfarder, or 'to color,' which in part why there was a tradi explains of colors - why Descartes tional mistrust so far as to say we went really did not need our eyes to know what the world was like, since the blind can feel the out lines and know the shapes of things. Ruskin appears to have had beautifica - or in sup in mind when, tion artifice of the British he port Pre-Raphaelites, the entire histo condemns pretty much time of from the of Raphael ry painting

This whole ognized

have been the cannot, however, even for Kant, who rec story, not

that art was capable of repre as beautiful "things which may senting The Fu be in nature ugly or displeasing. the of devastations war, ries, diseases, etc. may even be regarded as calamitous, as they as very beautiful, be described are represented in a picture." So the picture in Kant's understanding must contribute these motifs to the beauty, since have none. It is here that

In the first of two letters to The Times in 1851, Ruskin wrote that his young pro teges
desire to represent, irrespective of any

observa Kant makes his parenthetical tion on disgust as the "one kind of ugli ness which cannot be represented in accordance with nature without satisfaction, ing all aesthetic destroy and conse It is -


rules of picture making; and they have chosen their unfortunate though not inaccurate name because all

quently artificial beauty.99 I emphasize 'artificial beauty.' what we would call

artists did this before Raphael's time, and after Raphael's time did not do this, but sought to paint fair pictures rather than
represent stern facts, of which the conse

'beautification' the worse aesthetic ap sophism, making involves cosmetics, pear better, which interior decoration, and the fashion, like, where we are not dealing with natu ral but with enhanced beauty. In the 50 D dalus Fall 2002

quence has been that from Raphael's to this day historical art has been in acknowledged decadence.


It did not incidentally matter that the was 'made up' by reality only imagined the artist in the other sense of the ex

- so as itwas not falsified pression long in the interests of beautification. I cannot help but feel that the aura of some of the falsification helps to explain aroused when beauty plays a suspicions art. Consider role in contemporary again He tried to the case of Mapplethorpe. of pornographic achieve the excitement images in artistic, that is, beautiful pho that "the geni tographs. Freud observed is al the sight of which are ever ways exciting, hardly regarded as beautiful." success Yet at their most ful, we can barely stand to look at some of Mapplethorpe's from which, pictures because of the beauty with which he in tals themselves, tear our eyes the will, as in the away. They paralyze case cited aman who by Socrates of "feasts his eyes" on the sight of corpses. To take a less complex case, Sabastao fused cannot of suffering hu Salgado's photographs are beautiful and hence, his manity critics would because suf say, falsified fering of that order, being not to be seen as beautiful. grim, ought Salgado pret tifies through photographic artifice what to true in its be shown colors. If ought there them, we

almost the penalty, the humiliation, attendant upon being'made squalor flesh' must are marked." as


The abuse ?* eauty

As enfleshed, God as we all be begin helplessly col gin hungry, wet, soiled, confused, drool icky, crying, dribbling, babbling, is All that and ing, totally dependent. picture, and it is implicit inMantegna's as inconsistent with seeing the painting


ty and ugliness. visually true. Iwant comes

The message transcends beau It ismorally rather than

one further example, which from Hegel, a great art critic, about amasterpiece writing by the artist were to : "It the Pre-Raphaelites despise re is a familiar and frequently repeated proach against Raphael's Transfiguration that it falls apart into two actions entire with one ly devoid of any connection another," And Hegel writes.

in fact this is true if this picture is considered externally :above on the hill we see the transfiguration, below is the scene with the child possessed of an un clean spirit. But ifwe
the not composition, to be missed. a For,

look at the spirit of

connection the one hand, is on


is to be art, it should not be beauti since the world does not deserve ful, truth must accordingly beauty. Artistic be as sad as human life itself, and art leached of beauty serves in its own way as amirror of what human beings have done. Art, subtracted of the stigma of as what the world has serves beauty, are, so to speak, coming to it. Beautifiers collaborationists. art is not beauti of the world's IVAost ful at all, nor was the production of of its One of the purpose. beauty part most marvelous art I of criticism pieces know was written himself about by Fry in Berlin : Simone Madonna Mantegna's "The wizened crumpled face, the creased and flesh of a new born babe... all

Christ's visible
his elevation

the earth,

is precisely
and his de


parture from his disciples,

be made visible too as a

and this must

and a


departure ;on the other hand, the sublimi ty of Christ is here especially transfigured
in an actual simple case, namely in the fact

that the Disciples could not help the child without the help of the Lord. Thus here the double action and without and the connection ismotivated throughout is displayed within in the fact that one disciple

expressly points to Christ who has depart ed from them and thereby he hints at the true destiny of the Son of God to be at the
same be true time on earth, two so that or three the are saying gathered will : Where

inmy name,

there am I in the midst






Arthur c. ^anto beauty

To say design is as weak as beauty would to this ke an inappropriate response tremendous work. The design inheres in intends to convey, Raphael to Yeffet of the event he has undertaken of the when the meaning depict visually, - is not event itself- the transfiguration entirely visual. Ruskin would be right the meaning it lacks visu about Raphael: 'externally' it conveys truth al truth, but internally of a profounder kind.

ter to our taste and sentiment." regard say there as aman

might Hume, sense of the transformative critical

In many

to this sort of beauty taste. But is no disputing of letters, had a vivid power of reasoning:
orders of beauty, particularly

It is in that one

those of the finer arts, it is requisite to employ much reasoning in order to feel the proper sentiment; and a false relish may frequently be corrected by argument and reflection. There are just grounds to conclude that moral beauty partakes much the assistance
the human

the re V>Jne sees from this passage a thinker difference between markable like Hegel, who was deeply engaged by great art, and Kant, who was not, and for art was of a piece whom experiencing natural beauty, like with experiencing that of flowers or sunsets or lovely wom en. And this is in ismissing finally what Moore's well. of thinking about art as on the thought of artistic beauty model of natural beauty, as we can see from his belief that something beautiful more in reality exists much compellingly way He than in pictures. David Hume takes up the relationship natural and artistic beauty al between most as an aside, in order to point out an analogy "whether truths, namely they be derived Sentimen from Reason or Sentiment." to it virtue "To claim that talists " belongs be amiable, and vice odious. The latter a term evokes a distant echo to disgust, that verges on physical revulsion moral the former evokes a recoil. By symmetry, we : are drawn kind of natural attraction us in as to what we perceive for good others. Hume allows that there is a kind the latter may be of beauty of which true: "Some species of beauty, especially the natural kinds, on their first appear our affection ance command and appro bation ;and where they fail of this effect, to re it is impossible for any reasoning or adapt them bet dress their influence,
52 D dalus Fall 2002

of this latter species, and demands of our intellectual faculties in order to give it a suitable influence on

kind of reasoning is, I think, illus on or in Fry on Mantegna, Hegel it is Hegel, more Raphael. And I believe than any other thinker, who draws the most distinction sharply. He is the first This trated to distinguish, too perhaps and the between aesthetics phi sharply, he observes, losophy of art. Aesthetics, or is "the science of sensation feeling," art "when works of art are and concerns in particular treated with regard to the feelings they were to produce, as, for in supposed admira stance, the feeling of pleasure, tion, fear, pity, and so on." This is a great advance over Kant, who more or less of ef confines the relevant repertoire an fects to pleasure and pain, making for sublimity. Hegel exception important beauty is 'higher' than the of and he writes with a nature, beauty thunder that "The beauty of marvelous art is beauty born of the spirit and born " I am eager to stress is that again. What insists artistic art is, for Hegel, an intellectual product, and that its beauty too must express the thought the art embodies. this said, Hegel cannot have thought of art as other than beautiful, and indeed he saw this as art's limita All


two views

of moral

tion, thinking as he does of beauty in or what Hume calls terms of a sensation,


that "the beauty of art Hegel writes to itself sense, feeling, intuition, presents a different it has ; imagination sphere of than thought, and the apprehension its activity and its products organ other than scientific That demands an thinking." iswhy art has come to an end, to invoke his celebrated thesis. We have risen above the sphere of sense in the or respect that philosophy, Wissenschajft, is an exercise of pure understanding and of our pres analysis. So "the conditions ent time are not favorable to art." The to do with end of art thus has nothing the decline of art but rather with the as cent of reason. of whether A here remains the question there is an important difference between natural and artistic beauty, just so far as the object itself is concerned. perceiving Let's allow natural vehicle that in the appreciation of the is which the beauty, object of beauty which has beauty it properties is not connected

in place of ashes. I intend the examples, brief, to help remove the stigma from beauty, to restore to beauty some of what gave it the moral weight it had in Edwardian aesthetics. The first, somewhat overdetermined comes from Proust. In a section example called "The Intermitancies of the in the fourth volume of In Search Heart," Lost the Narrator has returned Time, of to the seaside resort of Balbec. On his first stay, he was accompanied by his be who has since died. loved grandmother, The section of the book in which he de his grandmother's death is curi clinical and is which detached, ously somewhat inconsistent with what we scribes would We expect, given their earlier bond. feel we have learned something

The abuse ?* beauty

through this about the character of Mar cel, who seems amuch colder person than we would have believed him to be. This impression proves to be false ; the moment he returns to his room at the Grand Hotel, he is overwhelmed sense of loss and bereavement, scends into an acute depression grandmother's floods his consciousness Marcel mother's now irrevocable with and de as his a

among with a thought that explains its exis a work of art the tence, whereas with beautiful


is explained by the thought to grasp in order to that it is necessary the appreciate beauty. Is the apprecia tion of beauty cases ? different between the two

completely. sits gazing at his grand tortures which photograph, how self-centered he he had been

him. He realizes had been when

Iwant to present a pair of examples one of natural, one of artistic in beauty which we can see Hume's way of dealing at work. with the distinction I have se lected some the examples because they raise issues that evoked in and false to

the object of his grandmother's dedicated totally to love how he had failed, for example, notice how ill she had been on that first lasts until sojourn to Balbec. This mood

he goes for a walk one day in the direc tion of a high road, along which he and his grandmother used to be driven in the de Villeparisis. The carriage of Mme. road was muddy, which made him think of his grandmother and how she used to return covered with mud when she went The sun the weather. walking whatever is out, and he sees a "dazzling specta : cle" - a stand of apple trees in blossom

striking psychological bear on the moral grounds treating beauty as shallow

the reality of the world. They bear on what I take the prophet Isaiah to have a world meant in envisioning in which are those who suffer given beauty in




Arthur C. Danto
on J


The disposition of the apple trees, as far as could reach, were in full bloom, tjie luxuriant, their feet in the unbelievably mire beneath of spoiling pink satin that was ever seen, which glittered in the sea sunlight; the distant horizon of the a trees of the the gave Japan background ese print ; if I raised my head to gaze at the sky through the flowers, which made its serene blue appear almost violent, they seemed to draw apart to reveal the im mensity of their paradise. Beneath that azure a faint but cold breeze set the blush ing bouquets.
been an amateur

two hands Moore's cannot

exist, to invoke one of most famous arguments. You

their ball-dresses, the most marvelous


that argue anyone into accepting if they are uncertain of it for what could be more certain than that? If they doubt that, their doubt is irremediable. This I think is Hume's point about nat ural beauty. You can't argue anyone into was at the core feeling it. Natural beauty - even if there of Marcel's experience was an aura of drawn from metaphors of art, which his experience his descriptions. My second enters into


as though
art and

it had


that had artificially created this living beauty. But itmoved one to tears because, to whatever lengths itwent in its effects of refined artifice, one felt that itwas natural, that these apple trees were there in the
heart of the country.

is of a relatively example work, Maya Lin's Viet contemporary nam Veterans Memorial of 1982, which as it iswidely select because regarded great beauty, both by those possessing the art world

I in

and by quite ordinary per sons for whom one of the it has become most




in Washing


like Marcel would have only as he did. He is seen this glorious sight like his counterpart, Swann, in seeing of everything through the metaphors art. Someone who had never seen Hiro or in or an Ascension of the Virgin, shige or life there were no ballgowns whose pink satin, could hardly have experi enced the apple trees quite as he did. Still, itwas a piece of natural beauty, which might have taken the breath away from anyone fortunate enough to have us seen it.Marcel that from this tells moment, his grief for his grandmother one to diminish ; metaphorically, began she had entered say, might paradise. He was for ashes. The beauty, given beauty one truly say, helped heal him. might The apple trees at Balbec might be on short list for Moore's world of anyone's beauty. A world with such sights in it is confident in would be better, Moore aworld of ashes. That than arguing, would be as obvious as the fact that his 54 D dalus Fall 2002

example someone

is overdetermined


is simplicity itself. It of two symmetrical triangular that bend away from one another wings at amild angle -125 degrees - from a shared vertical base to gently enfold The Memorial consists those who duced it. It is a very re approach form of the Bernini colonnades

St. Peter's Square in Rome, enclosing a similar role. buts performs Maya Lin was an undergraduate at Yale when she presented instructor The the idea, and was told by her that the angle between the "Had to mean something."

are of polished black gran names and inscribed with the of ev ite, in American Viet soldier killed the ery nam War - about 58,000 in all - listed for the memorial almost had the quality of a : fairy tale it took the twenty-one-year to complete the win old all of six weeks chronologically by date of death. The commission of Lin's scheme

two wings two walls

selected unanimously from ning model, in entries review. blind after 1,421 This, Lin's peers had criticized the work as

it is, after all, a kind of poetry' book and had expressed their uncer its of architectural merit. Mean tainty was Lin Asian of while, young, female, no ones and had lost loved in descent, :she failed all the tacit tests the conflict Visual the designer of such amemorial to meet. was

the thought Memorial, to the work and the belongs explains In natural the beauty. beauty, beauty is external to the thought; in art the beauty is internal to the work. A he idea of as integral to came ginally Motherwell's internal beauty, of beauty the meaning of awork, ori to me in thinking of Robert Elegy for the Spanish Repub

nam Veterans



of beauty

supposed When the organizer of the competi tion, Jan Scruggs, first saw the work he was disillusioned. "A big profoundly bat. A that could weird-looking thing a third have been from Mars. Maybe All grader had entered the competition. the fund's work had gone into a making veterans. bat for it huge Maybe symbol ized a boomerang," Scruggs thought. "It's weird and Iwish I knew what the hell it is." It is amazing that itwas not down. Everyone wondered how the general public would react, but one person told Scruggs that "You would be the general surprised how sophisticated course is." That of turned public really out to be true. The beauty of the work is almost in stantly felt, and then perhaps best ex in terms of the emotional re plained come sponse of visitors, many of whom to see the name of someone loved they and to do a rubbing of it to carry home. reflected in the They see themselves same wall that carries the name of the of dead, as if there were a community the living and the dead, though death it self is forever. Possibly there is an analo a to natural such as gy phenomenon the surface of a very still body of water as inMo in which the sky is reflected, net's immense paintings of water lilies that make visible the way clouds and seem to occupy the same space. flowers Whatever the proper explanation of the felt beauty of the wall, it is understood to the 'thought.' with reference It is part of the meaning of the work. In Proust's orchard, the thought is his. In the Viet voted

lic. People have sometimes read its black forms as icons for the penis and testicles of a bull, and, thus, the work as elegizing the loss of virility. But I see them as hu man and architectural elements in a :shawled wom landscape of devastation en and broken pillars, against early day as with the Christ figure in Piero's light, Resurrection. Motherwell achieved a rep the history it and interprets, personal experience, as will Lin's work in a relative memory, ly short period of time. was the way the What impressed me is idea of connected with the very elegy an idea of beauty - that its being elegy meant itwas intended to be beautiful, and that the beauty was intended to be a the way the music at funeral healing, or - this is not to my is, or the flowers, taste - even the beautification of the de a for the occasion of parted 'viewing.' I mean in any case that Motherwell's Ele gies do not just happen to be beautiful. Their being beautiful is part of their and meaning, integral to their impact. resentation that transcends

in the sky" Wordsworth's a species of expresses beauty and aesthetic surprise we have all experi enced. But my concern in the preceding has to make been mainly paragraphs between plain the relationship beauty rainbow sentiment and thought, and between the kinds of that into the of go thoughts experience external as against internal beauty - how
D dalus Fall 2002 55

IVAy heart leaps up-when Ibehold a

Arthur C. anto beauty

in the first instance the thoughts are per resi sonal and in the second objectively dent in the work. concern in this essay as a whole, My on the other hand, has been to show the : between connection beauty and art art when its beauty is connected with presence

and in different ways with interests of mankind and "the deepest the most comprehensive truths of the these interests are con spirit." Because nected with the way we are made, they us of begin the detoxification might help art in and contemporary philoso beauty connected that both have phy, always recognizing shown that it is not part of the definition of art. among many in which thoughts are presented through art to human sensibility hor disgust, and sexuality are still oth ror, sublimity, ers. These modes explain the relevance and room for of art to human existence, them all must be found in an adequate definition of art. Beauty is one mode

is part of the meaning

of the

The TajMahal is beautiful, but I am

to say that about the or about The Last of Cologne, Cathedral or the Demoi of Michelangelo Judgment and certainly not of the selles dAvignon Woman with aHat, Simone Madonna, cases of Transfiguration. The Raphael's some dis go beauty I have considered tance toward supporting Hegel's view not certain Iwant that art and philosophy are differently

56 D

dalus Fall 2002