Brendan O'Connell ENG 491 12/4/10 Final Essay The Role of Beauty in Art and Truth It's been said for

many years that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While the statement may be true for some it certainly can't apply to all people that see. Beauty is something that is meant to be questioned. Philosophers around the world attempt to create a single definition for beauty, though it has yet to be seen. So what exactly is the role of beauty? What importance does it have and what does that say about art? To answer these questions it's essential to look at a few different philosophers' views and what they say about art and beauty. The philosophers Kant, Schiller, Baudelaire, and Gautier all have similar thoughts on truth, beauty and how they relate to art. These authors show beauty in a way that inspires readers to think about their own personal philosophies and what they consider art. These authors show beauty in a way that inspires readers to think about their own personal philosophies and what they consider art. Beauty and art are connected in a way that inspires people and allows them to find truth, or at least that's how these authors felt. Truth is a concept like beauty that can never really be defined with other words. Because there are so many personal viewpoints, each person would say something different about what truth and beauty are. Because of the subjectivity of mankind, there will never be absolute beauty, truth, or art. These four philosophers show different ways of looking at the subject, but generally come to the conclusion that truth can be found through beauty which is almost always in some form of art. Art gives us the ability to see things that may only happen once in history, or sometimes they have the ability to make things more beautiful than they really were. If there was only one way of looking at things there would be no such thing as subjectivity and having personal opinion. The danger in this is that when everything is considered beautiful, nothing is really special. While utilitarianism had the absurd idea that all things needed a purpose and unless they had a utility, they were useless. For the anti-utilitarians, or aestheticists like Gautier and Baudelaire they fought against this idea and instead chose to live in the moment for enjoyment alone. They didn't

have to think or see a deeper purpose in art, they saw beauty as it was and loved every moment that they had to enjoy that beauty. For Gautier “nothing is really beautiful unless it is useless, everything useful is ugly, for it expresses a need, and the needs of man are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor weak nature.”(758) By saying this he is essentially saying that people take every possible form of artwork too seriously and give it a meaning that it doesn't need. The utilitarians were unable to see beauty because they cast off anything without a use. It's a small minded way to think about the world, but probably lead to a stronger community than those that spent time painting, sculpting and composing instead of farming, raising livestock, and building homes. The purpose of this is not to question their way of living, but their personal happiness and ability to enjoy the little things that art and beauty had to offer. Gautier also notes that beauty is an essential part of life by saying “Nothing beautiful is indispensable to life.” (758) By saying this he also provides a contradiction to his early statement of all that is beautiful is useless. So perhaps the meaning of this is that although beautiful things have to be useless, they are a part of life that we need in order to thrive. Going directly against the utilitarians, this is an idea about truth that finds meaning in uselessness. The beauty that those utilitarians failed to see could have lead them to truth because it is a necessary part of life that we need to accept and enjoy. If we fail to see beauty, we only are able to walk around in ugliness. Living like that can never lead to happiness and certainly never truth. Beauty can be seen in both art and in people, but it's important to recognize that “pictures are done from models, and not models from pictures”(758) like Gautier said. Art is able to reflect real life, and by doing so it does have a purpose as a historical tool that can show beauty and also have function. So Gautier may have some contradictions with his ideas, but they are good ideas when looked at individually and teach a great deal about the best way to see art and beauty and how it can lead us to truth and wisdom by doing very little. How each person defines art and beauty is something that Gautier chooses to avoid, though other philosophers decide to take the subject head on. The role of beauty in art is interesting and raises more questions that may never have a final

answer. For instance, does a piece of work have be beautiful in order to be called art? Or is all art intrinsically beautiful because others have given it the title of art? Kant's separation of “good” and “beauty” is important because it shows a certain part of subjectivity that is necessary in order for anything beautiful to be enjoyed. His creation of a definition of taste is something that can be taken with a grain of salt, because while he may be saying that everyone has different taste, it is written in a way that makes him sound as if only his taste is correct in defining beauty. Taste is an essential part of the definition of beauty, and each person has a different perception of what is good and what is beautiful, as Kant says, “In order to consider something good...I must have a concept of it. But I do not need this in order to find beauty in something.”(507) Similarly going against the utilitarians, he is saying that beauty doesn't need to have a purpose, we don't need a concept of what it is, or what it's supposed to do. We accept art as art and beauty as beauty and by seeing things as they are without concept, we create judgment of our own and get closer to the idea of truth by forgetting about what if might mean. Too often art is over analyzed, whether it is painting, sculpture, writing, or music, there are critics that seems to think everything needs to have a deeper meaning than what is directly shown. In some ways this is a good thing and forces viewers to think more deeply about what they are viewing, but in most ways it prevents the audience from seeing the real beauty of the art that is there. We don't need other people to tell us something is beautiful. Kant says, “the object is then called beautiful, and our ability to judge by such a pleasure is called taste”(505), we have the ability to know beauty when we see it because we have this “taste”, a sense of pleasure from simply viewing an object. Beauty is an attribute that people apply to an object, there is never anything that is naturally beautiful, it has to be seen by someone first in order for it to ever gain that title. For Kant, beauty is something that is just a word associated with truth and “everyone has to admit that if a judgment about beauty is mingled with the least interest then it is very partial and not a pure judgment of taste.”(506) In other words, beauty is just a judgment call and each person should have a different opinion not associate with their own interests. By this he seems to be saying that there can never be a single definition of beauty, and that is

a good thing, because with this way of thinking, everything in the world has the chance to be beautiful. If you think about it in a very light-hearted way, instead of getting all philosophically, it's a fantastic way of looking at the world that allows all people to see truth, beauty, and art in whatever form they like the most. This allows every person in the world the find the truth that they deserve. The purpose of art is to make the viewer think about something, but it also has the ability to entertain and simply be beautiful. It might be something political, or personal, or environmental, or religious. How beauty,art and thought are mixed together is one thing that these philosophers try to get a clear understanding of. Schiller is the author that realizes truth lies in beauty and art, and because of this realization he also is able to think clearly about why people enjoy art and how they truth through these lenses of art. As mentioned earlier, art is meant to make people think, but Schiller also points out that “thinkers and artist will do their best to submerge truth and beauty.”(580) By looking at art this way we can interpret that the creators of art are rarely interested with being labeled as artists, visionaries, or creators of beautiful work. So then the question “why do these people try to submerge truth?” arises. It seems as if Schiller is trying to say that because artists have created something and have a singular way of looking at it they are incapable of allowing others to see their work in any other way. By doing so they prevent people from getting Freedom, because as he says “Art is a daughter of Freedom”(573) it may only be a whisper of Freedom, but by blocking the public from getting any sort of Freedom it is a disservice to humanity. While I don't think that Schiller was this critical of all artists and thinkers, he clearly had met some people that he disagreed with and felt the need to punish them for their ways of thinking, though I don't think that he say his own forms of preventing them from thinking freely. The concepts of art and beauty are so closely linked that it's my belief we hear the word “art” and immediately think of something beautiful, while this is true in many ways for a great deal of artwork, this also means that we need to think of what beauty really is. Because Schiller never really talks about multiple personal opinions on beauty, he only has one version that is capitalized and is “Beauty” and as he says “it is only through Beauty that man makes his way to Freedom.”(574) By

doing some word math, if art is a daughter of Freedom, and beauty is the only way to Freedom then it must be concluded that all art must have some beauty for it is a daughter of Freedom. Simply this means that art has beauty and if we look at art only as a provoker of thought, we fail to see that beauty and the Freedom that it has. What is the need for beauty? Why does the word even exist? Some might say that it is needed in order to separate and have a meaning for the word ugly. Beauty is a word that can never really be defined because it is never really a word, it's more of an idea that people constantly argue about. The way that each person sees beauty in the everyday life will be different from the person standing next to them. Baudelaire had the idea that beauty was calculated and created just to be beautiful, or as he says it “Everything beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation.”(801) This concept is a little absurd when we think about natural beauty or art that was created by an artist not just to be beautiful. It does play into his ideas about make up though and explains why he most likely was never able to see anything as beautiful. Baudelaire was also the type of person that enjoyed real life and gritty, seedy underbelly of humanity. By doing so, his view on beauty is skewed from the average, and most people would probably say that he had no idea what beauty was. This is a flawed way of looking at his work though, and goes against the idea of giving each person their own idea of beauty. For Baudelaire say beauty as just a word for a feeling, although art has a way of making things beautiful that may not have always been so. For instance, “The past is interesting not only by reason of the beauty which could be distilled from it by those artists for whom it was the present, but also precisely because it is the past, for its historical value” (793) By saying this, Baudelaire is essentially saying that art can only capture a portion of the beauty that existed when the piece of art was created. While art may be beautiful, it only reproduces a moment in time that was beautiful when it was happening. A painting can never capture real life. By this it seems as though he is saying that art cannot lead to truth or freedom, but only real moments in life can do that. It's a way of looking at life that encourages people to experience the world they are surrounded in rather than looking back on moments that were beautiful, but will never happen

again. In this same way he praises, and is also a little critical of make up because it allows people to look like artwork, which although beautiful is not real and not natural. For some reason he believes that humans have “the need to surpass nature”(802) and be more like art than nature. Baudelaire obviously likes looking at beautiful things, he is never really saying that the filth and grime of the real world leads anybody closer to truth. Instead he is saying that makeup “approximates the human being to the statue”(802) which he likes, he wants make-up to be used to accentuate beauty instead of covering things that nature has caused though. Through this was we see nature and beautiful works of art at the same time and through this, are able to experience truth. For Baudelaire, and most of these other thinkers, truth is a combination of art, beauty, the real world, and the world of imagination. It is only through a mix of all parts of life that we are able to experience “truth” and beauty is a portion of that mix that mostly everything else is filtered through. These writers want people to think for themselves instead of needing to have a single definition that they rely upon. By having their readers do this, they hope to show that truth can be found through beauty and art, but it has to be actively searched for instead of expecting that knowledge and wisdom will come without effort. These are not just thinkers, but teachers that want to show the world that truth is all around us and can be captured with art. Beauty is something that each person needs to find for themselves, when they are able to create their own sense of beauty, it's possible that they will know truth, and in many ways art can help create a personal definition of beauty and can help each person know exactly what they are trying to accomplish by knowing what art is. The words art and beauty are so often heard together that people forget art doesn't have to be beautiful, or have a deeper meaning. Sometimes art is meant to entertain, or teach a lesson, or show a message. Without beauty, truth would be forced to rely on all art to have a message and never just be something good to look at. People change and the way that people look at the world means that the concept and definition of art and beauty are constantly changing. These writers want to show that while that may be true, it's important to create an individual sense of what beauty is and never just rely on what other people call beautiful. If

we only trust in other people to say what beauty is, the freedom and truth that these writers talk about can never really be found.