Saturday, 31 December 2016

Art, Love and Beauty

Throughout The Symposium Plato argues that 'love requires beauty and thus doesn't possess it.' As I re read this dialogue for the first time in many years, I was moved to consider what possible dilemmas this proposition might create for aesthetics.

A traditional understanding of art is that it must be beautiful. In a previous post I discussed ideas of the Kantian Sublime and suggested that an experience that brings forth psychological movement could be a possible expansion of the concept, adapting it into something that is both transcendent and pragmatic. Taking this further, one might delve deeper into the proposition that 'art is beautiful' and perhaps find common ground with my 'therapeutic' re-interpretation of Kant's concept of the Sublime,

Plato's argument throughout The Symposium states that love requires beauty to exist and thus love is not inherently beautiful. In Plato's reasoning, love relies on a separate concept of 'beauty' and thus must lack beauty in itself. A similar line of argument could be applied to the proposition 'art must be beautiful.' If art requires beauty in order to define itself, it surely follows that beauty is not an innate component of art.

What, then, of the Sublime? If art is not beautiful in itself, then the rapturous, transcendent experience that it might engender can not lie dormant within the artwork. The old adage that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' is of relevance here. The psychological movement that the experience of the Sublime allows fo must reside within the spectator. In this model, the perceiver holds transformative potential with them, and just needs to wait for the right image to bring it forth.

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