Aquinas on Beauty
By (author) Christopher Scott Sevier
Publication date:12 February 2015
Length of book:240 pages
Aquinas on Beauty explores the nature and role of beauty in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Beginning with a standard definition of beauty provided by Aquinas, it explores each of the components of that definition. The result is a comprehensive account of Aquinas’s formal view on the subject, supplemented by an exploration into Aquinas’s commentary on Dionysius’s Divine Names, including a comparison of his views with those of both Dionysius and those of Aquinas’s mentor, Albert the Great. The book also highlights the tight connection in Aquinas’s thought between aesthetics and ethics, and illustrates how Aquinas preserves what is best about aesthetic traditions preceding him, and anticipates what is best about aesthetic traditions that would follow, marrying objective and subjective aesthetic intuitions and charting a kind of via media between the common extremes.
This study offers an account of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s conception of beauty, the transcendental property associated with objects that, Thomas wrote, 'please when seen.' Though he did not neglect the subjective side in aesthetic perception, Thomas insisted that beauty was never merely in the eye of the beholder. Sevier begins with an examination of the psychological factors involved in aesthetic experience, which entails an appreciation of the complex interplay between desire and pleasure within the human subject. In the central chapter, the author analyzes the objective features in the beautiful object—those essential 'constituents' (proportion, integrity, and clarity) that make particular beings so appealing to perceivers. In addition to tracing the source of these distinctions to the philosophical work of Plato and Pseudo-Dionysius, Sevier addresses the issue of whether Thomas considered beauty a separate transcendental property in relation to being, truth, and goodness. The author suggests that the answer to this textual question, whatever it is, does not affect Thomas’s final judgment that 'everything that exists is de facto also beautiful.' Like its subject matter, this work is a model of proportion, integrity, and clarity. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.