Monday, September 7, 2020

Two beauties

In a number of cases of beauty, beauty is doubled up: there is the beauty in an abstract state of affairs and there is the beauty in that state of affairs being real, or at least real to an approximation. For instance, the mathematics of Relativity Theory is beautiful in itself. But that it is true (or even approximately true) is also beautiful.

This shows an interesting aspect of superiority that painting and sculpture have over the writing of novels. The novelist discovers a beautiful (in a very broad sense of the word, far broader than the “pretty”) abstract state of affairs, and then conveys it to us. But the painter and sculptor additionally doubles the beauty by making something real an instantiation of it, and it is by making that instantiation real that they convey it to us. The playwright is somewhere in between: the beautiful state of affairs is made approximately real by a play.

The above sounds really Platonic. But we can also read it in an Aristotelian way, if we understand the abstract states of affairs as potentialities. The painter, sculptor and novelist all discover a beautiful potentiality. The painter and sculptor brings that potentiality to actuality. The novelist merely points it out to us.


Apologetics Squared said...

I wonder if being possible is another level to this. What about the beauty of a nonsense story, or a story about a quest to find the married bachelor who stole your drawing of a square circle can be beautiful? Or a child's story that almost makes sense but not quite? If this was all going to be neat and tidy, the order for beauty would be:

1. Art that reflects the actual
2. Art that reflects the possible
3. Art that reflects the conceivable

But stories that are conceivable and impossible seem especially beautiful in my opinion.

David Duffy said...

Given how often one is disappointed by movie adaptations of novels, I suggest the mental realization/visualization is as real as the second-rate actor's work.