Thursday, July 23, 2009

Aesthetics

The word aesthetics is not so old. I believe it was coined by Kant, borrowing on the the Greek eit├ęsis, which signifies sensation. We find the same root in other words, like "an-esthesia", which means absence of sensation.

Consequently, aesthetics, in the first instance, is what procures a sensation. Now, many impute to beauty or aesthetics a moral value. In other words, they persuade themselves that beauty is necessarily concomitantly good. It is not very difficult to show that they err. If beauty is in effect what procures a sensation, there have been for example many an aestheticism linked to perverse ideologies or frightful dictatorships. Moreover, aesthetics seems in those cases to carry more importance: colossal architecture, apocalyptic music, magnificent uniforms, quite spectacular ceremonies and public reunions, solemn literature, etc.

Hence, beauty has no finality of itself. In other words, it is not sufficient or capable of itself to lead to the completion of the human person. It is ordered to something other than itself. Without redeveloping here an entire metaphysics, some would hang the phone up, lol, we can nevertheless try to look at that towards which beauty is ordered.


In Greek philosophy, but also in other philosophies, like Hindu metaphysics for example, there are 5 recognized transcendentals. A transcendental is what suffices to itself, or what does not have any cause other than itself, or again what is finalized by itself and attracts the rest in as much as it is precisely first cause and final cause (which is absolutely not the case of beauty, and this well and truly constitutes one of the major errors of the contemporaries who elevate beauty to the rank of transcendental. Beauty is an errant cause of sorts, neither good nor bad of itself, it all depends on what it is associated to…).

In reality, Being is THE transcendental par excellence, but since Being is also aliquid (something), and since Being is true, and since Being is one (indivisible), and finally since Being is good, we turned aliquid, truth, one and good into four other full-fledged transcendentals, which isn’t wrong, but those four are in reality more like acolytes of Being. In other words, they are four other ways of naming Being.

Furthermore, as we quite rapidly ceased to understand what One is, we substituted it by Beauty, which is a singularly toxic error, the consequences of which are massive. This has lead including to physical massacres... for beauty ultimately substituted itself to good by veiling it and by sometimes justifying the most horrifying acts (not always, let's not exaggerate either).

Nonetheless, we must recognize that beauty is typically human. Animals do not make art or craft. Art and craft are one of the ways of differentiating man from beast. The animal does not wear ornaments, or clothes, which confers to clothing a foremost value of aestheticism, maybe even before any notion of moral value or modesty. :)

Credit image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30037324@N06/3324238235/


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Symbolism

What is a symbol? There are a good few who revel in the word with a knowing air, and who make it a speciality of theirs or even consider themselves to be a quasi occult elite.

The root of the word is strong, it is the same as in the word symbiosis, sympathetic, etc. All right, let's cut the chase, a symbol is something that unites the visible and the invisible. Well I think it's time we said something about it that is not solely idiotic. It is not easy to pinpoint what a symbol is. As we practically only have the root to move forward with, it is tempting to seek its inverse or contrary. Now the contrary of “sym” is “dia”, as in dialysis. Now pay attention, this is where it gets amusing, watch: therefore, what is the strict contrary of symbolic (symbolique)? Yep, you got that right: diabolical (diabolique). On the one hand we have something that unites, and on the other something that divides.


So let us imagine your friend is sick, and just before the big jump, he gives you a present, with no monetary value, which he is holding in his outstretched hand. You have thus inherited something without value yet which is eminently symbolic, thus precious. Hence, the value of the object you have inherited lays not in its price but in what it represents - i.e. in its capacity to manifest a link between the visible and the invisible. Besides, if your friend had given you an expensive gift, what would make it foremost valuable would be no more its price, but what it represents, in other words its capacity to manifest a link between the visible and the invisible.

So what are we doing when we hold this object to be a trinket, or when we sell it because we can get some money for it? Well we disunite and divide, that is all, nothing more, but one should be honest and not hesitate to say it. We therefore radically trample a link. What good could we then expect for he who is at the other end of the link? When you knock your Hi-Fi with a hammer, are you surprised when it doesn't work as well? Well, some are surprised... Yes, positively, I assure you! Naturally, I do not speak of a case of force majeure, as when one is forced to sell an object laden with symbol because of a food shortage. In that case, in my view, the symbol would be even stronger, even without the object. :)


Credit picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elirook/3116349267/