Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Aesthetic

"Now besides life, knowledge, play, aesthetic experience, friendship, practical reasonableness, and religion, there are countless objectives and forms of good. But I suggest that these other objectives and forms of good will be found, on analysis, to be way or combinations of ways of pursuing (not always sensibly) and realizing (not always successfully) one of the seven basic forms of good, or some combination of them." - John Finnis

"The sense of ultimate truth is the intellectual counterpart of the aesthetic sense of perfect beauty, or the moral sense of perfect good." - Charles Montagu Halifax, 1st Earl of Halifax, Lord Halifax

"Mortifications have their reward in a state of consciousness that corresponds, on a lower level, to spiritual beatitude. The artist - and the philosopher and the man of science are also artists - knows the bliss of aesthetic contemplation, discovery and non-attached possession. The goods of the intellect, the emotions and the imagination are real goods; but they are not the final good, and when we treat them as ends in themselves, we fall into idolatry. Mortification of will, desire and action is not enough; there must also be mortification in the fields of knowing, thinking feeling and fancying." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"In ethical, psychological and aesthetic matters, to give a clear reason for one’s judgment is universally recognized as a mark of rare genius. The helplessness of uneducated people account for their likes and dislikes is often ludicrous." - William James

"Education is not a process that continues for some years and then ends. Education has only one sovereign purpose: to prepare one for more education. All else is subsidiary to this. Education should create hungers - spiritual, moral, and aesthetic hungers for value... The gift of education will be a heart that is whole." - Israel Knox

"We are here to attempt to give more to this life than we take from it, a task that, if undertaken properly, is impossible. The more we give, the more we get. But that’s the point. We are here to discover, develop and cultivate, in loving stewardship of our world, our neighbors and ourselves. Each of us is intended to grow and flourish within the power of our talents on every dimension of worldly existence: the Intellectual, the Aesthetic and the Moral - the great I Am - in such a way as to find our place in the overarching realm of the Spiritual, the ultimate context of it all. There is more to life than meets the eye. Much is required. But more is offered. We are participants in a grand enterprise, not called upon to consume with endless desire, but rather to care and create in such a way as to free the spirit of this vast creation to love and glorify its creator forever. Why? Because it is good. And that’s good enough for me." - Tom Morris, fully Thomas V. "Tom" Morris

"Art is an indecent exposure of the consciousness... Art is not and never has been subordinate to moral values. Moral values are social values. aesthetic values are human values." -

"Order is light, peace, inward liberty, free command over oneself; it is power... It is aesthetic and moral beauty, it is well-being, it is man's greatest need." -

"Art and Religion are, then, two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstasy. Between aesthetic and religious rapture there is a family alliance. Art and Religion are means similar states of mind." - Clive Bell, fully Arthur Clive Heward Bell

"Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art, any more than anything essentially reasonable has ever arisen out of the pure reason. There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth." - G. K. Chesterton, fully Gilbert Keith Chesterton

"We need to find a form of life that is valuable in itself. What can make a life meaningful? Candidates for this role need to be worthwhile in themselves and not just means to future ends. They need to treat each human life as an autonomous being-for-itself, not merely a being-in-itself to serve some cause beyond it. They need to satisfy our aesthetic and ethical needs, as being both tied to the present moment and existing across time. And there is no reason why such meaning should not be found in this life and not only in a supposed life to come." - Julian Baggini

"Whatever it is that we value in life – relationships, creativity, learning, aesthetic experience, food, sex, travel – the call to seize the day is the call to appreciate these things while we can and not to put them off indefinitely. Some things require work and time, and often the best choice is not to do today everything you want to do before you die. The true spirit of carpe diem is not to panic and try to do everything now, but to make sure every day counts. The wisdom of carpe diem is that time is short, this is the only life we have and we should not squander it." - Julian Baggini

"Without the worship of the heart liturgical prayer becomes a matter of formal routine; its technically finished performance may give aesthetic pleasure, but the spirit has gone out from it." - Aelred Graham

"The holy is above all aesthetic as well as moral and logical classifications - it is the “wholly other” transcending all worldly values." - Ignaz Maybaum

"Prayer is religion in act; that is, prayer is real religion. It is prayer that distinguishes the religious phenomenon from such similar or neighboring phenomena as purely moral or aesthetic sentiment." - Louis Auguste Sabatier

"In the highest love between man and woman, or parent and child, as the person reaches the ultimates of strength, self-esteem, or individuality, so also does he simultaneously merge with the other, lose self-consciousness, and more or less transcend selfishness. The same can happen in the creative moment, in the profound aesthetic experience, in the insight experience…and others which I have generalized as peak experiences." - Abraham Harold Maslow

"Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern." - Alfred North Whitehead

"Beyond the logic concerned with things, education must provide the possibility of awakening and cultivating moral aesthetic intuitions. It is the neglect of these higher values that has reduced life to a mere struggle for existence and to the detriment of social and human values in economic and political life." - Alfred North Whitehead

"The Western world is now suffering from the limited moral outlook of the three previous generations. Also the assumption of the bare valuelessness of mere matter led to a lack of reverence in the treatment of natural or aesthetic beauty…" - Alfred North Whitehead

"Virtue is as little to be acquired by learning as genius; nay, the idea is barren, and is only to be employed as an instrument, in the same way as genius in respect to art. It would be as foolish to expect that our moral and ethical systems would turn out virtuous, noble, and holy beings, as that our aesthetic systems would produce poets, painters and musicians." - Arthur Schopenhauer

"Tomes of aesthetic criticism hang on a few moments of real delight and intuition." - George Santayana

"No poet, no artist, of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them." - T. S. Eliot, fully Thomas Sterns Eliot

"The internationalization of art becomes a factor contributing to the estrangement of art from the artist. The sum of works of all times and places stands against him as an entity with objectives and values of its own. In turn, since becoming aware of the organized body of artworks as the obstacle to his own aesthetic self-affirmation, the artist is pushed toward anti-intellectualism and willful dismissal of the art of the past." - Harold Rosenberg

"Order is light, peace, inward liberty, free command over oneself; it is power... It is aesthetic and moral beauty, it is well-being, it is man's greatest need." - Henri Frédéric Amiel

"Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end." - James Joyce

"Since the time of separation of church and state they have been classified as voluntary associations: they depend in principle upon voluntary membership and voluntary contributions. The collection plate in the Sunday Service is sometimes objected to for aesthetic reasons, but it is an earnest, a symbol, of the voluntary character of the association, and it should be interpreted in this fashion. It is a way of saying to the community, "This is our voluntary, independent enterprise, and under God's mercy we who believe in it will support it. We do not for its support appeal to the coercive power of the state."" - James Luther Adams

"In scientific thought we adopt the simplest theory which will explain all the facts under consideration and enable us to predict new facts of the same kind. The catch in this criterion lies in the world "simplest." It is really an aesthetic canon such as we find implicit in our criticisms of poetry or painting. The layman finds such a law as dx/dt = K(d^2x/dy^2) much less simple than "it oozes," of which it is the mathematical statement. The physicist reverses this judgment, and his statement is certainly the more fruitful of the two, so far as prediction is concerned. It is, however, a statement about something very unfamiliar to the plain man, namely, the rate of change of a rate of change." - J. B. S. Haldane, fully John Burdon Sanderson Haldane

"Much has been said of the aesthetic values of chanoyu- the love of the subdued and austere- most commonly characterized by the term, wabi. Wabi originally suggested an atmosphere of desolation, both in the sense of solitariness and in the sense of the poverty of things. In the long history of various Japanese arts, the sense of wabi gradually came to take on a positive meaning to be recognized for its profound religious sense. ...the related term, sabi,... It was mid-winter, and the water's surface was covered with the withered leaves of the of the lotuses. Suddenly I realized that the flowers had not simply dried up, but that they embodied, in their decomposition, the fullness of life that would emerge again in their natural beauty." -

"If all feeling for grace and beauty were not extinguished in the mass of mankind at the actual moment, such a method of locomotion as cycling could never have found acceptance; no man or woman with the slightest aesthetic sense could assume the ludicrous position necessary for it." - Ouida, pseudonym of Maria Louise Ramé, preferred to be called Marie Louise de la Ramée NULL

"Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as mediator between this strange hostile world and us." - Pablo Picasso, fully Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso

"Arguments for preservation based on the beauty of wilderness are sometimes treated as if they were of little weight because they are merely aesthetic. That is a mistake. We go to great lengths to preserve the artistic treasures of earlier human civilizations. It is difficult to imagine any economic gain that we would be prepared to accept as adequate compensation for, for instance, the destruction of the paintings in the Louvre. How should we compare the aesthetic value of wilderness with that of the paintings in the Louvre? Here, perhaps, judgment does become inescapably subjective; so I shall report my own experiences. I have looked at the paintings in the Louvre, and in many of the other great galleries of Europe and the United States. I think I have a reasonable sense of appreciation of the fine arts; yet I have not had, in any museum, experiences that have filled my aesthetic senses in the way that they are filled when I walk in a natural setting and pause to survey the view from a rocky peak overlooking a forested valley, or by a stream tumbling over moss-covered boulders set amongst tall tree-ferns, growing in the shade of the forest canopy, I do not think I am alone in this; for many people, wilderness is the source of the greatest feelings of aesthetic appreciation, rising to an almost mystical intensity. " - Peter Singer

"In the twentieth century the magnificent sensate house of Western man began to deteriorate rapidly and then to crumble. There was, among other things, a disintegration of its moral, legal, and other values which, from within, control and guide the behavior of individuals and groups. When human beings cease to be controlled by deeply interiorized religious, ethical, aesthetic and other values, individuals and groups become the victims of crude power and fraud as the supreme controlling forces of their behavior, relationship, and destiny. In such circumstances, man turns into a human animal driven mainly by his biological urges, passions, and lust. Individual and collective unrestricted egotism flares up; a struggle for existence intensifies; might becomes right; and wars, bloody revolutions, crime, and other forms of interhuman strife and bestiality explode on an unprecedented scale. So it was in all great transitory periods." - Pitirim A. Sorokin, fully Pitirim Alexandrovich (Alexander) Sorokin

"As in other cultural systems, the ideology of each supersystem is based upon certain major premises or certain ultimate principles whose development, differentiation, and articulation makes the total ideology of a supersystem." Since the ideologies of the supersystems are the vastest, their major premises or ultimate principles deal with the ultimate and most general truth, proposition, or value. An ultimate or most general truth concerns the nature of the ultimate true reality or of the ultimate true value. Three main consistent answers have been given by humanity to the question 'What is the nature of the true, ultimate reality-value?' One is: 'The ultimate, true reality-value is sensory. Beyond it there is neither other reality nor any other non-sensory value'. Such a major premise and the gigantic supersystem built upon it is called Sensate... Another solution to this problem is: 'The ultimate, true reality-value is a supersensory and superrational God (Brahma, and other equivalents of God). Sensory and any other reality or value are either a mirage or represent an infinitely more inferior and shadow pseudo-reality and pseudo-value.' Such a major premise and the corresponding cultural system is called Ideational... The third answer to the ultimate question is: 'The ultimate, true reality-value is the Manifold Infinity which contains all differentiations and which is infinite qualitatively and quantitatively. The finite human mind cannot grasp it or define it or describe it adequately. This Manifold Infinity is ineffable and unutterable. Only by a very remote approximation can we discern three main aspects in it: the rational or logical, the sensory, and the superrational-supersensory. All three of these aspects harmoniously united in it are real; real also are its superrational-supersensory, rational, and sensory values.' It has many names: God, Tao, Nirvana, the Divine Nothing of mystics, the Supra-Essence of Dionysius and Northrop's ‘undifferentiated aesthetic continuum'. This typically mystic conception of the ultimate, true reality and value and the supersystem built upon are described as Integral." - Pitirim A. Sorokin, fully Pitirim Alexandrovich (Alexander) Sorokin

"I think there are cultural reasons why we are suspicious of anything that has to do with beauty. One is that many of us believe that beauty requires culture. You have to have read many books and you have got to have studied in order to understand and enjoy say music or a beautiful painting. And that is absolutely not true. Reading may help us deepen our appreciation of beauty, but beauty is for everyone. It’s true that we have a possibility of increasing our gamut of beauty, increasing our aesthetic intelligence, our ability to appreciate beauty so that we don’t appreciate it only in great works of art or only in nature or only in music, but we appreciate it also in everyday life. Some people appreciate beauty even in things that are very banal and obvious. They have a greater aesthetic intelligence in my opinion. And of course there is an enormous world of inner beauty. I think we can learn to appreciate not only outer beauty, but the inner beauty of people. The beauty of honesty, the beauty of kindness, the beauty of intelligence. Appreciating beauty that is not immediately evident may take some time, but once we tune into it it’s there to stay." - Piero Ferrucci

"If the universal is the essential, then it is the basis of all life and art. Recognizing and uniting with universal therefore gives us the greatest aesthetic satisfaction, the greatest emotion of beauty. the more this union with the universal is felt, the more individual subjectivity declines." - Piet Mondrian, fully Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan, after 1906 Mondrian

"Neo-Plasticism has its roots in Cubism. It could just as easy be called the Painting of Real Abstraction. Since the abstract can be expressed by a plastic reality.. ..It achieves what all painting has tried to achieve but has been able to express only in a veiled manner. By their position and their dimension as well as by the importance of given to colour, the coloured planes express in a plastic way only relations and not forms. Neo-Plasticism imparts to these relations an aesthetic balance and thereby expresses universal harmony.. ..For the moment what art had discovered must still be limited to art itself. Our environment cannot yet be realized as a creation of pure harmony. Art today is at the very point formerly occupied by religion. In its deepest meaning art was the transposition of the natural (to another plane); in practice it always sought to achieve harmony between man and untransposed nature. Generally speaking, so do Theosophy and Anthroposophy, although these already possessed the original symbol of balance. And this is why they never were able to achieve equivalent relations, that is to say true harmony." - Piet Mondrian, fully Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan, after 1906 Mondrian

"Scientific truth is too beautiful to be sacrificed for the sake of light entertainment or money. Astrology is an aesthetic affront. It cheapens astronomy, like using Beethoven for commercial jingles." - Richard Dawkins

"The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite." - Richard Dawkins

"I believe in limited government. I believe that government should be limited in many ways, and what I am going to emphasize is only an intellectual thing. I don't want to talk about everything at the same time. Let's take a small piece, an intellectual thing. No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race." - Richard Feynman, fully Richard Phillips Feynman

"I have a friend who's an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don't agree with very well. He'll hold up a flower and say look how beautiful it is, and I'll agree. Then he says I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing, and I think that he's kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is ... I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don't understand how it subtracts." - Richard Feynman, fully Richard Phillips Feynman

"No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race." - Richard Feynman, fully Richard Phillips Feynman

"Liberty, taking the word in its concrete sense, consists in the ability to choose." - Simone Weil

"We went back to the Ritz bar and Scriassine ordered two whiskies. I liked the taste; it was something different. And as for Scriassine, he, too, had the advantage of being new to me. The whole evening had been unexpected, and it seemed to emit an ancient fragrance of youth. Long ago there had been nights that were unlike others; you would meet unknown people who would say unexpected thing. And, occasionally, something would happen. So many things had happened in the last five years - to the world, to France, to Paris, to others. But not to me. Would nothing ever happen to me again?" - Simone de Beauvoir, fully Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir

"Darwin himself told us in his last book (The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms) that we should never underestimate the power of worms on the move. ...The inversion of a humble worm, especially when disturbed, may bring down empires. Shakespeare told us that the smallest worm will turn being trodden on. And Cervantes wrote in his author's preface to Don Quixote that even a worm when trod upon, will turn again. ...Geoffrey, it seems, was correct after all - not in every detail, of course, but at least in basic vision and theoretical meaning. And the triumph of surprise, the inversion of nuttiness to apparent truth, stands as a premier example of the most exciting general development in evolutionary theory during our times." - Stephan Jay Gould

"I have often been amused by our vulgar tendency to take complex issues, with solutions at neither extreme of a continuum of possibilities, and break them into dichotomies, assigning one group to one pole and the other to an opposite end, with no acknowledgment of subtleties and intermediate positions—and nearly always with moral opprobrium attached to opponents." - Stephan Jay Gould

"If the neck of the giraffe elongates an inch at a time, then the full panoply of supporting structures need not arise at every step. The coordinated adaptation can be built piecemeal. Some animals may slightly elongate the neck, others the legs; still others may develop stronger neck muscles. By sexual reproduction, the favorable features of different organisms may be combined in offspring." - Stephan Jay Gould

"Natural selection is a theory of local adaptation to changing environments. It proposes no perfecting principles, no guarantee of general improvement," - Stephan Jay Gould

"Our difficulty is that we have become autistic. We no longer listen to what the Earth, its landscape, its atmospheric phenomena and all its living forms, its mountains and valleys, the rain, the wind, and all the flora and fauna of the planet are telling us." - Thomas Berry

"He was simply not a hero, which is to say, he did not let his relationship with the man be determined by the woman." - Thomas Mann, fully Paul Thomas Mann

"The intellect longs for the delights of the non-intellect, that which is alive and beautiful dans sa stupidité." - Thomas Mann, fully Paul Thomas Mann